Select Committee on Standards and Privileges First Report



  f) Documentary Evidence

  384. In seeking to substantiate the allegations of cash payments to Mr Hamilton, the complainants have drawn upon a number of items of contemporaneous documentary evidence.

  385. Reference has already been made to the diary entries on the basis of which Mr Al Fayed's solicitors compiled the schedule of payments contained in his evidence to the Select Committee on Members' Interests in 1994.

  386. However, three entries, one relating to 1987 and two relating to 1988, from the telephone message books kept at Mr Al Fayed's office at 60 Park Lane are also relevant. (It was the references in these books to Ms Bozek and Ms Bond which had led Mr Douglas Marvin, an American lawyer working for Mr Al Fayed, to seek witness statements from them for the libel action, which subsequently formed their written evidence to this inquiry).[162] The three entries are examined in turn, in chronological order, below.

    (a) Telephone Message, 27/28 May 1987

  387. Although this message is undated it can be inferred from dated messages either side of it in the book that it was taken on either 27 or 28 May 1987. It reads:

  "Message for MF [Mr Al Fayed]. From: Neil Hamilton.

    Telephone (4) 0606-6591.

    Re Tues at 11.15.

    Yes [followed by a tick]".

  388. The telephone number is that of Mr Hamilton's home in Cheshire. The reference to "Tues at 11.15" and "Yes" suggests that the purpose of the call was to confirm Mr Hamilton's attendance at a meeting fixed for the following Tuesday (2 June). This interpretation is supported by an entry in Mr Al Fayed's diary for that day which reads: "11.15: Neil Hamilton".

  389. The significance of the date of this meeting is that it falls nine days before the 1987 general election. It was suggested in support of the allegation that it would be highly unusual for Mr Hamilton, as a candidate, to break off from the campaign in Cheshire in order to meet Mr Al Fayed in London at a time when no lobbying or Parliamentary action would be possible, unless there was another purpose for his journey - to collect a payment.

    (b) Telephone Message, dated 28 September 1988

  390. This message, which Ms Bozek confirmed was in her handwriting, reads:

  "To:          Iris (crossed out) MF [Mr Al Fayed]

    From:        Iris

    Neil Hamilton  4th Oct

    Cheshire - sh/d she send envl. by courier (followed by a tick)".

  391. The reference to "4 October" tallies with an entry in Mr Al Fayed's diary relating to a meeting on that day with Mr Hamilton. It was claimed by the complainants that this message was evidence of Mr Hamilton arranging for a cash payment to be delivered to him by courier at his home in Cheshire.

  392. To this The Guardian added in a supplementary submission[163] that Mr Hamilton and Mr Al Fayed had met on 14 September and there was no evidence that, over the ensuing fortnight, any document had been produced of a kind which Mr Hamilton might have needed to see and which accordingly would have supported the claim that this, rather than cash, formed the contents of the envelope.

    (c)  Telephone Message, 14/15 December 1988

  393. This message, though undated and untimed, must, because of the dated messages either side of it in the book, be assumed to have been taken on 14 or 15 December 1988. It says:

  "Message for:    MF

    From:        Neil Hamilton's wife

    219 4157 [Mr Hamilton's House of Commons number]

    She was wondering if it was possible for Mr Hamilton to see you before Christmas. Neil Hamilton is free tomorrow morning and next Wednesday after 2.30pm any time (not 4.00pm)".

  394. The word "tomorrow" occurs for a second time on a separate line directly above the words "after 2.30pm". It is not clear whether this was intended to indicate that the phrase "after 2.30pm any time" referred to "tomorrow" (ie. the day after the message was taken). There is a tick across the message.

  395. Mr Al Fayed's diary shows that a meeting was arranged with Mr Hamilton for 15 December at 3.30pm.

  396. It was contended by the complainants that this message lent credence to Mr Al Fayed's claim that 15 December was one of the dates on which Mr Hamilton received Harrods gift vouchers totalling £3,000 and that this would be consistent with his alleged practice of expressing a wish "to go shopping", particularly in the immediate run-up to Christmas.

  397. Further support for this line of argument was drawn from the fact that at the time of Mrs Hamilton's telephone call on 14 or 15 December a meeting had already been arranged by Mr Greer between Mr Al Fayed and Sir Michael Grylls, Mr Smith and Mr Hamilton for 20 December.[164] Thus, since Mr Hamilton was already aware that he would be seeing Mr Al Fayed on that day accompanied by other Members, his only purpose in seeking a separate meeting before Christmas was to collect a payment - which he knew Mr Al Fayed would only make in private.

  g) Mr Hamilton's Pattern of Parliamentary and Lobbying Activity

  398. The allegation that the cash payments received by Mr Hamilton were a reward for the services he had performed for Mr Al Fayed needs to be judged against the pattern of Mr Hamilton's Parliamentary and lobbying activity over the relevant years.

  399. It should be noted in this context that, notwithstanding his reference during his 1993 conversation with Guardian journalists to £2,000 as the going rate for a question,[165] it is not part of Mr Al Fayed's current complaint that there was any direct link between the pattern of cash payments to Mr Hamilton and specific actions taken by him. The allegation is rather that Mr Hamilton promoted the interests of House of Fraser and that in return he expected to be paid at regular intervals. Individual demands for payment were, however, justified by Mr Hamilton, in general terms, on the basis of the work he was continuing to undertake on Mr Al Fayed's behalf.

  400. The documentary evidence (including Mr Greer's papers, Mr Al Fayed's telephone message books and diary entries, and Hansard) indicates the following profile of Parliamentary action and lobbying on the part of Mr Hamilton in connection with House of Fraser:


    -    November:  tables two written questions

    -    22 January:  writes to Mr Al Fayed

    -    10 March:  attends briefing lunch with Mr Al Fayed

    -    19 August:  writes to Mr Al Fayed refusing to intervene over sale of Today newspaper

    -    February:  tables two written questions

    -    10 March:  tables Early Day Motion

    -    18 March:  meets Mr Al Fayed with Mr Greer

    -    9 April:  meets Sir Andrew Bowden and Mr Smith, with Mr Greer

    -    13 May:  takes part in delegation to Secretary of State for Trade and Industry

    -    15 July:  attends meeting with Mr Al Fayed, together with other Members and Mr Greer

    -    23 July:  writes to Chairman of Stock Exchange and sends copy to Mr Al Fayed

    -    29 July:  takes part in delegation to Secretary of State for Trade and Industry

    -    21 November:  writes to Secretary of State for Trade and Industry

    -    24 or 26

        November:  attends briefing meeting with other Members, Mr Greer and Mr Webb

    -    10 December:  writes to Mr Al Fayed, apologising for inability to take part in a delegation to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, but asking for his views to be conveyed to the meeting

    -    28 January:  writes to Secretary of State for Trade and Industry

    -    28 January:  writes to Mr Al Fayed

    -    29 March:  attends briefing meeting with other Members, Mr Greer and Mr Webb

    -    May:  tables 2 written questions

    -    July:  tables Early Day Motion

    -    29 July:  writes to Secretary of State for Trade and Industry

    -    1 August:  writes to chairman of Lonrho

    -    1 September:  writes to Mr Al Fayed proposing meeting

    -    15 February:  asks oral supplementary question alleging Observer journalist is propagandist for Mr Rowland

    -    12 March:  writes to Mr Al Fayed

    -    21 March:  writes to Secretary of State for Defence

          writes to Home Secretary[166]

    -    April:  tables six written questions

    -    7 April:  writes to Minister of State at DTI

    -    18 April:  signs anti-Lonrho Early Day Motion

    -    3 May:  tables anti-Lonrho Early Day Motion

    -    15 May:  signs anti-Lonrho Early Day Motion

    -    20 June:  signs anti-Lonrho Early Day Motion

    -    6 December:  writes to Home Secretary

  401. There is a conflict of evidence about the letter from Mr Hamilton to the Home Secretary dated 21 March 1989. In his oral evidence,[167] Mr Hamilton appeared to doubt whether the letter, which was drafted for him by Mr Greer, had ever - as The Guardian claimed it had - been sent and, indeed, this had been one of the aspects of The Guardian's credibility which he had sought to challenge. It was pointed out to Mr Hamilton by Counsel for the inquiry that a copy of the letter had been disclosed to The Guardian under the discovery process in preparation for the libel action. Mr Hamilton replied that, whilst he "might well have sent such a letter", he had been told by the Home Office that no record existed of the letter having been received (this statement by the Home Office was supplied to the inquiry).

  402. On the other hand, a more persuasive indication that the letter was in fact sent by Mr Hamilton exists in the form of his letter to the Minister of State at the DTI on 7 April which began: "Enclosed are copies of my letters to Douglas Hurd and George Younger" [the then Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Defence respectively].

  403. The last payment is alleged to have been made to Mr Hamilton on 21 November 1989.

  404. What followed the ending of the relationship between Mr Hamilton and Mr Al Fayed is, however, also relevant to the inquiry since it has been cited in evidence by both sides.

  405. The principal events, based on the documentary evidence produced for the court case, were as follows:


    -    June:  Mr Hamilton suggests a further stay at the Ritz in Paris[168]

    -    July:  Mr Hamilton is appointed a Government Whip

    -    13 April:  Mr Hamilton is appointed a junior Minister at the DTI following the general election

    -    15 April:  Mr Al Fayed writes a letter of congratulations to Mr Hamilton

    -    30 April:  Mr Hamilton accepts the advice of officials that he should not reply to Mr Al Fayed's letter, particularly in the light of the then pending action brought by Mr Al Fayed against the UK Government in the European Court of Human Rights

    -    13 May:  Mr Hamilton replies to a written question about the conduct of the Inspectors' inquiry into House of Fraser

    -    4 June:  Mr Hamilton decides that, in view of his previous involvement with Mr Al Fayed, he should not take any decisions related to the European Court of Human Rights case

    -    June:  Mr Hamilton asks for search of files to trace all his previous interventions on Lonrho and related matters and decides in view of the "presentational problem" not to take part in any decisions on Lonrho proceedings or mergers involving Lonrho

    -    22 July:  Mr Hamilton is interviewed by Guardian journalists who put to him the allegations of cash payments from Mr Al Fayed[169]

    -    22/23 July:  Mr Hamilton asks for search of files for all correspondence between him (when a backbencher) and Ministers about the Companies Act investigation into House of Fraser

    -    1 October:  Mr Hamilton writes to the editor of The Guardian in an attempt to forestall publication of the allegations against him, and threatens libel suit

    -    5 October:  Mr Hamilton again writes to the editor of The Guardian confirming that the letter of 1 October was not for publication and repeats libel action threat; The Guardian publishes article about Greer, containing reference to the Ritz story

    -    24 November:  Chairman of Select Committee on Members' Interests writes to Mr Hamilton expressing concern at press comments attributed to Mr Hamilton implying that in 1987 "Members did not pay close attention to the rules of registration"

    -    12 December:  Mr Hamilton replies to Chairman of Select Committee expressing regret for any misunderstanding and denying any intention to cast doubt on bona fides of Register

    -    September:  Mr Al Fayed submits, through an intermediary, allegations concerning Mr Hamilton and other Ministers to the Prime Minister

    -    20 October:  Guardian publishes "cash for questions" allegations against Mr Hamilton and Mr Greer

    -    21 October:  Mr Alex Carlile makes formal complaint to Members' Interests Committee against Mr Hamilton and Mr Greer

    -    25 October:  Mr Hamilton resigns as Minister

162  See para 420 and 453-58. Back

163  See Appendix 32. Back

164  This is evidenced by a telephone message to Mr Al Fayed from Mr Greer dated 13 December 1988. Back

165  See para 185. Back

166  See paras 401-2. Back

167  Q 1989. Back

168  For the detailed account of this suggested visit see paras 579-586. Back

169  Mr Hamilton denies that any allegations were put to him, at this meeting, relating to cash payments (as opposed to the Ritz stay); see paras 415(iv) and 518 to 527. Back

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Prepared 8 July 1997