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23 July 2007 : Column 616

Even more serious is this: the commissioner said to me, “There was an employee of the Mariam appeal by the name of E. Laing. She was paid £13,000. Do you know who she was?” I said, “No. I have no idea. I’ve never heard of E. Laing”. “Let me put to you”, he said, “the suggestion”—although allegation would have been the correct English word, because the suggestion of an illegal act is an allegation—“that E. Laing is your former wife, Elaine Galloway”, who happens to be a respected civil servant working in Her Majesty’s Treasury across the road. The point was that the name “E. Laing” on a cheque could easily be altered to the name “Elaine Galloway”. In other words, the suggestion was that she and I had been involved in what can only be described as a criminal conspiracy to defraud of £13,000.

When I asked the commissioner who made that suggestion, he said, “I have forgotten”. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, and every Member here to search their hearts on this. Does anyone really believe that a Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards involved in a four-year investigation of a Member of Parliament can hear a suggestion of criminal behaviour against that Member of Parliament and then forget who made that suggestion? I put it to you that it is impossible that he forgot the person who made that allegation. Only if he was a bungling nincompoop could he have forgotten who made that suggestion or, more properly, allegation. I am sure that you would pull me up if I were to describe Sir Philip as a bungling nincompoop, Mr. Speaker.

It turned out that E. Laing was the personal assistant of the director of the Mariam appeal, who told the commissioner that he did not know who E. Laing was—I will come to that later. It turned out that E. Laing was paid, perfectly properly, by the director of the Mariam appeal as his personal assistant, but that that was just not the name by which she was commonly known.

Did the commissioner apologise to me for the suggestion that I had been involved in a criminal fraud? No. Was I irredeemably angry with the commissioner about the episode thereafter? Yes I was, and so would any of you be. If any of you were asked such a question—if any of you were implicitly accused so unjustly and in such a way—you would be as angry about the person who made the allegation as I was. You would be even angrier when he did not have the courage to tell you either who made the suggestion or that he could not have told you the name. That would have been perfectly acceptable. If he had said, “Well I’m not able to divulge the identity of the person who made the suggestion”, that would have been a perfectly defensible position. But to claim that he had forgotten who made the suggestion made me very angry indeed.

The commissioner also ambushed me with documents. He had had two days notice of them before my meeting with the Committee, but he sprung them on me at the meeting in a coup de théâtre—his Perry Mason moment. That made me angry, too.

Even more serious than anything that I have said so far, however, is that the commissioner claimed that he was involved in an inquisitorial rather than an adversarial inquiry; and yet he refused point blank, over and over again—a refusal endorsed by the Committee—to pursue the existence of forged documents about me that emerged in Baghdad in the very same week and in the very same city, and which passed through the hands of a journalist
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from the very same newspaper, The Daily Telegraph. I refer to the forged documents published by The Christian Science Monitor and almost published by The Mail on Sunday in England. By the way, Mr. Speaker, those documents looked really authentic. They were on proper headed notepaper, with the right margins and the right terms, and were written in the correct style and signed by the correct people. The documents even almost got it right about my whereabouts vis- -vis Iraq, on the dates that they suggested that I had gone to lift $20 million personally in cash, corruptly, given to me by two sons of Saddam Hussein. Those documents were very plausible and convincing. They emerged in the same week, in the same city, in the hands of the same newspaper— The Daily Telegraph—that published the infamous stories about me.

Not only that, but the identity of the man who gave the documents to The Christian Science Monitor and to The Mail on Sunday is known. His picture was in the paper and his address is known to our men in Baghdad in the embassy. The commissioner steadfastly refused to inquire as to why that general had either constructed those forgeries himself or passed them on to newspapers and on to Philip Smucker, the journalist concerned—a Daily Telegraph stringer who worked also for The Christian Science Monitor.

I asked the commissioner to send our people from the embassy to interview that general and ask him on whose behalf those forgeries had been produced and why that had been done. The commissioner said that he would not do so, because those forged documents were not in the complaint filed by the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan), even though the same commissioner went on, for almost four years, to examine and inquire into practically everything other than Mr. Blaby’s complaint.

I said, “It must be relevant that forgeries about me were produced”. We know that they were forgeries. The newspapers concerned accepted that they were forgeries. Harvard university tested the ink on the documents and proved that they there forgeries. That was possible in the case of those documents because, unlike The Daily Telegraph documents, to which I shall return, they were original documents and not photocopies or, later, faxes. It is inconceivable that a man carrying out an inquisitorial examination of such an important affair would not even try to find out who was responsible for the forgeries against a Member of this House. In fact, it is inconceivable to me that when those forgeries were exposed such a man would not have wanted to know why a Member of this House was the victim of such a conspiracy.

It is sometimes said, and was said by members of the Committee—I hear them saying it now, sotto voce—“Oh, as far as you’re concerned it’s just a big conspiracy”. But we know that there was a conspiracy. It is not an allegation by me—we know that there was a conspiracy. The documents were published in The Christian Science Monitor and almost elsewhere—I stopped the presses at the last possible minute, only by giving my passports to the editor of The Mail on Sunday, for which I then worked, to prove that I could not have been in Iraq on some of the dates on which it was suggested I had lifted that money.

It is inconceivable that anyone carrying out an inquisitorial investigation would not seek to investigate
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examples of parallel behaviour, yet the commissioner refused to do so on the utterly fatuous ground that they were not covered by the complaints made by the hon. Member for Blaby. He clung to the credibility of witnesses whom I have proven to be telling lies. He accused me in his report of not co-operating, yet Members who can bear to do so can go through his correspondence with me and not find a single trace of unhappiness on his part about the level of my co-operation. Indeed, as late as the end of last year, he was thanking me, and he was not just grateful, he was “very grateful” for the way in which I was co-operating with him. The truth is that, because they found no evidence of personal gain by me, they switched the goalposts and made an attack on my conduct in defending myself too successfully through the course of this inquiry, driving liars’ evidence to the periphery, where they now claim that it rests.

The commissioner claimed that there was a discrepancy in my account in The Mail on Sunday of my meeting with Saddam Hussein in August 2003. He had to drop that, once I had drawn to his attention my book, which I had given him on the date of publication, in which I laid out exactly the circumstances of who was present and who was not at my meeting with Saddam Hussein. However, he claimed that there was a discrepancy that never was.

The commissioner even said that there was a discrepancy in my attitude to the Telegraph documents, to which I shall return—I told you this was going to have to be a long speech. Those documents were never an issue in the libel case against The Daily Telegraph. Throughout, the commissioner had more faith in The Daily Telegraph’s documents than The Daily Telegraph did. If The Daily Telegraph had had any confidence in its photocopied documents, it would have made them its defence in the trial, but it did not do so because it knew that that would fail. There is no discrepancy at all in how I have described those documents. I said at the time, and I still say now, that those documents are either forgeries or an example of someone corruptly doing business in Iraq behind my back, without my knowledge and using my name. I say, as I said on the first day, that there is no discrepancy here. I said on the first day that, whatever the case, whoever produced the documents, whenever they produced them and for whatever reason, the information in them is false. There is no discrepancy in that at all.

Simon Hughes: One of the issues that came up during the investigation, which I had not known before, was that there was a power for the hon. Gentleman to ask that the commissioner should not investigate alone before the matter went to the Committee, and that an investigatory panel comprising the commissioner, a lawyer and a senior Member of the House should do the job, possibly to give a bit more authority to the investigation. Will the hon. Gentleman tell us whether he considered using that process and, if he did, why he rejected it? It seems to me that it would have been a worthwhile initiative for him to take, because it would have brought some independence from this building to the investigation.

Mr. Galloway: That is exactly the point to which I shall now turn. In fact, the power to do that lies with the commissioner, who may do it, or with the Committee. If the Committee asks the commissioner to
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do that, he must do it. There is no power on my part to insist on such a panel. Perhaps there ought to be.

As I said at the beginning, I am being suspended for 18 days, and the Committee has singled this issue out because I described it as a politicised tribunal. Of course it is a politicised tribunal. How could it be anything other, when it is composed of politicians? It is po-faced, pompous and preposterous to ask the public to believe—as the Chairman of the Committee asked me to believe—that the individual politicians on the Committee leave their politics at the door. That flies in the face of everything that we know about ourselves, and of all the history of the existence of this Committee— [ Interruption. ] Hon. Members shake their heads. I shall have to educate them with some recent examples. Perhaps they were not here at the time. My problem is that I have been here for a long time and have an elephantine memory. I remember when the very considerable brain of Mr. Willetts—forgive me, I forget his constituency—[Hon. Members: “Havant”] I remember when the very considerable brain of Mr. Havant, when he was a Government Whip, revealed that the Tory Members of the Standards and Privileges Committee had wanted the Whips’ advice. Because he is so clever, his defence was: “No, it was not that they wanted our advice. They were in want of our advice as they proceeded with the business in front of them.”

Then there is the matter of the former Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts (John Reid) and the former Member for Cathcart, our old friend, now Lord Maxton. They appeared in front of this politicised tribunal, but they were lucky. The politicised tribunal trying their case threw out the parliamentary commissioner’s findings using the ingenious device of changing the burden of proof that should have been applied to the allegations against them. That parliamentary commissioner, Miss Filkin, then got the sack for having had the temerity to take on the powerful. I predict that the current commissioner will not get the sack. In fact, he has just been promoted. I do not know where you go from being a knight of the realm; perhaps he can get elevated to the House of Lords without having to make a campaign contribution. But Miss Filkin got the sack because she prosecuted the case against the right hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts and the former Member for Cathcart in a way that the politicised tribunal of Members of Parliament did not like, and every person in here knows that that is true.

Even if the Committee were composed of saints—we will see in a minute just how short of sainthood some of them are—they would, by definition, be party political saints. I had no friends on the Committee. I am the sole Member of Parliament for my party. I said that this was a politicised tribunal, Mr. Speaker, and you know that I mean it when I say it. I swear before God that this is true: I made the comment about this politicised tribunal before I had even looked to see who the members of the tribunal were. Once I knew who they were—

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Galloway: I am being ambushed! You crept up behind me. I am coming to you in a minute.

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Mr. Robathan: There is an issue here, because I understand that a conspiracy is afoot. Will the hon. Gentleman just tell me whether I am part of that conspiracy, as I would really like to know?

Mr. Galloway: I am coming to you in just a minute—not you, of course, Mr. Speaker. I suppose I have to call him the hon. Gentleman—he has sneaked up on me. [Interruption.] You were sitting over there the last time I looked. I warn the hon. Gentleman that just because there is a lot of him and not many of me, he need not think I am outnumbered. Short-sword fighting is my speciality—believe me. I never made it into the armed forces, but I can handle the hon. Member for Blaby. No one should worry about that.

Once I looked at who was on the Committee on Standards and Privileges, I could not believe my eyes. The hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) was one of them—a fanatical supporter of Israel, against which I have fought all my political life. Is it really true that he left his politics at the door when he was judging me? Does anybody really believe that?

Mr. Speaker: Order. I must tell the hon. Gentleman that on many occasions Members have had to gather together to look at a case independently and when they do so, they leave their private and political views behind them. Whatever organisation the hon. Member for Hendon supports is irrelevant. The hon. Gentleman seems to be encroaching on saying that there was motivation other than the evidence of the case being put before the Committee. The hon. Gentleman cannot say that because the hon. Member for Hendon is a supporter of the state of Israel, he did not give a fair hearing to the case, based on the evidence put before him.

Mr. Galloway: Why can I not say that if that is what I believe? Why can I not say that I believe I was treated unjustly by this Committee and provide the reasons why that is the case?

Mr. Speaker: Order. I will tell the hon. Gentleman why. In a less heated situation, I would not allow anyone to attack the honour of an hon. Member—and I cannot allow it in this situation either. The support that the hon. Member for Hendon gives to the state of Israel or any other political view he expresses is perfectly legitimate: he is quite entitled to hear a case on the Standards and Privileges Committee.

Mr. Galloway: The point I am trying to make, Mr. Speaker, is that the Chairman’s claim that members of the Committee leave their politics at the door is unsustainable. I can tell you that the hon. Member for Hendon used to heckle me when I was making speeches on his own side. He used to heckle me during my speeches, even though we were members of the same party. In any sane system—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I have known many members of the same party to heckle the hon. Gentleman. I have already said that I have known him for 30 years. That is what happens—and the hon. Member for Hendon is not alone in that respect. The hon. Gentleman has questioned his motives, but the hon. Member for Hendon is an hon. Member who is entitled to sit on a
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Committee that takes evidence—it is an evidence-taking Committee—and he would do so in an impartial manner.

Mr. Galloway: Well, that may be true in theory; but it is my case that it is not true in practice—and it could not be so, because we are politicians. It is not credible—I mean literally incredible and it will be seen by the public as incredible—that this Committee will deal impartially with someone who is regarded, particularly on the Labour side, as a heretic and who was expelled from the Labour party for political reasons and who leads a party whose councillors took seats from the Labour party. Indeed, I defeated the Labour party in an electoral campaign into which the Labour party threw everything, including the kitchen sink. The Labour party is much preoccupied with which Labour Minister I am going to stand against at the next election. All I can tell you is that he is in the building right now. The idea that Labour people could be unbiased about me in all those circumstances is ridiculous. It is true only in theory, Mr. Speaker, that someone who is as passionately in favour of Israel as I am against it would leave their politics at the door.

Another example is the right hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron), with whom I battled for years regarding his role, in tandem with Robert Maxwell, in the setting up and smearing of Arthur Scargill—president of the union of which I am an honorary member and the right hon. Gentleman is an expelled member. The idea that all that would be left at the door is ridiculous. When Tam Dalyell and I were trying to expose Roger Windsor, the British intelligence agent in Arthur Scargill’s office during the attempt to smear him, the right hon. Member for Rother Valley was Maxwell’s man, who could be found here actually selling books at half price from his parliamentary office. The idea that he could be—

Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is going too far. [Interruption.] Order. The noise in the Chamber does not help when I am trying to speak to these matters. The hon. Gentleman is making personal attacks on members of the Committee. That is wrong and I cannot allow it. The hon. Gentleman may complain that I have interfered too much, but I promise that I will not interfere again if he gets back to the report before us, rather than the personalities of individual members of the Committee.

Mr. Galloway: But on the subject of personal attacks, Mr. Speaker, I am the one who is being personally attacked and I am only trying to defend myself.

Mr. Speaker: Order. What I am seeking to do is to help the hon. Gentleman. If he feels that he is being attacked, it is via this report. If he speaks to the report and rebuts it, I can assist him in every way, but attacking hon. Gentlemen on the basis of who they are connected with or what books they are promoting is something that I cannot allow. If the hon. Gentleman intends to go through every individual member of the Committee on Standards and Privileges and do the same thing, let me tell him that I cannot allow it.

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Mr. Galloway: Of course, I hear what you say, Mr. Speaker. Having dealt with the hon. Member for Hendon and the right hon. Member for Rother Valley, I will leave this line of argument—or particular seam that I have been mining—at that. I think that the public know the truth about these issues and if they do not, they can read Seamus Milne’s masterpiece, “The Enemy Within”, about the miners’ dispute, who was who and who did what in it. I have been a proud member of the National Union of Mineworkers—south Wales area, Mardy lodge—these last 25 years. I am very proud of that, which is one of the reasons why the right hon. Member for Rother Valley and I do not get along very well.

A politicised tribunal is what I say it was, Mr. Speaker. If it were not a politicised tribunal, why did I learn of its establishment from the media rather than from the parliamentary commissioner or the Member who made the complaint? That Member was on my left a few minutes ago, but he has now disappeared. I predict that he will pop up somewhere over there any minute now. I hope so, at least, as I have much to say about him.

I learned of the existence of this inquiry from the media and I learned of its conclusions from the media. I did not need to wait for the Chairman’s report, which was published on the Tuesday, because I read it on the front page of The Sunday Times on the Sunday. Given the closeness of new Labour to Mr. Murdoch and The Sunday Times—the sewer of choice for so many such things—I knew that it must be true.

Apparently, it is not a politicised tribunal, but a Committee on Standards and Privileges, yet it is so unconcerned about the breach of privilege implicit in that lack of standards that an hon. Member being inquired into learns of his fate from the newspapers. When I wrote to the Chairman complaining about the leak, he answered me without even referring to that leak, so unconcerned was he at that fact that his Committee of non-politicians, his unpolitical campaign, his depoliticised Committee leaked the conclusions of this inquiry to The Sunday Times before it had time to publish the report. And you ask me to believe that that is not politically motivated! Mr. Speaker, what other motivation could there have been for these 10 pristine Gentlemen, as I must now refer to them—what reason could there have been for one or more of these 10 paragons of virtue and honour—leaking the conclusion of this report, other than a political reason?

Mr. Speaker: Order. I know that it is difficult for the hon. Gentleman, but once again he is questioning the honour of members of our Standards and Privileges Committee and makes an accusation that a leak came from one of them. That is not necessarily the case. My experience in Parliament is that many, many people have their eyes on documents. What I am trying to say is that it could go beyond the members of the Committee. I am not making any accusations, but the situation of the leak, which I deprecate, does not allow the hon. Gentleman to question the honour of the individual members of our Committee.

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