Mr. Speaker, you began these proceedings by saying that you would protect me, but every time you have been on your feet it has been to protect the
Committee or the Parliamentary Commissioner. If I had said that the leak had come from a civil servant, you would, on the basis of your previous intervention, have told me that I must not impugn the integrity of a civil servant. Now that I am saying that I believe the leak came
Mr. Speaker: Order. The best thing that the hon. Gentleman can do is not to seek to twist the words that I have used. I am in a difficult situation today, and I am trying to help and assist the hon. Gentleman to put his case, but he must abide by the rules that I have been given. He cannot question my judgment on the case that I putthat the motivation of hon. Members of this House should not be questioned in the way that he is questioning it.
Mr. Galloway: I am really at a loss, Mr. Speaker. The report was leaked on the front page of The Sunday Times: ergo, somebody leaked it. Based on what you have said, I may not impugn the integrity of a civil servant and I must not allege that one of the Committee members leaked it. That only leaves the printers. Is it all right to impugn their integrity? I tell you candidly: not only do I believenot only does any sensible person believethat it was neither the printers nor the civil servants who leaked it, but I believe that it was leaked for political reasons by a Committee that you are asking me to accept is non-political.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I have to give a warning to the hon. Gentleman. He is defying my ruling and is very close to being named. This I do not want to do, but this is what he is doing: he is defying my ruling, and he will be named if he wishes, as he says, to seek to mine this particular seam. I urge him not to do so, to move on and to get back to the report.
Mr. Galloway: Of course I must obey your ruling, Mr. Speaker, because I do not want to be named because I do not want to be thrown out of the House an hour or two before I am going to be thrown out of the House anyway. We all know that that is what is going to happen.
I said that I was a short-sword fighter, but I am a short-sword fighter in Spartacuss army. It is Caesars legions gathered here tonight who are going to expel me from the House. Everybody knows that that is true. Everybody knows that I am going to be expelled from the House this evening [Interruption.] Some say, Get on with it. I am trying to get on with my case, but I am not having as much success with this audience as I suspect I may be having beyond these walls
Mr. Galloway: I have spent 10 hours on live phone-in radio this week, in front of hundreds of thousands of listeners [Interruption.] My pay is in the Register of Members InterestsI thought the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr. Jones) was a friend of mine; it appears that he has joined the legions.
There were 10 hours of live radio, with hundreds of thousands of listeners, and I am here to tell you, in case you do not know, Mr. Speaker, that this report has sunk like a stone and has no credibility among the general public. It is popular in here, I can tell, but it has no credibility among the general public, in part because they suspect that which I am trying to prove to them, if I am able to develop my case.
I am not able to say who leaked the report, Mr. Speaker, because of your ruling and your threat to name me, so I can only say this: it was leaked. I wrote to the Chairman of the Committee complaining about the leak. He replied to me without reference to the fact that it had been leaked. I then replied to him to say how outrageous it was that he had not even referred to the leak, at which point he wrote to me again saying, I am instituting an inquiry into the leak. But of course the story was leaked on the Sunday before polling day in a by-election in which my party was a contestant.
I just ask you this, and ask you and other Members, Mr. Speaker, to answer it honestly in their hearts: would this Committee have published such a report against the leader of the Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat parties two days before polling day in a by-election in London? Every one of you knows that it would not. A kind of freemasonry would apply, and we know about that, Mr. Speaker, you and me [Laughter.] Of course we know it as victims, not as practitioners of those black arts; we know it as those who have been on the end of their discrimination and bigotry. Does anyone really believe that if this report had been about the leaders of the other parties represented on the Committee, it would have been published two days before polling day? You all know in your hearts that it would not, and it would not therefore have been leaked on the Sunday before polling day.
Now, Mr. Speaker, you will be glad to know that I intend to move on to the report. I warn the House that I have even more to say about that. I am going to start withI suppose I must call him the hon. Gentlemanthe hon. Member for Blaby, on my left, who is moving around the House on manoeuvres, you might say. It was the hon. Gentleman who made the complaint against me. I have here the letter with which he made the complaint:
Further to our telephone conversation this afternoon, I note that you have yet to receive a request to investigate the extremely serious allegations made by the Daily Telegraph against George Galloway MP.
Since serving in the last Gulf war in 1991, I have been very interested in the situation in Iraq ever since
Since serving in the last Gulf war
For a couple of years I was on the Board of Ann Clwyds organisation INDICT and there met a lot of Iraqi opposition figures.
There are many new Members in the House, Mr. Speaker, so let me tell them about the organisation Indict. Indict was a political campaign to indict the former leaders of Iraq. It was foreign-funded to the tune of millions of dollars by the United States Government.
Mr. Galloway: Thats all right, then, as the hon. Gentleman says. The organisation was funded to the tune of millions of dollars from the United States Government. The complainant was a member of it. There, he met a lot of Iraqi opposition figures. It operated from this House. Parliamentary facilities, I surmise, were used by its memberstheir offices and telephones. I do not know if the computer was invented then, but perhaps their faxes were usedand perfectly properly, as these were hon. Members engaged in a political campaign that happened to be foreign-funded to the tune of millions of dollars.
I do not why anyone would want to deny it; everybody here knows that MPs use parliamentary resources for political campaigns. My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mr. Purchase), whom I respect very much, sent me a document this week in the internal post every word of which I agree with, and which I wholeheartedly support, on the campaign against city academies. I hope I have not got him into trouble. Everybody in here knows that every Member involved in a political campaign uses parliamentary facilities in part, whether they have an office somewhere in south Lambeth or not.
Mr. Galloway: The hon. Gentleman says that they did not. Are we really expected to believe that he never once used the telephone, the photocopier, a meeting room or his own office in pursuit of his campaign?
The right hon. Lady shakes her head; that is even more extraordinary. She was the chairman of Indict. If she is going to claim that Indict never once used parliamentary facilities, I will risk being named by you, Mr. Speaker, because no one in their right mind
could believe that the campaign that the right hon. Lady led for years never once used parliamentary facilities in pursuit of its objectives.
Ann Clwyd: I simply want to put the record straight. Indict was an organisation funded not just by the Americans but by other countries. Indict employed six, sometimes seven, full-time people and had an office directly across the river that was staffed throughout a seven-year period. I would ask the hon. Gentleman not to repeat that untruth; it was not run from the House of Commons.
Mr. Galloway: I am more grateful for that intervention than the right hon. Lady can imagine. It now turns out that the organisation of which the complainant was a member was funded not by one foreign country but by several, and so handsomely that it could afford to employ seven people in an office just across the river. How extraordinary that is.
Mr. Speaker: Order. I know that it is difficult for the hon. Gentleman, who is frowning. I have a difficult job this evening, but I say to him that it is one thing to mention an organisation in passing, but he is now entering into a full-blown debate about the organisation. We should get back to the report.
Mr. Galloway: This is a question of double standards. It is about the fact that I am being thrown out of the House for running a campaign about Iraq that sometimes used parliamentary facilities and was funded by foreigners. It is based on a complaint by a member of an organisation that campaigned about Iraq, undoubtedly used from time to time some parliamentary facilities, and was funded by not one but several foreign countries. That is my point: the double standards give rise to the injustice. I had not intended to spend as much time on the organisation Indict, but two members of it have intervened, which has expanded what I had to say on this subject.
My real point is not about Indict, but about the Iraqi opposition figures that the hon. Member for Blaby was hanging out with during his time across the river in Lambeth with the right hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) and Indict. Let us speculate on who these Iraqi opposition figures might be. Might they be the Iraqi opposition figures that put us into so much trouble in the run-up to the war? Might they be the Iraqi opposition figures who fabricated and forged their way into this House, the White House, Congress and Whitehall with their canards that have led us to the pass that we are in, and which we cannot avoid discussing this evening? Might they be the Iraqi opposition figures
Mr. Speaker: Order. I know it is difficult for the hon. Gentleman to take a telling, but he must get back to the report. He is entering into the detail of an organisation called Indict and he is not allowed to do so. He must obey my ruling.
That Mr. George Galloway be suspended from the service of the House [ Ms Harman . ]
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): Let me begin by dispersing some of the smokescreen that the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Galloway) constructed as he sought to divert attention from the issue that is at the heart of the debate and that appears on the front of the report: the conduct of the hon. Gentleman.
Let me make one thing absolutely clear. As fellow parliamentarians, we defend absolutely the right of free speech. We said as much in our report; as far as we are concerned, the hon. Gentleman has the right to hold and express his views and use any legitimate means to pursue them. That applies as much to his views on sanctions as it does on anything else. He has stated that my Committee is pro-sanctions and pro-war. As a matter of fact, of the nine members who signed the report, five voted in favour of the war and four did not.
The hon. Gentleman further asserted that he is being suspended because he robustly defended himself. Not so. The problem with his defence was not that it was robust; it was that it was not credible. He has accused us of being a kangaroo court composed of his political opponents, incapable of reaching an objective conclusion. As an aside, one member of the Committee is a Welsh nationalist, a party that has no ambitions on Bethnal Green and Bow.
What the Committee does mind about is our duty to maintain the reputation of the House. Nothing could more damage that reputation than if a Committee of this House were to dispense summary justice in a partisan manner to settle political scores. None of us will be complicit in that, least of allif I may say so, and without wishing to embarrass himthe hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin), who has a justified reputation for championing the causes of those who have been wrongly accused. It would, however, damage the Houses reputation if we were to fail to uphold our own rules and code of conduct. We have addressed this case objectively and impartiallyas we have addressed all cases since I became a Committee member.
been cleared of taking a single penny or in any way personally benefiting from the former Iraqi regime
directly and personally, unlawfully received monies from the former Iraqi regime.
Where the money for the Mariam appeal came from and where it ended up is of interest to the House.
This is not a debate about party political funding, as the hon. Gentleman maintains. It is about openness, accountability and integrity, and it is also about our rules on advocacy. We know that the hon. Gentleman was, by his own admission, in charge of the Mariam campaign and that that was, in his words,
a campaigning organisation campaigning for the lifting of sanctions against Iraq.
We know that it had total resources of £1.4 million, only a fraction of which was used for the treatment of Mariam herself. The central issue before us is: when the hon. Gentleman argued in this Chamber against sanctions on Iraq, did he knowand therefore was the House entitled to knowthat the vehicle for that campaign was funded in part by Saddam Hussein? The evidence led us to the conclusion that the hon. Gentleman solicited the funds, was instrumental in securing them, directed their expenditure and was complicit in trying to conceal their true origin. Let me briefly explain how the commissioner and the Committee reached that conclusion.
I should first put on record our thanks to the commissioner for his painstaking work, and state that I bitterly resent the hon. Gentlemans gratuitous and offensive attack on him. This inquiry was the longest running, and probably one of the most complex, ever undertaken by any commissioner. A number of unusual features contributed to the complexity: the overlap with the interests of other bodies, such as the Volcker committee and the Charity Commission; the foreign dimension; the difficulty in authenticating documents; language issues; and unobtainable witnesses. I am also grateful to the Committee. It has discussed the case on five separate occasions for a total of between nine and 10 hours and has reached a unanimous conclusion.
At the heart of the debate are the so-called Telegraph documents. Their discovery led to the articles that gave rise to the complaint, and their authenticity and credibility was the key question we had to answer. What did the documents say? They are printed in full on pages 8 to 11 of volume II of the report, and I shall quote extracts referring to reports of meetings that concern the hon. Gentleman. First, the intelligence chiefs memorandum says that the hon. Gentlemans