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