Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Seventh Report

Written evidence received by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

1.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Duncan Crossey, 18 August 2005

As Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, I understand that you oversee the registration and declaration by Members of Parliament of their financial interests/support and benefits as well as deal with breaches of their Code of Conduct

In this capacity, I would like raise a formal complaint against George Galloway MP, who represents (since the recent 5 May 2005 General Election) the constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow and prior to this Glasgow Kelvin and Glasgow Hillhead, for your enquiry and investigation.

The background of this complaint is that Mr Galloway in mid 2003 launched a legal fund to finance his libel actions against The Daily Telegraph and the Christian Science Monitor following articles they had published in April 2003. Please refer to the attached correspondence (which appears to have been signed by Mr Galloway as a Member of Parliament and sent from his parliamentary e-mail address). Although I don't know the exact amount of this fund - reports which I have received place it in the region of £50,000.

This legal fund which has and continues to financially benefit Mr Galloway does not seem to have been declared and registered in the usual way. Mr Galloway therefore appears to be in breach of the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament.

The financial benefit to Mr Galloway is that, as he claims in the enclosed correspondence, he could not have brought the above mentioned libel actions without this financial assistance. Additionally, if the costs (his own and/or his opponents) of these legal actions are/had been awarded for Mr Galloway to pay, this money will be used to meet (whether wholly or partially) those costs. I am unsure of the current position of the two legal actions, however recall that the matter involving the Christian Science Monitor settled while the matter involving The Daily Telegraph is still on appeal following a verdict in favour of Mr Galloway at the initial stage.

I should be grateful if you would immediately commence a preliminary enquiry into this matter taking all appropriate action.

Please do not hesitate to contact me at the above details to discuss this matter or if I can be of any further assistance.

I look forward to hearing from you.

18 August 2005

2.  'Open' Letter from George Galloway, 23 June 2003

Dear Friend,

In view of your kind support for my work in the past I am writing to ask for your help.

I have launched the GEORGE GALLOWAY LEGAL FUND which will be handled by my lawyers DAVENPORT LYONS, 1 OLD BURLINGTON STREET, LONDON W1X 2NL. This is to help finance my legal costs in the libel actions I will fight against the Daily Telegraph and the Christian Science Monitor after their vicious attacks upon me in April of this year.

As you will have seen the Christian Science Monitor have now accepted that the documents on which they based a front page story, published all over the world, alleging that I had taken more than six million pounds from the former Iraqi regime, were forgeries. You will know that another newspaper the Mail on Sunday consulting different experts quickly came to the same conclusion. But an apology is not enough, I want this matter fully dealt with through the law and above all I want to get to the bottom of this conspiracy. That is why I need your help.

These utterly false claims were, as I'm sure you will have concluded, entirely politically motivated. They were intended to punish me for my role on the Palestinian and Iraq issues, to intimidate me and others from continuing to make a stand and if possible to drive me out of British politics altogether.

With the support of my friends I intend to fight this. I hope I can count you as one of those friends.

The Telegraph group is controlled by Lord and Lady Black (Barbara Amiel), two of Sharon's and Israel's most vociferous supporters. On Black's board of directors sit Richard Perle and Henry Kissinger, as did once Margaret Thatcher. I mention this so you'll know what we're up against and the bitter and expensive fight on which I have embarked.

I can't do it without your help and I hope you will donate what you can. All contributions will be carefully recorded and will be returned on the successful awarding of costs in the case, or a proportion will be returned if costs are only partly awarded.

Cheques etc should be made payable to the GEORGE GALLOWAY LEGAL FUND and sent to DAVENPORT LYONS SOLICITORS, 1 OLD BURLINGTON STREET, LONDON W1X 2NL, together with a contact address so contributions can be returned. Confidentiality will be respected.

I sincerely hope I can count on your support in what will be an important political as well as legal struggle.

In any case with all good wishes.

23 June 2003

3.  E-mail to the Commissioner from Mr George Galloway, 22 August 2005

Thank you for writing informing me of the latest press inspired complaint against me. I don't know if such things try your patience as much as they do mine.

You say you are not asking for my response but as it is short I would like to give it to you anyway.

I made a public appeal when I began my action against the Christian Science Monitor and the Daily Telegraph. Around £50,000 was raised. All cheques were made payable to George Galloway Legal Fund and sent to Davenport Lyons to whom I am copying this correspondence. The firm has administered the fund throughout and I have had absolutely no access to it. As you know these actions have incurred legal costs hugely in excess of this amount. As you also know the Christian Science Monitor settled out of court paying damages and costs, funds which have been retained by Davenport Lyons pending the outcome of the Daily Telegraph's appeal. If the Telegraph wins their appeal I will owe some £1.6 million in costs and will be bankrupt. If they lose all the donors to the legal fund have been promised re-imbursement.

I have not "failed" to include this in my registration in the members' register. There has been no pecuniary benefit to me from these donations. If anyone has benefited it is my lawyers.

People responded to my appeal because they thought the interests of justice were served by enabling me to take legal action against those who defamed me. I would have hoped that you would be able to answer this politically motivated press stunt accordingly. For the record there were no donations of more than £1,000 and, I think, fewer than 5 of those. There are no mystery donors and to my knowledge no foreign donors. The donors are ordinary members of the British public who believe that this apparently endless persecution of me and trashing of my integrity is unfair. I hope, on this complaint at least, you will side with them.

22 August 2005

4.  Letter to Mr George Galloway from the Commissioner, 4 October 2005

Further to my e-mails of 22 August and after some further correspondence with Mr Crossey, I am now able to send you a copy of Mr Crossey's letter of complaint, dated 18 August. At Mr Crossey's request, I have blanked off his address from the letter.

You will see that the burden of Mr Crossey's complaint is that you have not included in your entry in the Register of Members' Interests the benefit you have received and are continuing to receive from the fund launched to finance your libel actions against the "Christian Science Monitor" and the "Daily Telegraph".

The relevant provisions of the Rules on the registration and declaration of interests appear to be Category 4 (Sponsorships) and Category 5 (Gifts, benefits and hospitality (UK)). You can find these in paragraphs 25-34 of the Guide to the Rules on the Conduct of Members.

Under Category 4 (b), a Member of Parliament is required to register:

". . .any . . .form of financial or material support as a Member of Parliament, amounting to more than £1,000 from a single source, whether as a single donation or as multiple donations of more than £200 during the course of a calendar year."

This category is intended to cover any financial or material benefit (apart from donations to his or her constituency association, which are covered by Category 4 (a)) in support of a Member's role as a Member of Parliament.

Under Category 5, a Member must register:

"Any gift to the Member or the Member's spouse or partner, or any material benefit, of a value greater than 1 percent of the current parliamentary salary from any company, organisation or person within the UK which in any way relates to membership of the House."

The threshold for registration under this provision is one percent of a Member's salary (currently £590) or any gifts of a lesser value from the same source which cumulatively total more than £590 in the course of a calendar year. Category 5 (paragraph 28 of the Rules) specifically mentions benefits received for "relief from indebtedness".

In your e-mail of 22 August responding to mine alerting you to receipt of this complaint, you confirmed that you had made a public appeal for funds to assist your libel actions against the Daily Telegraph and Christian Science Monitor. All cheques were made payable to George Galloway Legal Fund. Your solicitors, Davenport Lyons, have administered the fund since its inception, retaining the money pending the outcome of the cases. The appeal has so far raised about £50,000. No donation has been for more than £1,000: there have been fewer than 5 donations of about this size.

You also say that you have received "no pecuniary benefit" from the fund, and that if anyone has benefited it is your lawyers.

I write now to ask for your formal response to the complaint. I have, of course, your e-mail of 22 August and will be happy to regard that as your response if you so wish. However, I should be grateful if you would at least supplement that response with your answers to the following:

Precisely how much money has your Appeal raised?

Who, specifically, has made donations and in each case, of how much?

You say that you have not benefited from the Appeal. Has any part of the Appeal been used to fund any part of the costs you have incurred so far in connection with the court cases, or in any other way so as to facilitate the actions you have brought? Presumably, if the Daily Telegraph wins its appeal, the Appeal Fund will be used to contribute towards meeting the legal costs you will have incurred?

I have been contacted by a [Mr X], a journalist, in connection with the complaint. [Mr X]tells me that your spokesman, [Mr Y], claimed in the course of a telephone conversation that you or your office sought my advice (or that of my office) on whether the Appeal Fund should be registered. I am afraid that my colleagues and I have been unable to trace any record of such an approach, and the [Registrar of Members' Interests] tells me that [a member of staff] in your office has suggested that [Mr X] may have "got hold of the wrong end of the stick", as no-one from your office has been in touch with us. I should be grateful if you will clarify the position.

I am copying this letter to Mr Bays so that he can add anything he wishes on this or other pertinent points. It would be helpful if, when he responds, he could say whether the existence of the Fund has in any way materially assisted the conduct of your libel case so far. Was it, for example, of any significance in your solicitor's decision to take on your case? He will realise that I ask this and the questions at 3 above in order to be able to establish whether you have yet received any pecuniary or material benefit from the existence of the fund.

I enclose, by way of reminder, a note about procedures which I routinely send Members who are the subject of a complaint.

4 October 2005

5.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr George Galloway, 3 January 2006

I am, briefly, in the office and have sight of your correspondence on The Legal Fund.

As I think I have informed you before, the legal fund raised some £50,000. A very large number of individuals donated small amounts. A small number - five I think - donated £1,000. All were UK nationals. None were oil traders. All will be reimbursed if the case settles satisfactorily.

Do I understand you wish the names of all the donors? If so, why? Who will be given access to their names if you do see them?

If I have the wrong end of the stick on this, forgive me, I reviewed the correspondence in a rush.

If you really want to review the names of pensioners from Preston and printers union branches from Penzance you have my permission to do so. It is no secret. Just a waste of your valuable time. You may request the list from Mr Bays with my agreement.

3 January 2006

6.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr George Galloway, 29 March 2006

I was astonished by your finding that I should have registered the existence of my Legal Fund, established to assist me mounting libel actions against newspapers which had defamed me. Many will be surprised that in the sea of sleaze enveloping the mainstream political parties you have chosen to make this finding.

The Register is a Register of Interests. I had no interest in this fund. It would only have become a benefit to me if I had lost the libel cases, at which point it would have mitigated the almost £2 million pound legal bill I would have been facing. At that point I would have registered it, just before being forced to resign from the House due to impending bankruptcy.

The Register is supposed to put into the public domain details of members interests which might otherwise be unknown to the public. This fund was publicly advertised - indeed that was its point. I note that the fund was smaller than I had indicated to you but that I was right in saying no donation was for more than £1000, and that there were fewer "substantial" donations than I had thought.

The answer to your question about what would happen to any funds donated which were unable to be returned (though I do not anticipate such a problem) is that they will be donated to St Vincent de Paul charitable society in my constituency.

It is clear that this was a politically motivated, vexatious complaint. I never received a penny from this appeal or ever administered any of it. Its purpose was to help me obtain justice - which, in the courts, I did. I anticipate none, however, from your committee, which as I have frequently pointed out to you is made up in its entirety by people who are, by definition, my political adversaries and whose parties are amongst those sinking beneath the aforementioned sea.

A system which cleared Tessa Jowell in 60 minutes but which has spent months investigating this ridiculous complaint - and found against me - is a system which will command little public confidence or respect.

29 March 2006

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