Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report


APPENDIX 2

  

Letter to the Clerk of the Committee on Standards and Privileges
from Mr George Galloway MP relating to the draft report prepared by
the previous Committee in the last Parliament (Appendix 1)

  I note from the press that the committee has been reconstituted and I presume that the new committee will wish to close the matter of the complaint against me by the former Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, the former Member of Parliament for High Peak, Mr Charles Hendry.

  Naturally I was pleased that the committee in the last parliament accepted the report and conclusions on the complaint produced by Sir Gordon Downey, the Commissioner for Standards. Sir Gordon Downey is the professional non-politically partisan civil servant whom the House has appointed to investigate such complaints and as I argued from the beginning of this affair, his professional non-politically partisan findings should have been accepted from the start.

  I should record the fact that Sir Gordon reached this conclusion almost a year before the previous committee did and I cannot help speculating that this complaint was kept deliberately in play for reasons other than its merit.

  Members of the Committee will note that the adjournment debate in question in January 1996 of Her Majesty's Government's relations with Saudi Arabia consisted of a trenchant attack by me on

    1.  The nature of the Government of Saudi Arabia.

    2.  The character of HMG's relationship with that Government.

    3.  The conduct of British arms companies and their agents.

    4.  The activities of the then Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the then Rt Honourable Jonathan Aitken.

  This speech and my general campaign on the issue of Saudi Arabia at the time was regarded by the then Government as an attack that must be blunted, not least because it was re-opening the issue of Mr Aitken's close and fantastically lucrative relationship with sectors of the Saudi oligarchy. Thus, on the night in question there was a full dress turn out on the Treasury bench and the clearly pre-prepared ambush laid by the Tory Vice-Chairman Charles Hendry.

  As I have stated several times in my written and verbal evidence, it is little less than an outrage that so much Parliamentary time and resource has been expended on investigating my relations with the Saudi dissidents, an investigation driven by a party who had such close relations as have now been exposed with sections of the Saudi Royal family.

  Still, the Committee[30] was ultimately to find that I had no interest to declare within the meaning of the term in the Act and the rules of the House.

  I also note the trenchant criticism made by the Committee on the nature of the tape recordings submitted to them by Charles Hendry and the so-called transcript of those tape recordings submitted with them.

  The transcription, said the Committee was "no more than a selective summary to suit the reporter's hostile interpretation of Mr Galloway's actions".

  Moreover, said the Committee, the micro-cassette itself is "an edited compilation of extracts from what might have been a series of interviews".

  The Committee concluded that "this is very unsatisfactory".

  I am bound to state here that such obviously doctored tape-recorded "evidence" should never have been accepted by the Committee as the basis for such a long and tortuous process as this. The nature of the recordings and the transcripts which the Committee has condemned in the strongest terms should have been evidence enough of the motivation of the complainant.

  I note that the Committee proposes to draw to the attention of the Administration Committee the evidence given to it about Mr Hendry's complaint relating to my use of the House of Commons stationery. I am content to make my arguments on this to that committee in due course.

  On the subject of registration of Hawk Communications. The report indicates that on the 24th of January 1994 I registered an unpaid consultancy in Hawk Communications. I had no obligation to do so as the company had not even been formed officially at that stage. By the summer of that year I had become a Director and share holder of that company but I did not register this change until the new register was published in January 1995.

  The Committee accepts that Hawk never traded and records that the relevant rule which applied in 1994 was that if a company was engaged in any transaction additional to those required to keep it in being then it should be considered to be trading. In fact, Hawk was engaged in no such transactions. But I did register it, and indeed did so prior to any reason for doing so. This I believe showed my good faith and commitment to transparency in this regard. I accept however, that I should have removed the entry in December 1995 and not in March 1996. Had I done so this matter may never have arisen. But it is hardly an act of concealment to keep an item on the register longer than it should have been, more especially where one reading of the situation would be that the item need not have been on the register at all as it was a company which never traded.

  I turn now to the "Issues of General Principle" raised in the Committee's report.

  While of course it is the prerogative of the Committee to lay down issues of general principle, they cannot be retrospective and I wish to deal with those issues, which those leaking to the newspapers from this report, have construed as criticism of myself.

  In paragraph 9, the report quotes me as saying that I "received no taxable or registrable, benefit from or for any of these actions".

  In fact the Committee has found that I was right about that, for if it had been otherwise I would have had an interest to declare and Charles Hendry's complaint could not have been rejected.

  This is an important point because it is later implied that I should have kept records of reimbursements made to me. But of course there could be no reason for keeping such records of transactions which were neither remuneration nor the payment of taxable expenses.

  I am bound to give the following example. If a Member of Parliament were to travel to give a speech to a local party association, or a solidarity committee etc. and was reimbursed for his/her costs in getting there, it would be strange to say that the Member had any obligation to keep records of such a transaction - a transaction I repeat which the Committee has accepted had no remunerative or taxation implications.

  There is thus an internal contradiction in any implied criticism of me in this regard with the Committee's rejection of Charles Hendry's complaint.

  In paragraph 11, the Committee makes reference to undesirability where a Member of Parliament acts as an intermediary for third parties where "cash" is involved.

  But the House's own system for the booking of Dining rooms for functions etc. requires exactly that system. The Member is responsible for meeting the bill and the organisation for which he/she has booked the facilities must reimburse the Member.

  In paragraph 12, reference is made to the system of declaration and registration and a Member's responsibilities where he/she "has a pecuniary relationship with an outside organisation which requires declaration or registration".

  But I had no such relationship with the CDLR. I was not required to declare or register my relationship with them precisely because no issues of remuneration or taxable expenses arose. Again, had it been otherwise then Charles Hendry's complaint would have been upheld. It was rejected because the Committee found that I had no interest to declare.

  Lastly in paragraph 13, concern is raised about my involvement with a "foreign" organisation.

  This is unfair to me and many other Members who concentrate on international affairs and who have long standing and close relations with liberation movements, dissident groups and solidarity committees etc.

  In any case, the organisation in question, the CDLR, cannot be regarded as a "foreign" organisation. Its leaders lived in the UK, the organisation was based in the UK, its actions were peaceful and democratic and conducted from the UK. Would members that supported UK based campaigns for justice in countries such as Israel or the old South Africa, Indonesia, Nigeria etc have brought the House into disrepute through their often close day to day support of such organisations?

  These organisations are not the multi-national companies with whom some other Members are involved, and of necessity are organised on a much more ad hoc and informal basis. It would be different if I had had a remunerative relationship with any such organisation. But the Committee found that I had not.

  In conclusion I naturally accept the finding of the Committee that the Commissioner's original decision and conclusions should be accepted; namely that the complaint against me by Charles Hendry MP should be rejected. I hope that this matter can now be closed.

29 June 1997


30  All references to the Committee are to the previous Committee on Standards and Privileges in the last Parliament (see Appendix 1). Back


 
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