Select Committee on Standards and Privileges First Report


THURSDAY 20 FEBRUARY 1997

Mr Neil Hamilton; Mr Rupert Grey (Continued)

Mr Pleming

  1891.  As I say, we will come back to them as witnesses in a little while. Can we move away from that period of time, that is the decision to discontinue the libel proceedings, unless there is anything else you wish to add?.

  (Mr Hamilton)  Well, are we going to return to this, how shall we call it, Heseltine memorandum?.

  1892.  If there is anything else you want to say about it, yes.

  (Mr Hamilton)  I would just like to finish what I was saying earlier on to make sure that there is a rounded view of my decision at the time. You referred to my misleading the Deputy Prime Minister earlier on - - .

  1893.  Assuming this is right. If this is correct, yes.

  (Mr Hamilton)  Yes, and I am satisfied in my own mind that there was no deliberate misleading in the sense that what he was trying to get out of me was whether I had the kind of financial relationship whereby we could not disentangle the contributions, the financial contributions which Fayed had made to Greer and any payments which might have come to me and I am perfectly satisfied in my own mind that that was not so, and the nature of the question which I was asked enabled me to get around the difficulty which you referred to earlier on of the commission payments. Now, if I had been asked, "Have you ever been paid by Ian Greer?" I would have been obliged to say, "Yes, I have been paid by Ian Greer", but that was not the question that I was asked. Obviously at this distance in time I do not have the verbatim report of our conversation, but to be perfectly - - .

  1894.  But if the question had been, "Can you give an absolute assurance to me that you had no financial relationship with Mr Greer?" the answer to that question would have been, "No, I can't give you an absolute assurance because I did have a financial relationship. I don't want to tell you about that because there is this problem of registration of interests".

  (Mr Hamilton)  Well, I do not think it is as simple as that actually. When I debated this on Newsnight with Alan Rusbridger last October, I put this question to him: "If I buy two copies of The Guardian from you, does that mean I have a financial relationship with you?" In the strict sense I suppose it does because I am giving him money in exchange for something, but that would also have been a misleading way of answering the President of the Board of Trade's question to me at the time because it could have led to an assumption that I had been covertly paid by Fayed through Greer to do his bidding, and that is quite untrue. I have to say that the circumstances in which my resignation was ultimately procured of course also give rise to some doubt as to whether on the other side of the table they were being straight with me. You will have seen from the memoranda that were revealed by the Government that when I met the Chief Whip with Sir Robin Butler on 20 October, I asked the Chief Whip, "Would you like me to resign?" and if he had said, "Yes, I would like you to resign. Even though I don't believe the allegations, I think that it is the only sensible way of dealing with this for the moment", I would have of course accepted his decision. He did not say that. He said, "It is a matter for you". Now, it is perfectly clear that he did want me to resign, but he would not actually say, "I do want you to resign". Now, the result was that I went through that weekend dangling by a thread and, as a Member of the Government, entitled to the full support of other Ministers (though I did not get it) and if you read the reports in the newspapers at the time, you will see how there were reports about support ebbing away and so on and so forth. I was being undermined over the next few days, and undermined to such an extent that I was not even allowed to communicate with Conservative Members of Parliament on the Monday to explain the position which had been grossly misrepresented in the press. Now, it is very easy in circumstances such as this to take the view that you should lay all your cards on the table and everybody is speaking from a position of equality. Politics, as many instances in life, is often not as simple as that, so these are the severely practical equations which have to be solved and all I can say is that in the circumstances in which I was placed at the time, which were ones of extreme stress and some pain, and the surprise nature of the call in the middle of my doing something else in that school and not in circumstances where we could have a discussion across the table, that was the position; and I do not believe that this two-line note, of which I was wholly unaware until it was revealed when the Government answered the subpoena, represents fairly the position.

  1895.  It is not just the two lines, as I am sure you well understand. At the top of the page, you will see the reason for the further inquiry was to deal not with money going through Mr Greer directly or indirectly, but there is the reference to "this did not exclude," in the words of the memo, "his", Mr Hamilton, "having some other form of financial relationship with Mr Greer", so that was the subject of the inquiry, if the memo is correct.

  (Mr Hamilton)  Yes, that is true, but that represents a conversation between Sir Robin Butler and Mr Heseltine at which I was not present.

  1896.  Of course not, but what I was putting to you was the summary of the question that was put to you, the topic which was being discussed, and I thought we had got to this state of agreement, that what you were doing was consciously, deliberately excluding what on, I was putting to you, any sensible view was a financial relationship, and not a question of two copies of The Guardian, but we know, as you must have known, that it was £10,000 paid to you over a one year period, but you decided to exclude that because it could open up, I think you accepted, another front at a particularly damaging time for you.

  (Mr Hamilton)  Yes - - .

Sir Gordon Downey

  1897.  I think Mr Hamilton has given us his explanation of this. I wonder whether we should move on, unless you particularly want to respond to the point.

  (Mr Hamilton)  Well, I would, if you do not mind. I do appreciate that you want to get on to other things, and I am happy to do that, but I answered the question which was put to me and I was not asked whether I had some other form of financial relationship with Mr Greer in the circumstances described in the top two lines of this letter. It may well be that I did not volunteer information which would have added a different dimension to the information which Mr Heseltine was eliciting or attempting to elicit from me, but that is quite a different kettle of fish altogether from telling a direct lie.

Mr Pleming

  1898.  At Sir Gordon's invitation, I will move on. There is one very small procedural matter. You provided to the inquiry at the end of last year, if you remember there were some document difficulties, the four bundles of which I have one here which cover the case chronologically through from 1985 to 1994.

  (Mr Hamilton)  Yes.

  1899.  It is headed, "Master set of documents disclosed by Plaintiffs and Defendants". I understood it at the time, because of the title which is at the front of each volume, to be a master set agreed by both parties. Is that its status?.

  (Mr Hamilton)  That is my understanding. Those are the documents which were provided to me by Carter Ruck, my previous firm of solicitors.

  1900.  So these were prepared by Carter Ruck, not by you?.

  (Mr Hamilton)  Yes.

  1901.  As the agreed master set? Is that the position?.

  (Mr Hamilton)  That is my understanding certainly.

  (Mr Grey)  I cannot assist on that. I honestly do not know.

  1902.  Could we move on away from the collapse of proceedings documentation through to more central matters? Your general approach, if I can again summarise it, to the evidence of Mr Al Fayed, Ms Bond and Ms Bozek and to a more limited extent Mr Bromfield and Mr Webb is that when they give any evidence which implicates you in taking cash for acting on behalf of Mr Al Fayed, they are simply lying. That is fair? That is your line? As I understand the case in relation to Mr Fayed, he lies, according to you, for a series of reasons. Maybe we should make sure we have got them all there. One, he is an habitual liar, and you have explained in your submission why that is so. Secondly, he had at times, being in 1993 and 1994, a grudge against the Government which included you, particularly in September/October 1994 because of the reverse in the European Court of Human Rights. So that is a second reason. Thirdly, he had a particular grudge against you. That is divided into two categories. One is that you were a part of the Government and a part of the Department which was causing him pain and you did not come to his assistance and set aside the DTI Report, but you also had slighted him, which was important to Mr Al Fayed, by not replying to his April 1992 letter. Is that a fair summary of why you say he is lying, that he does it all the time, that is his habit, but he has a motive? Is that a fair summary?.

  (Mr Hamilton)  Yes, I think it is a fair summary. It is not a complete summary, but I think he has made it perfectly clear in his own evidence what his motivations were. In question 702, when Mr Fayed gave evidence to the inquiry, he makes it perfectly clear that when I was the Corporate Affairs Minister and had responsibility for inspections and investigations under the Companies Acts, he anticipated that because of my previous support for him I would at least have reviewed the situation, as I think he put it in answer to that question. A little further on, in question 707, he referred to the letter of congratulations that he wrote to me and my failure to respond to it and you invited him to speculate on the position and he responded that I thought that I was God by that stage because I had got what I wanted, I was a Minister and I no longer needed him. He has never yet explained what the circumstances were in which I might have needed him, but clearly he has a particular animus against me. There is one other reason which I had not thought of until I read this book, Sleaze, as well. On page 148, the authors of the book set out something which I had overlooked, but which I think perhaps does indicate to us his state of mind and why I have been particularly the victim of his animus and it refers to the parliamentary question which I had answered which had been put down by Alex Carlile in 1992. David Leigh, in this book, refers to it and about half-way down the page, he says, "Fayed must have gasped in astonishment at his former lackey's shameless U-turn in answering the question in standard form terms" that officials had put up to me, and that the inquiry, and I will quote from the question, the Inspector's Report which was published on 7 March 1990, "reflects a carefully considered and thorough investigation". Leigh speculates here (perhaps not speculates, perhaps he has talked to Fayed about it, but I think correctly says) that Fayed would have been made incandescent with rage. So that I think a combination of these factors will undoubtedly have motivated him especially to direct his fire against me. I was the Minister most directly concerned with the issues which had caused him so much pain over the years and my failure even to respond to a congratulation letter must have been incomprehensible to him. I wanted to send a polite reply to the letter and that would have been the normal thing to do. I was strongly advised by officials that I should not do so for fear that it might be misrepresented, bearing in mind that Mr Fayed was in litigation with the Department in the European Court of Human Rights. Now, of course I did not want to compromise the Department's position, so I accepted that advice.

  1903.  In your written submission to Sir Gordon, you talk, I think, at paragraph 34, I have not got it in front of me, about Fayed asking you to abuse your position. It is 34(iii) and 35(c). That is the note I have for it, although I have not got the submission.

  (Mr Hamilton)  "He was disappointed that I would not abuse my position to assist him." Those are the words that I used.

  1904.  Yes, and 35(c), I think, develops this a little bit further. Your analysis is based on what you assume his response to have been, but there is no specific request apart from his letter of congratulations, is there? There is nothing that you have remembered now about him asking you to abuse your position?.

  (Mr Hamilton)  Well, obviously I have not spoken to him since. I have not spoken to him since, I would guess, 1989, so I do not have any direct quote which I can ascribe to him, but the congratulation letter included an invitation to lunch and he said in the letter that he wanted to discuss his case in the European Court of Human Rights. There is nothing wrong with that of course in itself, but I think on the basis of what we know about Mr Fayed, and particularly what has been revealed about his character in glorious technicolour to me as a result of my own experiences over the last two years, it is inconceivable if we had had that lunch that he would not have asked me to intervene on his behalf in the case and that he would have expected me (in the way that he assumed that Tiny Rowland had put improper pressure on the Department to begin the inquiry in the first place) to rescind the original report and to commission a new one which would exonerate him.

  1905.  But he did not follow up the letter of April 1992 with any other invitation? That was it, just the one letter?.

  (Mr Hamilton)  That was the one letter.

  1906.  Could I now turn to the witnesses again so we can summarise this to begin with? In the case of Ms Bond and Ms Bozek, leaving the other two out for the moment, they are lying because they have been paid to lie, is one explanation, or otherwise persuaded by Al Fayed, but in relation to Ms Bozek, who is not within the enemy camp, she is also a person who has lying experience, which is the immigration matter, but that is it. You have not any other criticism to make of Ms Bozek apart from that letter as a reference? Is that right?.

  (Mr Hamilton)  Well, I do not know anything about Ms Bozek. Of course these witness statements were served upon us only last October. The Guardian and Mr Fayed had two years in which to prepare their case, find their witnesses and at five minutes' notice then we are presented with witnesses that we know nothing about and we have to discover the mechanism whereby they can be discredited. I think it is astonishing with somebody who otherwise would be wholly unknown to the public that we could have found anything at all. Fortunately through Christoph Bettermann who knew Ms Bozek, I was able to find something to discredit her. Now, the fact that I cannot at this moment say that there are other instances where she has told lies does not mean that there are not. In fact looking at the transcript of her evidence, I think that there are other instances where we can say she has deliberately told lies, and in particular in respect of Ms Pollard, or Jean Ball, to use her alias, who used regularly to receive money in envelopes from 60 Park Lane, those envelopes having been signed by Ms Bozek, and knowledge of which Ms Bozek denied in evidence before the inquiry. So I would not be able to agree that the only thing that I can say which indicates that Ms Bozek is dishonest or has been motivated to give evidence to you for improper reasons is the one which you alluded to.

  1907.  Could I go back to Mr Al Fayed because it may be said that an inevitable part of your approach to his evidence is that Mr Fayed is just the sort of man who would use his wealth to encourage others to act, or to continue to act, on his behalf. In other words, he is just the sort of man who would give cash to public officials, including MPs. You must accept that is an inevitable consequence.

  (Mr Hamilton)  Yes.

  1908.  But you also go further, do you not, and you accept that he is a man who is generous with his goods, maybe even the goods of the House of Fraser? He will give for a meeting a teddy bear, as he said on more than one occasion, and even to Mr Hencke he gives a teddy bear. A favour leads to a hamper for no more than a slight favour, but useful behaviour, it could be said that that leads to entertainment at The Ritz, it leads to a bigger reward and to your holiday in his Scottish castle. Is that a fair way of approaching it?.

  (Mr Hamilton)  Well, we are in some difficulty here, are we not? It is true that Mr Fayed throws his money about and he has got vast amounts of money to throw. We also know that he is a person who is lacking in probity, as you rightly say, and it is possible to draw an inference as against anybody that because we know that he can act corruptly and he has got plenty of cash hanging around, that if somebody happens to be alone with him, some of that cash could be passed across, particularly if they have done something which is advantageous to him. It is one of the difficulties that we have to face in allegations of this kind, bearing in mind the nature of their source.

  1909.  But, Mr Hamilton, you accept that you received and took from him gifts and hospitality which amount to, in value, many thousands of pounds, certainly some thousands of pounds, but you would not have accepted cash if it had been offered. Is that right?.

  (Mr Hamilton)  True, but Members of Parliament receive hospitality from all sorts of people and in circumstances sometimes where you could, if you were a conspiracy theorist, draw the kind of conclusions which you are implying. A day out at the Men's Finals at Wimbledon will cost the person inviting anything between £1500 and £2000 for the entertainment and I have seen many Ministers (and senior Ministers) in those circumstances. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, for example, might be invited by a bank to go to such an event and if there is a tax change which occurs which is of advantage to the bank, are we seriously going to draw the conclusion from that that the invitation was a corrupt one either intended or accepted? I do not think it is possible to draw this conclusion. At the time that I was invited and accepted Mr Fayed's invitation to go to The Ritz Hotel, I had no idea that he was the kind of individual that I now know he is. The invitation, as far as I knew, was offered in good faith and accepted as such. I have never been offered cash by Mr Fayed and so the question of accepting it has not arisen. I think it is a huge step from a few days at The Ritz Hotel in 1987 to the gross and grotesque allegations which he is now responsible for.

  1910.  Could we go back and look at your relationship with Mr Al Fayed, using our core bundle as the route. We know that your early involvement starts in about October of 1985 and we can see that on page 5 Mr Greer is writing to Mr Al Fayed and saying that you had agreed to table a question and that was to be drafted, as we see, by Michael Palmer. Is that right? .

  (Mr Hamilton)  Yes, he was a solicitor, I think, at that time employed by Mr Fayed.

  1911.  And we can take this, I hope, quickly. By 8 November, page 23, you were again being briefed by Michael and John, that is John Macarthur, and now Michael Grylls is coming in and Sir Edward Gardner. .

  (Mr Hamilton)  Who is John Macarthur?.

  1912.  Good question. I cannot answer. It is just from the previous paragraph you can see the name.

  (Mr Hamilton)  Yes, I see.

  1913.  I am just reminding you. I am sure you are very familiar with this, but I am just setting the scene here. You were then in written communication with Mr Fayed in 1986, and you see, for example, page 33 where Mr Greer is writing to you on a formal basis and you respond with a letter that comes eventually from Al Fayed on page 36. Page 36 is a letter - I hope it is in there - of 22nd January 1986, "Dear Mr Fayed ..." and you are sharing common interests by being the victims of serious libels and the significance, if anything, of this letter is that it is one of a number of letters of sympathy, as Mr Fayed refers to it, and at page 38 we see that this is described by him as a useless response for the money he is paying to Mr Greer. This is not what he wants. He want some action. So you can see, I hope, what is happening by now because on page 43 you can see that Mr Greer is bringing together on Mr Al Fayed's behalf a group of MPs - I am not using the word "group" in some formal sense but an identifiable body - who will be more than writers of letters of sympathy, that they will promote his interests and we get your first meeting with Mr Al-Fayed referred to at page 49 and the meeting is also referred to at page 58. So you had a lunch on the 10th March and other documents refer to it.

  (Mr Hamilton)  Yes. .

  1914.  And so you have been heralded to Mr Al-Fayed. As you can see, the CV is prepared for you at page 55. Similar CVs have been prepared for the other attenders at that lunch, such as Michael Grylls and Tim Smith. Again trying to move this along, during the spring and summer of 1986 from that group Tim Smith is the key player, would that be the correct way of describing it?.

  (Mr Hamilton)  As you know, in 1986 I was not as deeply involved.

  1915.  You still had your libel action with the BBC?.

  (Mr Hamilton)  Yes, quite how involved Tim Smith was I would not like to say, except (as it appears obviously) on the face of the record.

  1916.  That is what I am trying to look at, the documents we have seen. There is the Adjournment Debate in June of 1986. By August you are taking some part but you are not a major player. There is a letter from Mr Al Fayed, "Dear Mr Hamilton ..." on page 97 asking you to write to the Secretary of State. It is a round-robin type of letter probably sent to many MPs. You write your letter back to Mr Al Fayed on page 99, 19th August, again repeating that you have sympathy but you were unable to help. Is this because Eddie Shah, the owner or aspiring owner of Today - I have lost my sequence a bit - - .

  (Mr Hamilton)   - - I think he was the owner.

  (Mr Grey)  Yes, he was.

  1917.  You could not act for him or on his behalf but you said, being a little cryptic, "Mr St George will explain to him the reason". So that takes us through to mid 1986 and we can miss out the rest of the year. It was that kind of sequence, a bit of involvement by you, quite a lot more involvement by Mr Smith and some minor involvement by Michael Grylls, as he then was. Peter Hordern, a paid consultant to the House of Fraser, takes a slightly different role. He attends some meetings but he is not part of the Greer brought-in group.

  (Mr Hamilton)  I am afraid you would have to ask Ian Greer to what extent Peter Hordern was involved in his operations. Obviously I cannot speak for what happened between them in 1986. All I can go on is what the documents disclose. .

  1918.  In 1987, there is the first change when Andrew Bowden is brought onto the scene at page 118, and you will not have seen this until fairly late in the day. It is unlikely that it would have been copied to you in 1987, it is an internal letter from Greer to Al-Fayed, copied to Royston Webb. He has had lunch with Andrew Bowden. At last they have a campaigner, he was the right person, "... we can use Tim Smith in other ways", is what the memo says. In early 1987 you table questions again, an example being at page 135, asking when letters will be responded to. That is from Michael Palmer and Mohamed Al Fayed with a written reply from Mr Howard. This is the time moving up to what we know is an important date, 10th April 1987, 9th or 10th, when the DTI investigation is launched or it is announced by the Secretary of State. We can take it one stage further in this background. On page 150 from these documents is the first indicator of a closer relationship between you and Mr Al Fayed in that on 18th March 1987, you visit Mr Al Fayed who appears to be recovered from his squash game or instead of his squash game by the look of this, at 2.30 on March 18th Neil Hamilton, Ian Greer, then "(confirm where)" and we have "PL", which is Park Lane. In these papers this is the first evidence of a closer relationship between you and Mr Al Fayed. As I understand from your own witness statement in the libel proceedings, paragraph 46, you lost the diaries for 1987? .

  (Mr Hamilton)  Yes.

  1919.  You have the diaries for 1984 to 1986 because they were disclosed? .

  (Mr Hamilton)  Yes.

  1920.  One assumes you had got them for 1988 and 1989? .

  (Mr Hamilton)  Yes.

  1921.  How many diaries would you keep? .

  (Mr Hamilton)  I would keep them all. Let me explain the circumstances in which those diaries came to be lost. The 1984-1986 diaries survived because they were in boxes of papers that I had kept together to do with the BBC libel case, because obviously they have a lot the material of a chronological nature in them, which explains what was happening in the libel case. I had at one time anticipated writing a book about it but that did not happen. Other diaries would have been kept in my office in the House of Commons and in 1987, 1988 and 1989 I had an office in the Norman Shaw North building on the Embankment. In 1990 when I was made a member of the government I had to move offices and whips do not have their own dedicated offices, we have desks in the cloisters just below the Whips Office in the House of Commons, so all my documents had to be piled into boxes. Some of them remained in Norman Shaw, some of them were brought down to the cloisters. They remained there for two years. The boxes were not opened. I then moved to the DTI. I did then get a dedicated office of my own which was under the Chamber but my papers remained in the cloisters and during the four years that elapsed between 1990 and 1994 when I needed to find these diaries for 1987, 1988 and 1989 I had not seen them at all and I lost a certain amount of the material. Somebody stole a video from my office and other papers disappeared, I have no idea where. So I do not have the diaries for 1987, 1988 and 1989.

  1922.  They have all gone? It is not just the one year 1987? .

  (Mr Hamilton)  No. The 1990 diary survived because obviously that was being used and was with me in my new office.

  1923.  In terms of dates this is the best record we have got because you have not got your own.

  (Mr Hamilton)  Yes and somewhere in the course of my witness statement I have said I can neither confirm nor deny that these meetings took place. I do not deny there were quite a number of meetings with Mr Al-Fayed but I cannot confirm any specific dates. .

  1924.  We have got to March 18th and this appears to be the first meeting between the three of you. Although there may have been others, this is the one in the records. That then leads to the invitation to go to Paris. .

  (Mr Hamilton)  Well, I would not say that the meeting led to that. .

  1925.  In terms of chronology. Andrew Bowden is involved now. There are questions being asked by Andrew Bowden and letters being written and we get to page 163 which is Michael Grylls, Neil Hamilton, Tim Smith, Andrew Bowden, Royston Webb to attend a meeting to discuss the current position on the 9th April, but the action next day is the letter to you and copied to other members in the group. It should be page 164 in your bundle, the "Dear Neil ..." letter from Ian Greer, 3rd April, inviting you and Christine to join him for a weekend in Paris with other Parliamentary colleagues, and the dates suggested are the 9th and 10th May or failing that the weekend of the 25th and 26th. We know from page 166 that between the 3rd and the 10th, the date had been fixed as the 25th and 26th but was now being aborted because of the announcement on the 9th of the appointment of the DTI inspectors. One other date, page 183, is the letter to you from Ian Greer. There is to be a delegation led by Michael Grylls or Peter Hordern.

  (Mr Hamilton)  Yes, Peter Hordern always led these delegations. .


 
previous page contents next page
House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1997
Prepared 8 July 1997