Select Committee on Standards and Privileges First Report


VII. CONCLUSIONS

Introduction

  738. The marshalling of evidence in section VI above is designed to assist an understanding of the main allegations made against the various Members who are the subject of this report, and to set out in an accessible, but summarised, form the wealth of material presented to the inquiry to support and to contradict those allegations. Not all allegations which have been made have been covered, partly because some have emerged too late for proper inquiry and partly because, in the case of one Member, they refer to actions in his capacity as a Minister which, because there are special rules relating to the conduct of Ministers, I have regarded as being outside my terms of reference.

  739. I have received extensive written submissions on behalf of Mr Al Fayed and The Guardian as complainants, and by or on behalf of the various Members whose actions are the subject of investigation. I have studied these submissions as they have arrived in my office, and I have taken the opportunity to re-read and reconsider them before drawing together the conclusions and findings in this part of the report.

  740. I have also had the opportunity of seeing and hearing the various witnesses to the inquiry give oral evidence and, inevitably, I have formed my own view of their credibility and the extent to which I can rely upon their testimony.

  741. However, in the light of the detailed and constant attack by Mr Hamilton on Mr Al Fayed's credibility, it is necessary to give his (Mr Al Fayed's) position separate and close consideration. As noted earlier in this report Mr Hamilton has relied upon several examples where, it is alleged, Mr Al Fayed has been shown to have behaved dishonestly. Mr Hamilton's approach could not be clearer: "Fayed, as I now know from personal experience, is an inveterate liar, unscrupulous, malicious and bears a multitude of grudges".[336]

  742. Mr Hamilton did not always feel that way, and certainly did not form an adverse opinion of Mr Al Fayed's character during the lengthy period when he was on friendly terms with him. Therefore, to support his current view of Mr Al Fayed, Mr Hamilton has necessarily relied upon other sources, such as the findings of the Inspectors who produced the DTI report into the take-over of the House of Fraser, and the evidence of Mr Betterman and Professor Rider.

  743. In turn, Mr Al Fayed has denied the allegations made by Mr Hamilton and has produced some evidence in rebuttal. In relation to the DTI report, Mr Al Fayed's position is that the evidence put before the Inspectors which contradicted his own was unreliable because it was either purchased or orchestrated by Mr Tiny Rowland, or both. Mr Al Fayed submits that his own evidence should have been accepted instead.

  744. It would have been impossible for me to have embarked on a series of investigations into the allegations made by Mr Hamilton, and by others, in relation to Mr Al Fayed's character in order to determine whether, on the basis of those separate issues, his evidence to this inquiry should be accepted, or rejected. Similarly, it would have been impracticable for me to re-open the evidence given to the DTI Inspectors. Nevertheless, the allegations against Mr Al Fayed cannot be disregarded. Since I am not in a position to resolve the conflict of evidence over his standing as a witness, I must, in the interests of fairness to complainees, err on the side of caution.

  745. I have concluded, therefore, that the correct approach is for me to take as a starting point the findings of the DTI Inspectors,[337] and not to accept Mr Al Fayed's evidence unless it is corroborated by other evidence which I consider to be reliable - whether in documentary form, or from the statements of witnesses. Although I am well aware of the suggestion that Mr Al Fayed is capable of persuading individuals to give untruthful evidence on his behalf, I have formed my own view of the credibility of witnesses such as Ms Bond, Ms Bozek and Mr Webb. I will return to Mr Al Fayed and to those witnesses later in these conclusions.

  746. In this section of the report I have broadly followed the sequence and titling in section VI (Summarizing the Evidence).

The Lobbying Operation

  747. There can be no doubt that a concerted Parliamentary lobbying operation on behalf of Mr Al Fayed was mounted and, to a large extent, orchestrated by Mr Greer during the period 1985-89. The core members of the lobbying group were Sir Michael Grylls, Mr Smith and Mr Hamilton (the Chairman and Vice-Chairmen respectively of the Conservative Party backbench Trade and Industry Committee), supplemented for a short time in the first half of 1987 by Sir Andrew Bowden. Throughout this period, Sir Peter Hordern was engaged in parallel and overlapping activities as a paid Parliamentary consultant to House of Fraser, but was not part of the Greer group as such.

  748. This lobbying activity was a highly partisan affair, not just in its single-minded and uncritical promotion of the interests of House of Fraser, but in its relentlessly anti-Lonrho tone.

  749. Taking part in a group lobbying operation was not, in itself, objectionable. It would only become so if the Members concerned accepted bribes to influence their conduct; entered into a contractual relationship fettering their discretion; or otherwise allowed their conduct to fall below the standards which the House is entitled to expect of them (see section V).

  750. It may well be that Mr Greer, in order to impress Mr Al Fayed, tended to exaggerate the extent to which he could manipulate the group. And the Members themselves maintained that it was their common interest which cemented the group, rather than any formal structure. Even allowing for these considerations, however, the group acted with a cohesion which clearly owed much to Mr Greer's organising efforts; and with a deference to Mr Al Fayed as yet unexplained.


336   See Appendix 33, paragraph 31. Back

337   See paragraph 1.19 of the DTI Inspectors' report - "In consequence of watching them [Mohammed and Ali Fayed] give evidence we became reluctant to believe anything they told us unless it was reliably corroborated by independent evidence of a dependable nature". Back


 
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Prepared 8 July 1997