Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report


APPENDIX 3

Memorandum submitted by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

Complaint against Mr George Galloway

  1. In a letter dated 22 May 1996 (Annex A) Mr Charles Hendry made a formal complaint alleging that Mr George Galloway failed to declare a relevant interest during an Adjournment Debate speech on 24 January. The debate was on Saudi Arabia and, at the time, Mr Galloway had an entry in the Register of Members' Interests as a director of Hawk Communications International Ltd - described as a communications company established "to assist democratic development in the Middle East and the Indian Sub-Continent".

  2. In support of his allegation, Mr Hendry has provided a transcript of an interview, said to be between the Mail on Sunday and Mr Al Mass'ari and the Director of the Committee for the Defence of Legitimate Rights (CDLR), Dr Saad Al-Fagih. The transcript (Annex B) is backed by a tape-recording, also submitted as evidence. The interview took place on 19 April 1996.

  3. Further in support of the allegation, Mr Mark Watts (a freelance journalist apparently working for the Mail on Sunday) has supplied copies of a letter dated 11 May 1995 from Mr Galloway to Dr Saad Al-Fagih (Annex C); a compliments slip relating to an EDM and headed "Hawk Communications"; and the EDM to which it apparently referred (not reproduced).

  4. In a letter of 28 May (Annex D) Mr Galloway denies the allegation. He maintains that Hawk Communications never traded and has now been wound up; that his services to CDLR were provided in a personal capacity; and that he received no fees or taxable expenses requiring registration or declaration.

  5. Finally, I have also received a letter dated 29 May (Annex E) from Dr Saad Al-Fagih, confirming that Mr Galloway received no fees from CDLR, but only reimbursement of moneys spent on their behalf.

COMMENT

  6. I have confirmed with Companies House that they have no evidence that Hawk Communications has ever traded; and that the company is in the process of being dissolved. The company's solicitors notified Companies House in December 1995, i.e. before the Adjournment Debate, that arrangements were being made for the company (which had not been active) to be closed down.[31] I conclude that Mr Galloway neither received nor, at the time of the debate, expected to receive any financial benefit from that source.

  7. The arrangements which Mr Galloway had with CDLR were clearly informal. Although it is claimed in the transcript of the interview that Hawk offered to provide a PR service, there is no clear evidence to suggest that this was taken up: indeed, another PR company was being retained in tandem and there are indications that Mr Galloway's services were provided as an individual Member of Parliament.

  8. Under the Rules for the registration of financial interests, relevant remuneration "includes not only salaries and fees but also the receipt of any taxable expenses, allowances or benefits, such as the provision of a company car". Thus, non-taxable expenses are not registrable. Nor are they declarable since the Rules also state that "the basic test of relevance should be the same for declaration as for registration".

  9. The Inland Revenue have informed me that, in such circumstances, the reimbursement of expenses incurred on behalf of another body would not be taxable. Only if the payment went beyond reimbursement to provide some personal reward would that position be reversed.

  10. The validity of the allegation therefore turns on whether Mr Galloway received or expected to receive any personal reward for the services he provided to CDLR.

  11. The transcript of the interview with the Mail on Sunday provides no clear evidence on this point. Although Mr Al Mass'ari refers to payments to Mr Galloway of around £1000 a month, he repeatedly maintains that this was to cover costs and not to provide any personal gain. Among the costs referred to are the services of a bodyguard and a part-time secretary, hotel bills, a lunch at the House of Commons, travel and advertising material. He also made it clear that the financial arrangements were wholly or largely in the hands of Dr Saad Al-Fagih, who has separately confirmed that no personal reward was involved.

  12. The documents supplied by Mr Watts (see Annex C) add little to this picture, except to show that Mr Galloway wrote informal notes on Hawk-headed notepaper.

  13. In his letter of 28 May Mr Galloway maintains that Hawk Communications never traded and that his services to CDLR were provided in a personal capacity. References in the transcript to "the part-time services of a secretary" were a misunderstanding. But he did pay for the services of a bodyguard and for occasional services of academics, in addition to expenses incurred on such items as a House of Commons lunch, travel tickets, advertisements and other publicity material. For these costs he received direct payment or subsequent reimbursement from CDLR. He received no fees or taxable expenses involving personal reward.

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION

  14. I do not believe that the evidence in support of the complaint is sufficient to validate the allegation that there has been a breach of the rules of disclosure. Indeed I have no grounds for challenging Mr Galloway's own version of events and I recommend that the Committee should find accordingly. I have discussed these findings with Mr Galloway who agrees with the facts and the balance of presentation.

13 June 1996

ANNEX A

Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards from Mr Charles Hendry MP

  Thank you for your letter of 9 May regarding the conduct of Mr George Galloway.

  I am now enclosing a tape, which was used to prepare the transcript which I sent to you with my previous letter. This has been provided to me by the Mail on Sunday, who initially contacted me as result of my intervention during Mr Galloway's Adjournment Debate speech on 24 January.

  If Mr Al-Mass'ari's comments are correct, Mr Galloway did not admit to a declarable interest during his speech. Indeed, he specifically denied it. Although I fully accepted Mr Galloway's assurance given during the debate, I have no option but to make a formal complaint, on the basis of the information which has now come to light, that Mr Galloway failed to declare a relevant interest.

  The material has been passed to me by Mr Mark Watts, who is a freelance journalist working for the Mail on Sunday. Mr Watts was responsible for the paraphrasing in the text I sent with my previous letter and he has, I understand, other material and correspondence which may be of help to you.

22 May 1996

ANNEX B

Transcript of a taped interview by the Mail on Sunday of Mr Al Mass'ari and Dr Saad Al-Fagih
on 19 April 1996

  MASS'ARI: We met George Galloway, introduced to him by Said Aburishe. George is married to a remote cousin of his. He (Aburishe) said `Why don't you meet him? He champions many causes like yours. But I said not yet. It is not CDLR policy to approach anyone.

  We were introduced in the Parliament in October or November 1994. Then in January 1995 he presented us to the people in the Jubilee Room. He booked the room because he has access to that. It was like an evening where we spoke about the Gulf and Saudi. It wasn't presented as Mass'ari Must Stay. It was the Outstanding Yemen Deportation Case.

  Mail on Sunday (MOS): Were you organising a series of conferences up and down the country?

  MASS'ARI: We called it the speaking tour.

  MOS: Were you speaking to members of the public?

  MASS'ARI: Yes, sometimes Saad spoke and sometimes George also spoke.

  MOS: Did Galloway actually organise all of this?

  MASS'ARI: Yes.

  MOS: Is that his job?

  MASS'ARI: Yes he is the organiser. He organised the hotels, etc... Saad was managing the money.

  MOS: Hawk's job was to organise these series of meetings?

  MASS'ARI: Yes.

  MOS: Book the rooms, the conferences, deal with tickets etc.

  MASS'ARI: Yes. We were interacting with Imran and Imran is associated (with Hawk). And there is David who is a bodyguard. He is a black belt at Karate.

  MASS'ARI: Mine, He is English, lives in Glasgow. He's a very nice guy.

  MOS: Did you have to pay Hawk to provide that bodyguard?

  MASS'ARI: Definitely. For example these shirts that say Mass'ari Must Stay which have been widely distributed and also used in the campaign for the electorial office in Glasgow where they were distributing Mass'ari Must Stay shirts and stickers and all of that cost money and Saad was paying that and so all that was done through George Galloway.

  BREAK..

  MASS'ARI: George did make formally an offer for PR work ... on Hawk's paper saying we can provide PR etc, etc at a very low cost ... just costs, covering costs and including the workers wages ... also he discussed with me and Saad if sufficient work for getting as a PR he would be hiring a lady at least for the half time ...

  Paraphrase: He said there would not be enough work to employ a full time worker.

  MASS'ARI: So it warrants a half-time job for secretarial and other support...

  When he came more formal later, he put that (offer in), let me tell you when was that roughly, it was in March ...

  Then after, we started them (Monaco and George) on an experimental base.

  George came in and said he should be doing that job because they (the other PR company) are just doing it for the money, they are just professional, they do not have their heart in the cause, and he would do a better service. And then he made that definite, it must be essentially in April or March last year... not much later.

  Paraphrase: He confirmed he first met Galloway between October and December, most likely November. He confirmed introduction was by Said Aburishe. He then confirmed the meeting in the Jubilee Room in January 1995.

  MASS'ARI: (Galloway) He organised that. He suggested we should have something there. I don't know what it was (about). It was just a short evening may be introducing us, the occasion was the Outstanding Deportation Case for Yemen.

  MOS: When is the very first time Galloway did paid work?

  MASS'ARI: It must be the organisation of the conference, no later than the conference at the end of April 95, was a conference about the Gulf so obviously money was being, participation money for the people, but the money was needed to cover our costs. Saad organised that.

  Paraphrase: Mass'ari gave a talk as well as a Yemeni and someone from Bahrain. It was a full day conference in the House of Commons.

  MOS: Why did you have to pay for it?

  MASS'ARI: Costs for calling in the people and for providing Halal food, because there was a lunch there. The contribution would cover 100 per cent ... it was minimal amount.

  MOS: Was it organised by Hawk?

  MASS'ARI: I don't it was Hawk. The name Hawk was only seen by me once when he made the formal offer of PR activities, suggest it would be based just on cost, not making any money, just keeping Hawk running and employing may be someone half time or someone who is already half time to be full time.

  Paraphrase: The speaking tour was arranged after Hawk's PR offer.

  MASS'ARI: And there was a problem because we already had an experiment on our contract and the test with John and Pat (Monaco Consultants). They suggested to tour around the country, a speaking tour. They were very upset that George took that.

  So he suggested that it is not good to hire professional PR and so on because they are professional and they don't have any cause of the heart we should abolish them and have his organisation.

  I said to Saad we should retain both ... That was in early summer 95.

  It was at the time formally concluded not may be in writing ... so that was roughly when he was contracted, roughly around that time.

  Paraphrase: The speaking tour idea was from Monaco but Galloway adopt the idea, which upset the other PR company.

  MOS: How much was he paid to arrange the speaking tour?

  MASS'ARI: I don't know. You will have to ask Saad. As he claimed, its basic costs. When he makes the costing, nothing taken for him as a person.

  MOS: Do you think it was to cover the basic costs?

  MASS'ARI: I think.

  Paraphrase: Saad suggested getting rid of Monaco.

  MASS'ARI: This is an idea. It's not a very good idea because this way anything happens and George comes in ... and also George may be able to establish good relations with the Muslim community ... the Labour Party, small faction of the Labour Party ... and some politicians, MPs and things, but he doesn't have the involvement in the professional direction which would be John and Pat.

  Paraphrase: CDLR had given Monaco £2,000 a month. Mass'ari offered the £1,000 after George joined the campaign.

  MASS'ARI: I said we cannot afford £2,000, because George was roughly around £1,000 monthly something like that or £1,500 ... and we have two PR groups doing two different sides.

  Paraphrase: He said a good secretary will cost.

  MASS'ARI: John and Pat they will do the PR with the media with the television, etc, etc whereas George will concentrate on the House of Commons, Kashmiris and Muslim communities in Glasgow and outside London especially, things which he can do very well.

  That was the plan. Then later on Saad originally he told John and Pat the idea that the money is now tied and they could stay for no more than £1,000 or they are free to go and for some reason they decided to stay. In January this year they (Monaco) started to work on costs only.

  MOS: When did Hawk stop working for CDLR?

  MASS'ARI: They have not stopped. I don't know if they still charge the same. The last time George asked me for the money I said Saad has the money. That was late February. I said speak to him because he is a little bit clumsy with paying.

  MOS: Right up until you split (Mass'ari and Saad in March this year), Galloway was receiving about £1,000 a month.

  MASS'ARI: Partly that, I think, for the cost of the salaries and half salaries.

  I don't know who the lady was half employed.

  Other things are: clear bills plus that salary so it was really not a very big charge. We never felt there was a need to know she exists. May be she doesn't exist but I have a feeling she may exist.

  Paraphrase: He said Galloway organised people, (scholars) to write articles for the CDLR reports and that they held `plenty' of press conferences in the Commons organised by Galloway.

  MASS'ARI: Obviously some money was needed for that also. He booked them in his capacity as an MP not as owner of Hawk.

  Paraphrase: Galloway either sent bills in writing or asked for an amount.

  MOS: Would he send an invoice for PR work?

  MASS'ARI: No sometimes he says orally how much. It was very informal.

  BREAK ...

  MASS'ARI: He was sending out the reports with a cover letter from himself in the House of Commons envelopes ... there were hundreds may be thousands, definitely thousands. UK addresses were considerable. The international ones were not free.

  So he would give us the envelopes and we just put them in and sent them out.

  Paraphrase: The CDLR published three reports which were sent out in pre-paid envelopes.

  MASS'ARI: It was good for us because we saved lots of money.

  I don't think that the relationship, George made very much money ... unless this so called half secretary or secretary does not exist.

  I don't think it was purely monetary. I think it was political benefit.

  Paraphrase: He said Commons business was always done in Galloway's name not Hawk's. Monaco's job was to concentrate on press liaison.

  MASS'ARI: George would concentrate on the Muslim community, and on the Parliament and politicians.

  He put a proposal (PR offer) through before the speaking tour, must be April or May..

  There wasn't a formal contract, but yes, we agreed so there was a contract. We shook hands on it ...

  BREAK ...

  MOS: You just said he didn't want anything in writing. What was that all about?

  MASS'ARI: No I don't think the contract was written. He preferred not to have things in writing.

  MOS: Why?

  MASS'ARI: Obviously he didn't want anyone knows the relations with Hawk and the CDLR.

  MOS: Why?

  MASS'ARI: I don't know. It was obvious.

  MOS: So he didn't want anything in writing between Hawk and CDLR.

  MASS'ARI: So that nobody knows anything that goings between Hawk and the CDLR ... or it looks like a business relationship.

  I don't feel embarrassed because I know he as doing work properly.

  SAAD AL-FAGIH

  MOS: How did you get your message across to Parliament, such as getting House facilities, EDMs, etc?

  

  FAGIH: We had at least two friends in Parliament - one was George Galloway and one was Lord Avebury ...

  They have been very helpful, very co-operative providing Parliamentary facilities for that sort of thing.

  MOS: Did you use George Galloway's PR company to do the work?

  FAGIH: No, he and Lord Avebury were very much in favour (of the cause), as far as we know ...

  They were making it easier to go to Parliament. He used his influence as an MP, but not using him as PR ...

  We are not dealing with him as PR at all. We have other PR ...

  We considered at one time, but we thought this is going to be unwise because people would say no, he was using it for the purpose of money.

  His advice and his service would be as sincere as it would be without money, so thought it was better to be without a contract.

  MOS: So what did he do on the PR side?

  FAGIH: He helped us with one or two press conferences in the House of Commons. That's nothing to do with, he doesn't do this for money. If any costs which are needed to bring it, crew or somebody to take it for us, we paid for this. It's not George Galloway's or Lord Avebury's job to pay for this. But that's totally Parliamentary, it's nothing to do with money at all.

  Paraphrase: He make the point that Galloway genuinely believes in the CDLR cause.

  FAGIH: Any money which has been paid during his presence has been paid to do something, either cost of a room or cost of a conference or a lunch, cost of a crew or cost of a trip, nothing to do with him ...

  We asked him to help us in the idea of how to run our campaign, being a successful journalist, not very much being an owner of PR company, successful politician ...

  All right. We are using somebody who is not at the centre of Parliament. He is well to the left and is not very liked by many Parliamentarians.

  Paraphrase: He praised his support of their campaign.

  MOS: Did you discuss with Mass'ari the hiring of Hawk Communication?

  Paraphrase: He praised his support of their campaign.

  MOS: Did you discuss with Mass'ari the hiring of Hawk Communication?

  Paraphrase: He discussed using Galloway more as an individual not about using his PR company.

  FAGIH: I saw him as an experienced politician who was giving us very good advice.

  Paraphrase: He said he only wrote on Hawk letterheaded paper with his feelings about meetings, etc.

  TAPE SWITCHED OFF!

Notes taken down by Clare Henderson with Mark Watts

  FAGIH: I don't have anything for him to do right now. He did very well helping the PR Campaign for Domenica.

  MOS: Is it true that you told a CDLR worker that Galloway was, at times, expensive to you?

  FAGIH: I am very money conscious. May be I said don't use George because it's too expensive.

  Paraphrase: He confirmed it was true he halved Monaco's contract and that Galloway organised the speaking tour, including booking hotels and making travel arrangements.

  FAGIH: He would send the expenses. We would make sure the expenses were going to the correct amount.

  I see exactly how much has been paid for hotels.

  Paraphrase: He confirmed Galloway sent the CDLR mailshots. He said these were sent from Galloway's office and claimed not to know how many or how they were sent.

  FAGIH: I cannot remember appointing any full time or part time secretary for our job, but if he has used his own secretary for the tour ... (shrug)

  We don't have any agreement with him to use part time or full time secretary in his office.

ANNEX C

Letter to Dr Saad Al-Fagih from Mr George Galloway MP

  Eid Mubarak to you, Bro Mohammed and all the strugglers of the democratic Saudi opposition.

  I had a visit today from the PR people - John and Patricia. It seems they have some ambitious plans for the future. I just wanted you to know that their plans are theirs alone.

  I should prefer to deal directly with you; either on my own proposals or any others you have.

  I hope you all enjoy the feast; and I look forward to hearing from you soon. Allah Makh.

N.B. + new EDM 1284.

11 May 1995

ANNEX D

Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards from Mr George Galloway MP

  Thank you for your letter dated 28 May 1996 and the enclosures.

  The Saudi smear campaign having failed to convince any British newspapers (though it has been trawled around a lot) to publish this story has turned again to Mr Charles Hendry MP.

  As you know I approached you on this subject at the time of the first press interest so you know my position in general, however I will now turn to your specific questions.

  Hawk never traded, was moribund and is now wound up.

  My services to CDLR were provided in a personal capacity.

  There is apparent confusion about "the part-time services of a secretary".

  I found a number of people to perform various tasks for CDLR. These were on virtually all occasions paid directly by Dr Saad Al-Fagih. On one or two occasions when he asked me to pay someone directly for work done, I did so with his money. The people involved ranged from senior academics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (paid directly) to a bodyguard (paid by me).

  I do not have records involving expenses met on behalf of CDLR for which payments were reimbursed although by painstaking retreading of the ground I could do so. The salient expenditures which I recall would be the provision of a Halal lunch in the House of Commons, Advertisements in the Guardian and Glasgow Herald, train and air tickets for the CDLR leaders and retinue, T-Shirts and baseball caps.

  I have never received any fees or taxable expenses.

  In conclusion, I think you should be aware that these "journalists" (who contrary to Mr Hendry's letter do not work for the Mail on Sunday) were engaged in an attempt to entrap Professor al-Massari into placing me in exactly this position vis-a-vis you.

  Most importantly as the Professor and Dr Al-Fagih make clear even in this Saudi inspired tape, all financial and organisational matters were dealt with by Dr Al-Fagih and I have asked him to write to your vouching for the authenticity of these facts.

28 May 1996

ANNEX E

Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards from Dr Saad Al-Fagih

  George Galloway MP has informed me about the complaint made against him in relation to his work on behalf of our campaign. I feel morally obliged to write to you about those allegations. I have already had a cause to write to the Mail on Sunday refuting the allegations.

  Until the middle of March 1996 I was in charge of all financial and administrative affairs in the CDLR. Any payments to any other party would have been made through me.

  I confirm to you that George Galloway did not receive any payment of any fees at any time from CDLR. Any expenses which were paid to him were the reimbursement of Money's spent on our behalf. No other payments of any kind were made to him. He gave his time and effort to us we believe because he sincerely believed in our cause.

29 May 1996  


31  
On 14 December 1995, Hawk Communications' solicitors filed dormant company accounts (because the company had not been active) with Companies House and indicated that the company was being closed down. Thus by the time of the Adjournment Debate, the directors (including Mr Galloway) had no expectation of financial benefit. Back


 
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