Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report


MINUTES OF EVIDENCE - Part 2

Chairman

  28.  This is your letter of 27 January which you wrote to me.

  (Mr Galloway)  "Open Flight Limited" - I can see why you got that impression - the £824 is largely hotel bills that were booked through a travel agent for the speaking tour which took place all over England. "British Airways" is obviously airline tickets. "Open Flight" again could be either flights or hotels or both. "James Richardson", I do not know what that is, to be frank. "British Airways", "British Airways", again "Open Flight" could be hotels or flights. They travelled with quite a retinue.

Sir Archibald Hamilton

  29.  And this was money spent in this country?

  (Mr Galloway)  Yes.

  30.  For these tours?

  (Mr Galloway)  Yes.

  31.  And you received money to pay these bills?

  (Mr Galloway)  I paid these bills by my Visa card and was reimbursed by Dr Al Fagih, not always immediately.

  32.  And you have a record of those reimbursements, do you?

  (Mr Galloway)  I have not of the reimbursements. I have of the expenditures. I had no reason to keep records of the reimbursements because I was not requiring them for income tax or any other purpose.

  33.  How were they paid - by cheque?

  (Mr Galloway)  No, they were cash.

  34.  It was cash, I see. So all the income then came as cash and so all we have as a record are the Visa bills?

  (Mr Galloway)  As far as I know, they did not have a bank account, which may strike you as surprising given the size of the telephone bill, but, by definition, if they were receiving secret funds and they were a clandestine revolutionary organisation, they had enough problems making sure they were not bugged without transacting their business through the British clearing banks.

  35.  So they would go around to British Telecom every quarter and pay them £100,000 in cash, would they?

  (Mr Galloway)  I would imagine so, yes.

  36.  You think so?

  (Mr Galloway)  As far as I know, I never saw at any time any cheque in the name of the Saudi revolution.

Dame Jill Knight

  37.  Mr Galloway, what does HQA stand for?

  (Mr Galloway)  It is a Pakistani decoration, Hilal-i-Quaid-i-Azzam. It makes me a knight in Pakistan.

  38.  I hope you will forgive me if I do not address you as "Sir George".

  (Mr Galloway)  One day, Dame Jill!

  39.  Maybe in Pakistan. I am somewhat confused because at one stage in your statement you did pour a rather good deal of contempt on the transcript we have got, but later on you seem to be calling it in aid.

  (Mr Galloway)  No, no.

  40.  Can I just finish? Whether this is the other transcript which has chunks which are exactly the same anyway, so I do not really know which one you are saying is rubbish and which one you are saying is A-okay.

  (Mr Galloway)  Well, I hope it is obvious. I am referring to the transcript which was initially submitted with the complaint which, with respect to you, is very different indeed from the actual transcript and even the actual transcript is drawn from a tape-recording which is really several tape-recordings welded together with joins and cuts and with the volume turned down intentionally, in the words of your Clerk, and where the questions and answers from the woman interviewer present have been withdrawn, been taken out, been struck out, so my contempt is for the original transcript and I am merely drawing your attention to the doctoring of even the tape-recording itself, not the transcript which was drawn from it, but the tape-recording itself. In the words of your own Clerk, these words I was using were from your own Clerk's hand.

  41.  Yes, well, what I am trying to establish is what is right and true and what is not. That is all.

  (Mr Galloway)  Well, how can I know, Dame Jill? I was not there.

  42.  This is why I am going to ask you a number of questions here. It appears to be clear from the transcript that you accepted the job of organiser. "Yes, he is the organiser. He organises hotels and Saad was managing the money. Hawk's job was to organise these series of meetings? Yes. Book the rooms, the conferences, deal with the tickets etc." Later on, it says, "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..." and then there seems to be another competition firm coming in called Monaco who seem to be a man and a woman who are named a little bit later on and then we get to the point, "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...and he would do a better service. And then he made that definite..." Now, again and again it gives the impression, and I am anxious to establish whether this is true or whether it is not, that you actually came on and offered to do a PR job for them.

  (Mr Galloway)  Monaco, and they are John and Pat, as they are elsewhere referred to, were working for the CDLR when I met them, so they had been engaged by CDLR prior to my meeting with them. Monaco continued to work for the CDLR until the organisation broke in February of 1996 and then went with Al Mass'ari as his PR company and continued as his PR company long after he could afford to pay them anything at all. You will see a joke in there that perhaps they were doing it for the love of the work, as Al Mass'ari jokes. So Monaco did not appear as a competition in the sense that you mean it. If anything, I suppose I was the competition in the sense that I post-dated them. Now, I do not recall ever submitting on Hawk's notepaper any such proposal and indeed Al Mass'ari contradicts that comment in his letter to my lawyer in October in which he says he never had anything, any relationship to me as a representative of any company, but only as an individual. He states that above his own signature. There was a discussion about whether Hawk as a company, set up to professionally campaign, could, should, ought to take on the job of public relations campaigns for them. It was raised by them some time in the spring of 1995. It was raised by them in a Chinese restaurant in St James's. I remember it well. The discussion took place that night. Another discussion took place the next morning and the idea was rejected by them and by us. There would have been nothing wrong in Hawk taking on that job, nothing at all. That is what we were set up to do. These were pre-Nolan days, remember, when advocacy and membership of lobbying companies was not outlawed in the House. Many Members were on the boards of lobbying and public relations companies so I would not have been embarrassed about taking on such a task. It was, after all, the kind of thing that Hawk was set up to do, but it never happened. It never happened for a number of reasons. Number one, it never happened because they already had a PR company and, as is evident from the transcript, Al Mass'ari had some affection for that PR company. Number two, the mainspring of our work would have been Basem Masri, who at exactly that time left the country to go and work for the Palestinian Parliament - first the National Authority and then the Parliament - in Gaza. Lastly, as Members will recall at the time, the whole atmosphere over the issue of Members of Parliament lobbying Parliament and campaigning within Parliament was already becoming problematic and was ultimately banned by Nolan. So there was a discussion. I do not believe it was ever on paper and I have seen no piece of paper which says that it was on paper. I think the last words of the transcript are, "Let's go and look for this piece of paper." It would appear that this piece of paper had not been produced.

  43.  Were you aware, Mr Galloway, that there was particular concern growing in this House about people taking money to act for foreign groups?

  (Mr Galloway)   I do not know about foreign groups, but it was a part of the rules of the House at that time that people were allowed to be directors of lobbying companies, and if you glimpse at the Register for that time you will see that there were a large number of Members of Parliament who were on the board of lobbying companies, including, I imagine, lobbying companies that acted for foreign interests.

  44.  I am well aware of that. I am trying to establish what part of this transcript we can lay weight on and what part we cannot. This is what is so complicated. Are you saying that all the references made that you were doing paid work are not correct?

  (Mr Galloway)  There are not any references to the fact that I was doing paid work. He repeatedly says in the transcript that I was not being paid personally.

  45.  I am sorry, the complication is there are two different transcripts, but there are many references to the fact that "he is the organiser", "he organised the hotels", and so on and it says that all that was done through George Galloway. If you are saying that is not true, that is all I want to know.

  (Mr Galloway)  I am not saying it is not true. On the contrary, I am saying it is true. What is not true, and Al Mass'ari does not say it, is that I was personally paid anything. Indeed, he rebuts the suggestion of the journalist on umpteen occasions in the transcript and for this purpose we should really refer, I would have thought, to the Committee's own transcript rather than the truncated one which was produced by the journalist and that is this one, PCC7g. He repeats over and over again that I was not paid anything personally. So he was not suggesting that I was paid for my work, but as for me being the organiser and I booked this and I booked that, of course that is true. I am freely acknowledging that.

  46.  Why did this Mr Fagih say, "We don't use George because he is too expensive"?

  (Mr Galloway)   He did not, did he? If you look at the transcript, he did not say that. You are looking at the wrong transcript.

  47.  You see the confusion that is arising.

  (Mr Galloway)   With respect, there is no confusion. This is the official transcript and he did not say that in the official transcript. He did say it in the journalist's transcript, but it is not on the tape.

  48.  I am not asking you which transcript he said it in, I am asking whether it was true or not, that is all.

  (Mr Galloway)   I cannot tell you whether he said that or not because I was not there. But what I can tell you is that this is the official transcript of the tape recording and he did not say it on this transcript of that tape recording.

  49.  I am trying to get it from you rather than from the transcript. Obviously there were the hotel bills, as you say. Did you ever pay any bodyguards?

  (Mr Galloway)   Al Mass'ari says in the transcript that Dr Saad Al Fagih paid the bodyguard.

  50.  I did not ask you what he said -

  (Mr Galloway)   I did not, no.

  51.  There is also a reference made to a secretary. Did that secretary exist or was it your own House of Commons' secretary who was doing whatever work there was to be done of that nature?

  (Mr Galloway)   The secretary was a composite figure of several different people, which again illustrates the salient fact that Al Mass'ari was not involved in the logistics of this operation.

Mr Evans

  52.  Can I take it, George, that you are always referring to the official transcript?

  (Mr Galloway)   Yes. He assumes, as many men do, especially Muslim Fundamentalist men, that a secretary is a woman. In fact, the secretary referred to is a number of men who were performing secretarial duties throughout the period, transcribing, translating, typesetting, pasting up, doing all sorts of administrative tasks. Those were all people paid directly by Dr Al Fagih and not by me.

Mr Campbell-Savours

  53.  On that composite of people, do you have their names?

  (Mr Galloway)   I have some of their names, yes.

  54.  Were they all British subjects?

  (Mr Galloway)   No, most of them were not.

  55.  They were from?

  (Mr Galloway)   They were mostly Arabs. One did not enquire too closely as to what their specific nationality was. Most of them were refugees of one kind or another.

  56.  Was this work done in London or Glasgow?

  (Mr Galloway)   All of it in London.

  57.  So basically what happened was they did the work and then you, having received whatever was necessary in payment to pay them, passed those monies on to them?

  (Mr Galloway)  No, they were paid directly.

  58.  By Mr ...?

  (Mr Galloway)   Al Fagih.

  59.  They were paid directly. Which individual people actually paid you any monies at all?

  (Mr Galloway)   Only Al Fagih.

  60.  So we can assume that Mr Fagih will have a list of the payments that he made to you?

  (Mr Galloway)   I do not know if you can assume that or not.

  61.  Have you asked him?

  (Mr Galloway)   No. I rather suspect he does not and, if he did, I rather suspect that he would not provide his financial details to you or anyone else, but that is only a suspicion.

  62.  He would provide them to you, would he not, because he paid you to pay others?

  (Mr Galloway)   I am providing this statement to you in my letter of 27th January. Those are the sums that I know that he paid me. That is the sum total.

  63.  Yes, but just so that I can clarify this, he will have paid you monies in addition to that?

  (Mr Galloway)  No.

  64.  No, so only those monies?

  (Mr Galloway)  Only this money. He will have on occasion, for example, as I have said repeatedly in the paperwork, asked me to pay academics. I can think of two in particular.

  65.  We will come to those in a minute.

  (Mr Galloway)  But he did not pay me any other monies other than those monies that are in this letter of 27 January.

  66.  In the case of those academics then, who paid them?

  (Mr Galloway)  He gave me the money to hand to them.

Mrs Taylor

  67.  In cash?

  (Mr Galloway)  Yes.

Mr Campbell-Savours

  68.  Not just those on the list here, but in addition to what is on the list, are there payments which you passed on to academics?

  (Mr Galloway)  No, because they were not payments to me. He gave me on two occasions -

  69.  To pass on.

  (Mr Galloway)  Yes, he gave me an envelope, he gave me an envelope to pass to two academics on two separate occasions, which I did.

  70.  Are those academics still in London?

  (Mr Galloway)  Both of them, yes.

  71.  Only two?

  (Mr Galloway)  Only two.

  72.  So if the Committee were prepared not to reveal the names of them for the very reasons you have outlined, for matters of security, I presume then that we could have the names of those please?

  (Mr Galloway)  I would have very great difficulty in agreeing to that. Both of them are foreign nationals, both of them are here as refugees and both of them would be imperiled. Now, I cast no aspersions on the individual members of this Committee, but there is very little that has gone on in this Committee over the last twelve months that has not ended up as public knowledge. There are people who one way or another - let me rephrase that. There have been a number of things which have gone on in this Committee which have been leaked. I do not think any Member -

Mr Evans:  On a point of order, Chairman, it is essential that Mr Galloway appreciates that it is the practice of this Committee to publish evidence that is given to us, so it would not be a question of any leaks. Anything that you are saying to us now is being taken down by the Official Reporters and will be published when we finally wind this up, so one way or the other, what you have said, the questions you have been asked will be published.

Mr Campbell-Savours

  73.  Can I just clarify the position and that is that John is absolutely correct, but of course we can sideline, if we wish, that is the discretion of the Committee because we all know House of Commons procedure, we can sideline any evidence which we feel should not be published if for reasons for security.

  (Mr Galloway)  Well, I would have very real problems with that. We are talking about people's lives.

  74.  That is why I say that.

  (Mr Galloway)  These are two people who are here and who feel vulnerable and I would find very great difficulty in agreeing to divulge their identity, not least because quite apart from their own personal security, which is not a small matter, we are talking about a regime which Judge Pearl in the case about Mass'ari found was guilty of extra-territorial violence against its opponents and we are talking about people who, as the Chairman knows, were involved in a violent act against me and that is a matter which was submitted to the police and the authorities in the House and which I immediately consulted with the Chairman on at the time. So we are not talking about a regime that is above acts of violence, but both of them work in institutions which are in receipt of very substantial sums of money from Saudi Arabia. It would, I think, be stretching credulity to believe that if they were discovered to have been working with the Saudi opposition that that would have no repercussions for their working life.

  75.  Can I put it to you, George, being fair, that there is an argument, which I am sure you understand actually, and that is that if we are to tidy up the shop, we have got to try and have a regime whereby if people find themselves in a position you have been of doing very important work, that it cannot be that others can level accusations that they did not properly account for the monies they received because it could be misinterpreted or misunderstood by the wider public and I wonder whether, on reflection now, you might say that it would have been a lot better if you had kept very good accounts because of course it might be that we would not be sitting here today if that were the case. Do you accept that in principle?

  (Mr Galloway)  Well, I accept that the regime which obtains now in the House is different from and better than that which obtained then. If there had been this Committee then, if Nolan had reported then, if the whole atmosphere which exists now had existed then, then it certainly would have been better not if I had kept better accounts, but if I had had nothing to do with the money at all, that I would have insisted that they open a bank account and that they sent cheques in the post like everyone else. That would have been undoubtedly better and if I knew then what I know now and if the circumstances then were as they are now, you are undoubtedly right, that would have been better.

  76.  I have two quick-fire questions, very short ones. The composite arrangement you referred to did not include in any way your House of Commons secretary at all?

  (Mr Galloway)  No. My House of Commons secretary works in Glasgow.

  77.  Finally, this man, Mr Watts, is he the same Mr Watts that was in Port Stanley for a period, in the Falkland Islands?

  (Mr Galloway)  No. Mr Watts, to the best of my knowledge, has never had an article published anywhere at any time.


 
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