This document is taken from the website: www.Coverup.net __________________________________________________________________________________________________ J B Hunt‟s full letter of complaint against Granada Television __________________________________________________________________________________________________ Ms Patricia Hodgson Chief Executive Designate Independent Television Commission Foley Street London W1P 7LB 13 July 2000 Dear Ms Hodgson, I register a complaint against Granada Television with respect to Granada‟s reporting of (a) Mohamed Fayed‟s and the Guardian‟s allegations against the former Conservative MP, Neil Hamilton, and (b) all other related matters arising therefrom, under the following sections of the ITC Code: 3.2(i) Due impartiality 3.2(ii) Editorialising 3.3 Impartiality over time 3.4 Programme content: „major matters‟ 3.5 News — and also under Appendix 3 - Programmes at the time of elections 5 (i) (a) Programmes about individual constituencies I also request that the Commission treats this complaint separately as a submission under the ITC‟s current consultation processes regarding: (a) the future of public service broadcasting in multi-channel digital television, closing date: 14 July 2000 (b) the future of regional programming on Independent Television Channel 3 (ITV), closing date: 31 August 2000 The Neil Hamilton affair serves as a case study of Granada Television‟s reporting of a political controversy, revealing Granada in the worst possible light. The weight of evidence proves that Granada‟s failure to discharge its obligations for impartial reporting of news is deliberate, showing it to be a politically-biased organisation unwilling to report news dispassionately. The transgression is so grave, and sustained, it warrants the ITC Commission considering the withdrawal of Granada Television‟s broadcasting licence at the first appropriate juncture. Included with this letter are bound paginated documents to which I will refer from time to time. You will also find enclosed a VHS videotape containing broadcast and non-broadcast items, to which I will also refer occasionally. For ease of the Commission‟s adjudication process I have listed on separate sheets an attached summary of the events that underpin my complaint. Overleaf is listed the background of my involvement in this affair. Between pages 3-14 I set out some of the findings of an investigation conducted by myself and a colleague into the allegations against Neil Hamilton. On page 15 begins a chronology of events that form the basis of my complaint. On page 26 are listed details of a new conflict of interest that would effect Granada‟s reporting Neil Hamilton‟s new legal action. My conclusion begins on page 29. Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 2 The background to my involvement I worked as a freelance reporter on Granada Tonight, spanning the period bound by my first broadcast item TX 29.01.96 and my last TX 12.12.96. During this period I reported and co-directed a total of twenty-two broadcast items, the last of which resulted in my being short-listed by the NW Royal Television Society, to represent Granada for Best News Reporter of 1997. All my broadcasts were commissioned and produced under the editorial control of Susan Woodward, my former Editor of Granada Tonight, now Granada‟s Director of Broadcasting. Within the appendices there is a reproduction from the RTS awards brochure on page 1; an unsolicited letter from Granada‟s former Director of Programmes, Mr Peter Salmon, on page 2; and a reference from Granada Tonight‟s long-serving anchor, Mr Bob Greaves, on page 3. Following the ousting of Neil Hamilton by Martin Bell during the General Election of May 1 st 1997, out of journalistic curiosity at his protestations of innocence, I contacted Neil Hamilton and subsequently met him to discuss his side of the story. During that first meeting, he pleaded his innocence to the Guardian‟s/Mohamed Fayed‟s allegations that had led to his demise as MP for Tatton. He also told me that not one national press or broadcast news reporter had interrogated him about the matter. Though I did not take a view on his guilt or innocence one way or the other, this revelation only served to arouse my curiosity further in what the media had billed „the political scandal of the decade.‟ In the weeks that followed I spent many days interrogating Neil Hamilton about the allegations against him, using as a basis a list of thirteen charges published in the Guardian during the heat of the General Election campaign. These consisted of serious corruption charges, plus a plethora of supplementary „wrongdoing‟ charges, which also appeared to be very serious. However, during my questioning, I formed the view that his answers had a plausibility that warranted investigating. Believing the matter to be an important one, I joined forces with an ex-pat television producer-director named Malcolm Keith-Hill — a dispassionate left-wing journalist whose work had also been broadcast by Granada previously. We decided to undertake research prior to formulating proposals for a TV documentary on the whole „cash for questions‟ affair. Keith-Hill and I examined hundreds of documents purporting to be the Guardian‟s evidence of Hamilton taking „cash for questions‟, plus other matter supporting the newspaper‟s „wrongdoing‟ charges. As a starting point, we also digested Hamilton‟s 133-page submission to the parliamentary inquiry into the allegations conducted by Sir Gordon Downey, which was in abeyance at that time. On June 11 1997, just six weeks into our investigation, Deborah Turness, producer of Channel 5 News at ITN, telephoned me at the office and told me that she and her fellow producer, Adrian Moncke, had enjoyed a showreel of my work at Granada, which I had sent Moncke a few months earlier. Turness then offered me an opportunity to work as a reporter for C5 News over the summer, as the first step to my being taken on as an ITN staff reporter. To work in network television news was a tremendous opportunity. However, I had seen the destruction of Neil Hamilton, and our initial research tended to support his claims of innocence. Though we were working without pay, I thanked Deborah Turness for the offer, and asked her if she could keep it open until after our investigation was completed. However, at that time Keith-Hill and I had no idea of the story that we had stumbled upon, which we would uncover in the months that followed. Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 3 Our findings in essence Malcolm Keith-Hill and I learned that the „cash for questions‟ charges against Neil Hamilton took three essential forms: 1. The first set of allegations was first published on 20 October 1994, in a front-page article in the Guardian. The story, written by lobby correspondent, David Hencke, claimed that Fayed‟s lobbyist, a man called Ian Greer, had paid Neil Hamilton and another MP, Tim Smith, £2,000 for each parliamentary written question that they had tabled in support of Mohamed Fayed. These questions related to Fayed‟s battle with Tiny Rowland of Lonrho plc following Fayed‟s acquisition of stores group House of Fraser, the parent of Harrods, nine years earlier in March 1985. An additional allegation claimed that Hamilton and his wife had enjoyed „free shopping‟ at Harrods. Tim Smith resigned after admitting privately to taking cash from Fayed directly (which had not been alleged). Hamilton and Greer, however, issued libel writs against the Guardian. The Guardian‟s original article is reproduced on pages 4/5 of the appendices. 2. The second set of allegations appeared six weeks later on 5 December 1994, contained within a letter from Fayed‟s solicitors to the Select Committee on Member‟s Interests. This time Fayed claimed that he had paid Hamilton directly bundles of £2,500 behind closed doors on eight occasions, totalling some £20,000 cash. It was stated that no witnesses were involved in any way. Six months later in June 1995, Mohamed Fayed signed a witness statement for the forthcoming libel action, in which he reasserted twice that there were no witnesses to these alleged payments. 3. The third, final set of allegations was not made until nearly two years later on 27 September 1996, just three days prior to Hamilton‟s & Greer‟s consolidated libel actions were due to be heard. This time, witness statements were produced out of the ether from three Fayed employees who claimed that they had processed „cash in brown envelopes‟, which Hamilton and Greer had supposedly collected from the entrance of Fayed‟s office block at 60 Park Lane, London. No explanation was offered for the three employees‟ late emergence. Other allegations were also made, requiring no small effort to sort out who was alleging what against whom. To simplify matters, Keith-Hill and I encompassed all allegations in a chart, to which we later added footnotes. This can be found on page 6 of the appendices. None of these allegations was supported by documentary evidence, nor any other evidence such as audio or video recordings — despite Fayed having a documented bent for secretly recording and archiving his private conversations for future blackmail attempts, and despite the fact that the entrance of 60 Park Lane had CCTV cameras connected to video recorders. Nevertheless Keith-Hill and I remained sceptical — as any journalists would be going against the tide as we were — but over the following weeks the weight of evidence eventually convinced us of Hamilton‟s innocence. Indeed, we discovered that, despite the exhaustive investigations of Fayed and the Guardian, both of whom have massive resources, the only evidence supporting the „cash for questions‟ allegations consisted of the testimony of Fayed and his three long-standing employees. All Neil & Christine Hamilton‟s financial records were subjected to independent forensic examination. There were no unaccounted inputs during the period when he was alleged to have received Fayed‟s bribes, nor any reduction of use of credit cards, which the acquisition of illicit cash usually betrays. Hamilton also produced receipts which showed that he had purchased by cheque small antiques for his house during this period — though purchasing such artefacts would be one of the obvious methods to dispose of illicit cash without there being any trace. Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 4 Hamilton‟s bank statements also showed that he continued to withdraw small amounts of cash from ATM machines and from banks normally throughout the period he was alleged to have been receiving Fayed‟s bribes, including the one occasion for which the three employees gave a date (Sept. 1987). These factors could only have two explanations. Either (a) Hamilton was innocent, as he claimed, or (b) Hamilton did indeed take Fayed‟s cash but concealed it, and with great cunning carried on using his credit cards normally and withdrawing cash from the bank normally to create the false impression that he hadn‟t taken the cash. However, in the case of (b), such cunning behaviour was incompatible with Hamilton supposedly turning up at the entrance of Fayed‟s office block to take „cash in brown envelopes‟ in front of prominent video surveillance. It was also incompatible with Hamilton and his wife telephoning Fayed‟s staff, whom they hardly knew, to demand „envelopes‟, as alleged. We also found a note among Hamilton‟s papers made by the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Robin Butler, of a meeting between Hamilton and the Conservative Chief Whip, Richard Ryder, which had taken place on 19 October 1994, i.e. the day before the first set of allegations broke in the Guardian. A few weeks before that, Fayed had failed in the European Court of Human Rights to overturn the 1990 DTI inspectors‟ report into his and his brothers‟ acquisition of House of Fraser. Immediately following the ECHR ruling, Fayed had communicated threats to Prime Minister John Major that he, Fayed, would make allegations against ministers Tim Smith, Neil Hamilton and Michael Howard, if Major didn‟t withdraw the DTI report and give him his passport. Major refused. Butler‟s minute shows that Ryder told Hamilton that Fayed claimed to have proof of his allegations. Ryder warned Hamilton that Fayed had probably been setting him up for some time, and that this proof would probably include covertly-made tape recordings of their private conversations. Ryder warned Hamilton that it would be foolish to deny the allegations if such tapes could exist, but Hamilton assured him that the most Fayed could possibly have would be a letter of thanks he had sent after enjoying a private tour of the Duke & Duchess of Windsor‟s former villa outside Paris (on which Fayed owned a long lease) coupled to a complementary stay at the Paris Ritz (which Fayed owned outright). In full knowledge of Ryder‟s warning, Hamilton issued libel proceedings against the Guardian when it published its „cash for questions‟ story the following day. Furthermore, Fayed never has produced any tapes. Once again, we formed the view that there could be only two explanations. Either (a) Hamilton was innocent, as he claimed, or (b) Hamilton was reckless to the point of delirium to sue for libel with the prospect of such tapes being produced and had merely been lucky that none had. For obvious reasons we dismissed (b). We also noted that the third minister to be accused, Michael Howard MP, was Hamilton‟s predecessor at the DTI who had recommended the appointment of the DTI inspectors in the first place. However, Howard was cleared of Fayed‟s quite different bribery allegations against him when the civil servant appointed to investigate them, Sir Gordon Downey, dismissed the only evidence in support of the charges — which was the testimony of Fayed and other of Fayed‟s employees. These factors and other evidence led us to conclude that, although Fayed had undoubtedly alleged that Greer had paid Smith back in July 1993 when the Guardian‟s investigations began, Fayed had not alleged that Greer had paid Hamilton until he was driven to do so out of spite a year later in September 1994 — i.e. just four weeks before the Guardian‟s original story was published — as a consequence of his failure in the European Court of Human Rights to have overturned the 1990 DTI inspectors‟ report. Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 5 Crucially, during the 1980s, when Mohamed Fayed was perceived as a philanthropic Anglophile and Tiny Rowland a bribing rogue, Hamilton had previously sympathised with Fayed‟s battle against Rowland for House of Fraser, and (like many MPs and journalists) had enjoyed Fayed‟s hospitality. Yet, when Hamilton inherited responsibilities for the inspectors‟ report upon becoming a DTI minister in 1992, he rebuffed Fayed‟s calls to help his appeal to the ECHR and instead delegated responsibility for the report to another minister. In other words, Hamilton acted with ministerial propriety. But it was the very publication of the DTI inspectors‟ report, which revealed Fayed‟s vengeful lying character, that had prevented him from acquiring his craved-for British passport. Fayed‟s action in the ECHR to quash the inspectors‟ report, therefore, was part of his campaign to acquire British citizenship. However, one thing puzzled us. The day after David Hencke‟s original „cash for questions‟ article, the Guardian published an article by the editor, Peter Preston, entitled „The anatomy of a scandal‟, discussing Fayed‟s motivation. Yet there was no mention of Fayed‟s failed quest for citizenship. In fact, in his witness statement, dated June 1995, for the first libel trial, Preston attached this article and cited its lack of mention of the passport issue as being proof that this had not motivated Fayed to make his allegations out of spite. In his witness statement Preston asserted: „He [Fayed] did not strike me as having any particular sinister motive in telling me what he told me and, indeed, he did not seem to think it was much of a story… I cannot speak for Mr Al-Fayed‟s motives, although I did muse about them in an article The Guardian published on 21 October 1994‟ But in early 1998 I came across a draft of this article from a former employee of Harrods, which the Guardian had withheld from Greer & Hamilton‟s solicitors in defiance of a court order, which proved that Preston had lied through his teeth. Preston had sent this draft, bearing his own handwriting „Article 2 for Friday‟ to Harrods for Fayed‟s approval prior to its publication — and it contained a full section detailing Fayed‟s anger at not being granted British citizenship. It seems clear that the receipt of Greer‟s and Hamilton‟s libel writs on 20 Oct. had prompted Preston to excise this passage before sending the article to press. The omitted section reads: „Now there‟s a further indignity. Ali Fayed, the youngest of the brothers, would like to be a British citizen. He has a British wife and three British children. He applied for citizenship more than 18 months ago. Civil Service clearance came through at the beginning of 1994, but nothing has happened, nothing has moved. Whitehall, asked the question, says that a ministerial intervention has frozen all progress. “It is quite clear we are being discriminated against”, says Mohamed al Fayed, “At a time when the Government is advertising to the world that anyone can have British citizenship as a formality, we are being treated as pariahs. People in high places are settling old scores”. This is not at all implausible. The regiments of the Lonrho campaigns may have dispersed: but the old warriors are scattered throughout Government and the City and the fury of the fight clearly hasn‟t died away — even though Mohamed and Tiny have kissed and made up in a theatrical reconciliation that might make them Noble contenders. A troubling question. He can own Harrods without let or hindrance. He can pay his taxes — a personal cheque went to the Revenue for £5 million this week. But he can‟t have a British passport. Something odd here, surely?‟ It is serious enough that the Guardian defied a court order and withheld this important draft article. But for Preston then to go on and attach the censored published article to his statement and cite it in his statement as being proof that Fayed was not angry about his passport, plumbs the very depths of deception. Significantly, Preston had also sent to Fayed the draft of David Hencke‟s article, but this was surrendered, thereby showing discrimination by the Guardian. A more stark example of an obstruction of justice would be difficult to find. The excised section of Preston‟s article can be found on page 7 of the appendices. Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 6 Preston‟s excising of the „passport passage‟ was actually the first move in a major cover-up at the Guardian, involving its political staff and its lawyers. Though embarked on initially to pervert the course of Ian Greer‟s & Neil Hamilton‟s first libel action against the Guardian, which collapsed on 30 September 1996 (for no fault of Hamilton‟s with each side paying their own costs), this conspiracy then continued, and deepened, and perverted the course of the Downey inquiry which began (after a three-month delay caused by the Guardian) in January 1997; and continued, and deepened further, and perverted the course of Hamilton‟s most recent libel action against Fayed, which began in November 1999. Other Guardian journalists involved at the highest level include the current Editor Alan Rusbridger; the current Comment Editor David Leigh; lobby correspondent David Hencke; and Northern Ireland correspondent John Mullin — who we are satisfied was uninvolved for five years but eventually coerced by his colleagues prior to Hamilton‟s most recent action last November. Our allegations against the above named are specific, and are all supported by solid evidence. In addition, there are numerous Guardian journalists who are aware of their colleagues‟ conspiracy, all of whom are demonstrably complicit in varying degrees. These include Hugo Young; Simon Hoggart; Michael White; John Sweeney; Jamie Wilson; David Pallister; Luke Harding; Ed Vulliamy; and countless others — including probably the majority of those who make up the Scott Trust, which is chaired by Hugo Young, and which owns the Guardian Media Group. There are two other journalists who, like David Leigh and Alan Rusbridger, have also been employed by Granada‟s Factual Programmes unit, who also have important roles in this affair. They are Guardian staff reporter Luke Harding, and former Granada World in Action staff reporter Mark Hollingsworth, both of whom I will discuss later. So, to recap on our conclusions, we found no evidence to support the original „Ian Greer-paid-Hamilton-and-Smith‟ allegations of 20 October 1994. Importantly, not only did Neil Hamilton deny these allegations but so did Tim Smith. However, Smith did not clarify the falseness of these charges publicly, thus allowing the false belief to take root in the Guardian and the rest of the media that his resignation was a vindication of the Guardian‟s story. In fact, despite the Guardian‟s claims to the contrary, the evidence shows that the Guardian did not learn about Fayed‟s private arrangement with Tim Smith until several weeks after it had published the original Greer-based allegations. For example, the first time that the Guardian slipped in the fact that Smith had taken money from Fayed, as distinct to taking money from Ian Greer as the paper alleged, was actually in an article by David Pallister published five weeks later on 26 November. However, in its articles immediately following Smith‟s resignation, the Guardian continued to contend that Smith had taken money from Greer. Such an article was published on 28 October. Written by Guardian political correspondent Stephen Bates, it stated that, with respect to Smith: Tim Smith The allegations: That Mr Smith, the Northern Ireland minister, accepted cash from Mohamed Al-Fayed via Ian Greer Associates, to ask questions helpful to Mr Al-Fayed during the House of Fraser battle with Lonhro. The result: Mr Smith admitted he had taken money to Sir Robin Butler, the Cabinet Secretary, sometime between October 3 and October 18. He resigned the day after the Guardian broke the story on October 21. Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 7 A few weeks later after learning the truth, the Guardian quietly dropped its allegations that Greer had paid Smith, to be substituted by vague claims that it had „accused Smith of taking cash for questions‟. Just one of the innumerable examples is typified by an article published two months later on 31 December entitled „1994: Review of the year: Alan Rusbridger weighs up twelve months of stories that captured the country.‟ „October: … The Guardian published claims that two Conservative ministers had accepted cash in exchange for asking questions on behalf of Mohammed Al-Fayed, the owner of Harrods. One of them, Tim Smith, admitted the charge and resigned. The other, Neil Hamilton, denied it and clung on in office…‟ We were also suspicious of the Guardian‟s claims that it had merely responded to revelations which Fayed had volunteered on his own initiative, when it was quite clear from the evidence that the Guardian‟s interest in Ian Greer predated its association with Fayed by four years at least. However, in support of the Guardian‟s claim, its editor, Peter Preston, stated in his witness statement for the first action: „In late June or early July 1993, I contacted Mr Al-Fayed and then went to see him in July, at Harrods. This was a “one to one” meeting. This was the first time I had met Mr Al-Fayed. The principal matter we discussed was the relationship between Mrs Thatcher and certain Saudis and contributions to Conservative Party election efforts… Mr Al-Fayed then told me that some years ago and in the context of the House of Fraser enquiry, Ian Greer had approached him offering his services and included in those services was an offer to arrange for two MPs, Neil Hamilton and Tim Smith, to ask questions in the House of Commons for which he would require cash to pass on to the MPs. As far as I recollect, Mr Al-Fayed mentioned the figure of £2,000 per question. I had not realised that Members of Parliament would accept cash in exchange for asking questions in the House and I thought this was a more immediately important story than some of the other matters Mr Al-Fayed discussed with me. Mr Al-Fayed then told me that Neil Hamilton had stayed at his Paris hotel, the Ritz, for a period of a week in 1987. I was shown details of Neil Hamilton's Ritz bill but was not given a copy of it… I took a few “jottings” after this meeting, which I now cannot locate.‟ Later in his statement Preston clarified that the date of this first meeting was 14 July 1993. However, the following day of the 15 July Preston wrote Fayed a thank-you letter, which the Guardian had also withheld in defiance of the court order. In his letter Preston states: „Thank you for last night‟s meeting. It was both heartening and fascinating to have your help in an investigation which progressively reveals so much that is rotten at the heart of British public life… As I explained last night, we are closest to having stories in printable form in the area of Ian Greer Associates(a) and shall shortly be approaching some of the MPs involved to put relevant matters to them. Tim Smith and Neil Hamilton will certainly be on that list and it would be of the greatest benefit if you could at least let me see(b), in confidence, any of the documentation of your dealings with them. The Hamilton hotel bill, for example, sounded precisely the kind of documentation most likely to provoke answers which are needed.‟ This shows that (a) Preston lied in his witness statement about the Guardian‟s investigation being prompted by Fayed, for his letter actually reveals that the Guardian‟s investigation into Ian Greer was already under way before their first meeting, and (b) Preston also lied about being shown Hamilton‟s Ritz bill at this meeting, for Preston‟s letter shows that after the meeting he had asked Fayed sight of it. In other words, Fayed was not the proactive accuser he was made out to be back in 1993 at all, but instead had merely responded affirmatively to Preston‟s calls for help with the Guardian‟s ongoing investigations into the lobbyist Ian Greer. Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 8 This tallied with other hard evidence we uncovered, which shows that the Guardian had harboured suspicions about Greer‟s links with Conservative MPs at least as far back as the autumn of 1989. Nor did Preston or Fayed disclose what had brought about Fayed‟s willingness to help the Guardian‟s investigation into Ian Greer in the first place. A few weeks earlier on 1 June 1993, the Guardian had acquired the Observer from Lonrho, inheriting a mass of legal papers relating to that newspaper‟s defence of three libel actions from Fayed during the 1980s, concerning sixteen articles it had published exposing Fayed‟s welter of lies to the DTI. An inside source at the Observer informed me that, shortly after acquiring the Observer, Preston gave Fayed access to all the Observer‟s legal papers concerning its defence of Fayed‟s writs. It is clear from this that Preston had volunteered the Observer‟s libel files in exchange for the dirt on Greer. This explains why Fayed falsely accused Ian Greer of paying Tim Smith, when Fayed had actually paid Smith himself — Fayed had simply transposed his corruption of Smith onto Greer to deliver his side of the bargain and so obtain the Observer‟s libel files. It is no wonder that Preston and Fayed kept this little deal a secret. Preston‟s letter also shows no mention of Fayed having made any direct-payments allegations against either Smith or Hamilton during the meeting the previous night. This supports the other evidence discussed earlier, which shows that Fayed did not reveal to the Guardian his direct-payments to Smith until several weeks after the Guardian published its original Greer-based story, and shows that Preston lied again in his witness statement, when he claimed that Fayed had also made these direct-payments allegations during their first meeting. This and other evidence led us to conclude that Fayed‟s direct-payments allegations against Hamilton, made for the first time on 5 December 1994, were actually based on Fayed‟s payments to Smith, which Fayed disclosed to the Guardian for the first time in November a few weeks after the original article. In other words, Fayed used his payments to Smith as a template upon which new allegations were then superimposed on Hamilton, to create the impression of uniformity of payments to the two MPs. However, we assessed that these new direct-payments allegations against Hamilton would have carried little weight in court, given the DTI inspectors‟ castigation of Fayed in 1990 as a vengeful serial liar. Our assessment was borne out by an examination of the Guardian‟s papers for the libel action. Though these were not finalised until six months later in June 1995, they showed that the central plank of the Guardian‟s planned defence remained based on an intention to prove the allegations contained in its original story — that the lobbyist Ian Greer had paid Hamilton and Smith „cash for questions‟. We then discovered that, fifteen months later on 20 September 1996, just ten days before the opening day of the trial, the Guardian received certain pivotal documents from Ian Greer. These documents had a catastrophic effect, for they revealed that the central plank of the Guardian defence — that Ian Greer had paid the two MPs — would not hold water in court. And so, we concluded from this and other important evidence, the Guardian and its lawyers then persuaded Fayed to produce „witnesses‟ to bolster his direct-payments allegations — which up until then had merely been peripheral but upon which the newspaper‟s defence was now reliant — hence the emergence at the eleventh hour of Fayed‟s three Park Lane office staff, who claimed that they had processed „cash in brown envelopes‟ for Neil Hamilton and Ian Greer. And that, in a nutshell, is the true story of the „cash for questions‟ affair. Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 9 The worth of our research: one aspect examined Apart from the evidence discussed so far, it serves a useful purpose that the Commission be given the opportunity to examine and test for itself the evidence that we uncovered surrounding just one crucial issue: the eleventh-hour emergence of Fayed‟s three Park Lane office staff, on whose evidence alone rest the „cash for questions‟ allegations against Neil Hamilton. On page 8 of the appendices is reproduced an article written by Granada/Guardian reporter David Leigh, which appeared in Guardian group newspaper the Observer on 6 October 1996, less than one week following the collapse of the earlier trial. In the highlighted text, Leigh describes how Fayed‟s three employees had emerged out of the blue just three days before the trial: „In recent weeks, extensive corroboration has surfaced of Fayed‟s assertion that he felt the need to “rent MPs as one hails a taxi”. A willing Fayed, as the libel case against the Guardian neared trial, engaged a lawyer to search his papers and trace witnesses. He obtained statements from a trainee solicitor in a City firm who had been Fayed‟s assistant at the time and recalled Hamilton's envelopes of money; so did Fayed‟s present assistant and a security guard.‟ The absurd notion that Fayed needed to employ someone to root out witnesses alongside whom he worked every day of the week, is probably the reason that David Leigh buried this story, no doubt hoping it would never see the light of day again. Three months later, for the Parliamentary inquiry conducted by Sir Gordon Downey, David Leigh came out with a totally opposite explanation. On page 9 of the appendices is reproduced an extract from the Guardian‟s book on the „cash for questions‟ affair, Sleaze, of which David Leigh was also the author. This book was published on 16 January 1997, and that same day was submitted as evidence to Sir Gordon‟s inquiry by Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger. In his book, Leigh describes how the Guardian‟s solicitor, Geraldine Proudler, and its QC, Geoffrey Robertson, had obtained these witness statements from the three Fayed employees: „Mounting the escalators at Harrods again, Proudler and Robertson were increasingly pleased with the way that the case was going, but they still hoped for a „smoking gun‟ from Harrods. Once in the boardroom, they were inspecting some statements that had been requested by Robertson — requests that had fallen on deaf ears until, a week earlier, the QC had met Fayed‟s Washington lawyer, Doug Marvin. Both Marvin and Robertson had acted for the Washington Post. Robertson beseeched him to overcome Fayed‟s reluctance to involve his former staff and obtain statements from them.‟ So, within the space of three months, a willing Fayed (who had supposedly proactively engaged a lawyer to trace witnesses) had been transformed into a reluctant Fayed (who had supposedly been protective of his staff and had to be persuaded to allow the Guardian‟s lawyers access). Which is all rather odd. The only explanation we can imagine being put forward by the Guardian to justify two opposite (and tenuous) versions being given by the same journalist, would be along the lines that David Leigh had relied on someone else for his information. However, on page 10 of the appendices there is another extract from Sleaze, in which Leigh describes how, two months earlier, Geoffrey Robertson QC appraised the Guardian‟s chances of defending Greer‟s and Hamilton‟s libel actions and then engaged him to the Guardian‟s legal team. „The QC gave the meeting a worse-case analysis which he knew was over gloomy. Part of his aim was to ensure that the Guardian put a massive effort into what he felt would be a battle against time. If he was to have a fighting chance, the QC demanded that he be allowed to commandeer the Observer journalist David Leigh — with whom he had worked on Matrix Churchill and on arms smuggling in Antigua — as an aide. It was agreed.‟ Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 10 So, with Leigh working in the Guardian‟s legal team at the very heart of the assembly of evidence, he can have no excuse for giving two different explanations, still less for giving two different explanations that are wholly incompatible with one another. There is only one rational explanation: both these stories are fabrications, and the three employees were never involved in paying Neil Hamilton, whether in brown envelopes or by any other means. Interestingly, Alan Rusbridger also claimed Fayed was reluctant. During oral examination by Sir Gordon Downey on 10 February 1997, Rusbridger stated: “Our lawyers asked with increasing fervour for evidence from the secretaries, and it is fair to Al Fayed to say that they did form the view that he was genuinely protective and reluctant to involve them in what he perceived as his own legal battle.” Given Fayed‟s well-documented coercion of his employees to corroborate his lies over „Diana‟s last words,‟ „engagement,‟ „plans to live at the villa Windsor‟ and so on, the very idea that Fayed would be „protective and reluctant to involve them in what he perceived as his own legal battle‟ is palpable nonsense — even without comparison to Leigh‟s first „willing‟ version. In his book The Justice Game, Geoffrey Robertson also plugs the absurd „Fayed was reluctant‟ line. On page 11 of the appendices there is a highlighted extract: „The secretaries who had taken the messages, Allison and Iris, could not have been ignorant of what was going on, but our problem was that Fayed had always sought to protect them from publicity and harassment. In the final week, he was prevailed upon to allow them to be interviewed.‟ It is conspicuous that Robertson carefully avoids claiming the credit for his personal involvement that his own legal aide, David Leigh, ascribed to him; especially as The Justice Game is Robertson‟s autobiography in which he is only too ready to claim credit for his bright initiatives. This is another unexplained curiosity. After all, according to Leigh‟s (second) version, Marvin‟s intervention was pivotal, and Robertson‟s persuasion of Marvin was supposedly key in bringing that intervention about. Also bear in mind the fact that his legal aide gave a completely incompatible story three months earlier. The anomalies become more pointed the more one looks for them. On page 12 of the appendices there are two extracts highlighted from the book written by David Leigh‟s close friend, biographer Tom Bower, Fayed: The unauthorised biography: „In the three weeks that he had been retained by the Guardian, Geoffrey Robertson QC had become agitated that access to Fayed and his staff had been barred… … Unable to win [Fayed‟s lawyer] Benson‟s sympathy, Robertson appealed to Michael Cole. „It‟s vital,‟ Robertson insisted, „that I talk with Mr Al Fayed about his witness statement and that he gives us access to his staff.‟ Suddenly and mysteriously, Douglas Marvin, a tall, austere Washington attorney, casually arrived to offer his help… … Marvin would surprisingly deny consulting Fayed about his close involvement in the Hamilton case, but he was, Robertson judged, critical to winning Fayed‟s co-operation. During the course of the afternoon, Robertson convinced Marvin that among his many requirements was access to Fayed‟s secretaries.‟ Once again, if Bower‟s version and Leigh‟s Sleaze version are to be believed, it is doubly conspicuous that Geoffrey Robertson fails to acknowledge Doug Marvin‟s and his own supposed pivotal roles. At this point, it‟s worth looking at what Robertson‟s old collaborator, Fayed‟s US lawyer Doug Marvin himself, had to say. On pages 13/14 of the appendices Marvin‟s witness statement for the Downey Inquiry, dated 22 January 1997, is reproduced. (This extract is exactly the same as Marvin‟s statement for Hamilton‟s recent libel action against Fayed). In the highlighted text Marvin states: Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 11 „In September 1996, I was in London working on a commercial transaction for Harrods. During the course of that work, I reviewed with Harrods executives the types of legal proceedings that the Company was facing and, in that process, learned that Mr Al-Fayed was scheduled to appear as a witness in Mr Hamilton‟s case against the Guardian. Mr Stuart Benson and I therefore met with Geraldine Proudler a partner in Olswangs and Mr Geoffrey Robertson QC who were acting for the Guardian, to learn more about the status of the case. Our meeting with Ms Proudler and Mr Robertson occurred about 10 days before the Hamilton case was scheduled to commence. During the course of the meeting with Ms Proudler and Mr Robertson, Ms Proudler told Mr Benson and me about certain diary entries that had been produced to the Guardian lawyers by Mr Al-Fayed, one of which referred to a woman named Iris and indicated that Ian Greer had called asking for a sum of £5,000 that was supposedly due. I told Ms Proudler that the name Iris probably referred to one of the secretaries in Mr Al-Fayed‟s Park Lane office and, as I was staying in a flat adjacent to the Park Lane offices, I would ask Iris about it. Subsequently, I met with Iris Bond. I asked her about the entry and about her knowledge of Mr Hamilton and Mr Greer in general. It became obvious that Ms Bond was aware of facts that were very relevant to the Hamilton case… I reported to Ms Proudler what I had learned from Ms Bond and told her that there might be other witnesses with relevant information… The decision to meet with each of the witnesses and to take statements from them was not instigated by Mr Al-Fayed. Instead, that decision was made by Mr Benson and me, at the suggestion of Ms Proudler. So, now we have another completely different version. This time, Marvin claims that during a meeting just before the trial, the Guardian‟s solicitor, Geraldine Proudler, showed him a message pad from Fayed‟s offices at 60 Park Lane, bearing a reference to a woman called „Iris,‟ whom he postulated might be one of Fayed‟s secretaries, who might have been involved in paying Neil Hamilton. And so, as luck would have it, when Marvin checked the next day, Iris Bond confessed her involvement. There is no mention of Marvin having to overcome Fayed‟s „reluctance,‟ nor any mention of being „beseeched‟ by Robertson. This time, Marvin‟s crucial role supposedly centred around solving the riddle posed by Geraldine Proudler on the significance of the „Iris‟ entry. Usefully, in the final paragraph of this extract Marvin also states that his involvement had nothing to do with Fayed. This proves that David Leigh‟s first version in the Observer — in which Leigh describes how „a willing Fayed engaged a lawyer‟ — could not be an oblique reference to Marvin. But Marvin‟s version doesn‟t stand up, even without regard to the other two versions. On page 15 of the appendices there is a letter dated 29 June 1995 from Laurence Harris, of Fayed‟s solicitors D J Freeman addressed to Geraldine Proudler (reproduced from Vol. 2 of Sir Gordon‟s report). Harris sent Proudler this letter plus the complete telephone message pad from Fayed‟s Park Lane office following a discussion on the telephone the previous night about two specific entries (these are superimposed on Harris‟s letter). These are the same two entries that Marvin claims Proudler showed him during their supposed meeting fifteen months later. In his letter Harris highlights for Proudler how significant he believes these two entries to be — the top one of which contains the notorious „Iris‟ entry — just as he had the night before on the telephone. Hamilton and Greer - The Guardian I refer to our telephone conversation last night and I enclose a file containing extracts from the telephone message books used by Mr Al-Fayed's staff from 1985 to 1989. There is a full index at the front. You will find particularly interesting the messages on 29 March 1989 and 28 September 1988 which I mentioned on the telephone… Laurence Harris 29 June 1995 Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 12 It insults the intelligence to suppose that Proudler would have ignored these two entries until the „chance intervention‟ of Doug Marvin just ten days prior to the trial, when Harris had drawn them both to her attention, both verbally and in writing, fifteen months earlier. In his letter Harris also refers to telephoning Proudler the previous „night‟. Given that 28 June is one of the longest days of the year, this suggests that either Harris telephoned Proudler on her cellphone or at home, or, alternatively, that they were both working very long hours indeed. Either way, it betrays that Harris and Proudler enjoyed a close working relationship, which begs the question why she didn‟t ask Harris to find out who „Iris‟ was back then in June 1995, or why Harris didn‟t find out for himself and then tell her. Harris was, after all, Fayed‟s solicitor. The fact that Proudler had possession of the message pads for fifteen months prior to the trial also raises another fascinating anomaly. On page 16 of the appendices, there are another two reproductions from Sleaze, in which David Leigh — Geoffrey Robertson‟s legal aide, that is — describes the QC‟s visit to Harrods to see Fayed one month before the trial: „The QC went to Harrods, and its maddening „broad brush‟ proprietor who was so vague with dates, to seek help with evidence… … Robertson‟s pitch was clear. He knew there were smoking guns somewhere at Harrods — on bits of paper, letters, notes scrawled by secretaries, on the message pads. He wanted Fayed to make a systematic search and help convict Hamilton… And later — … At Doughty Street, Robertson‟s chambers, the new haul of names and payments was being entered into a vast chronology. Fayed‟s office message pads and diaries were emerging from Knightsbridge.‟ It is strange indeed that Robertson would need to ask Fayed to undertake a search for evidence that Proudler had already received and discussed fourteen months earlier. It is also decidedly odd that the message pads should be said to be „emerging from Knightsbridge‟ (i.e. Harrods), when they had actually been in Proudler‟s possession all along. But there is more. On page 17 of the appendices there is a reprint of the introduction to the Guardian‟s special website report, entitled, „Corruption in the Commons: The Hamilton Case.‟ This special report carried 109 articles supposedly detailing every single aspect of the affair. These articles were originally published in the Guardian and the Observer following the collapse of Greer‟s & Hamilton‟s libel action on 30 September 1996. They were compiled and posted on the Internet as part of the Guardian‟s main website in the final weeks of 1996 or the first weeks of 1997. The introduction states: „In October 1994, the Guardian published a lead story which told how two ministers, Tim Smith, Northern Ireland Minister, and Neil Hamilton, Trade and Industry Minister, had been paid [by Ian Greer] cash to ask questions in the House of Commons. Smith resigned [after admitting privately to John Major that he had taken cash from Fayed, which had not been alleged]. Hamilton [and Greer] decided to sue for libel. What followed was a two-year legal battle, which ended with Hamilton‟s cave-in [Hamilton was forced to settle when Greer withdrew] and, on 1 October 1996, a front page carried the headline: “A liar and a cheat”… Over the following eight weeks, the full Hamilton story was revealed in the Guardian. The coverage won the 1997 British Press Award for best team reporting. This is how the story unfolded.‟ It is curious that Doug Marvin, whose supposed role was so crucial in exposing Hamilton‟s corruption, isn‟t mentioned once in any of these 109 articles, either by title (e.g. Fayed‟s US/Washington lawyer/attorney) or by name — given that the „Corruption in the Commons: The Hamilton Case‟ was constructed to tell „the full Hamilton story‟ and „how the story unfolded.‟ Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 13 This is one of the most pointed anomalies of all. Here we have the Guardian‟s supposedly definitive warts-and-all report on the „cash for questions‟ affair. It even won a major press award. And yet the person whose sole intervention was supposedly absolutely pivotal, isn‟t even mentioned. Compiling a report on the „Cash for Questions‟ affair without mentioning Doug Marvin, would be akin to compiling a report on „Big Ships That Hit Icebergs And Sank‟ without mentioning the RMS Titanic. One explanation would be that Marvin is not mentioned because his role was not actually invented until after this report had been compiled for the Guardian‟s website. The logic of this is inescapable. It would, for example, explain why Robertson is careful not to implicate himself in The Justice Game by mentioning Marvin‟s supposed role. It would also explain why there is not one mention of Marvin anywhere in anything until three months after the original trial collapsed, which itself would explain why the Guardian delayed the start of the subsequent Downey inquiry for three months also. The scenario that Marvin was dragged in after the trial specifically for the Downey Inquiry, to which he then submitted a false statement to obviate the need for Proudler and Robertson to lie under oral examination, would also explain how Marvin came to set up his own law practice a few months later with Fayed as his only customer and with a host of Fayed company directorships in his pocket. But before I leave the matter of the three employees‟ late emergence, there is one more group of documents that deserve an examination. On 23 October 1994, three days after the publication of the Guardian‟s original article, the News of the World published a story that Fayed alleged giving Neil Hamilton £15,000-worth of Harrods‟ gift vouchers in £1,000 denominations. The article is reproduced on page 18 of the appendices. A few days later, acting as Fayed‟s emissary, LibDem MP Alex Carlile QC wrote a letter of complaint to the chairman of the Members‟ Interests committee (the forerunner of the Standards committee). Carlile‟s letter is reproduced on page 19. In his letter, Carlile complained about Hamilton‟s non-registration of his stay at the Ritz, and Fayed‟s gift voucher allegations (now changed to £6,000 in total in £100 denominations). The vouchers, Carlile claimed, were given to Hamilton at Fayed‟s office in Harrods, and could, he believed, be corroborated by Fayed‟s Harrods office staff. But Fayed‟s gift voucher allegations have never been corroborated by Harrods staff to this day. It is obvious from this that Fayed had proposed his Harrods staff as being able to corroborate his false allegations before he had even coerced their consent, and that, ultimately, in this instance, he so failed to do. Alex Carlile‟s letter also demonstrates that (a) Fayed would not have employed anyone to „discover‟ his Park Lane staff‟s „involvement‟, (b) Fayed would not have relied on Doug Marvin‟s „chance intervention‟ either, and (c) Fayed would not have remained „reluctant‟ to involve his Park Lane staff until September 1996 on one hand, when on the other hand he volunteered his Harrods staff at the outset in October 1994. Incidentally, Downey dismissed the gift voucher allegations; whilst Alex Carlile QC stood down at the 1997 general election to become a director of three of Fayed‟s companies, namely: Liberty Radio, Liberty Publishing, and Punch. Of course, all these irreconcilable anomalies could be explained away if Proudler, Robertson, Leigh, and Marvin were all complete incompetents. But on page 20 of the appendices, in another extract from The Justice Game (concerning the Matrix Churchill case on which Robertson and Leigh also worked together), Robertson fetes Leigh with the accolade „Britain‟s Best Investigative Reporter.‟ Meanwhile, on page 21 of the appendices, in another extract from Sleaze, Leigh describes Geraldine Proudler thus: Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 14 „Geraldine Proudler is a person you would want to take to Las Vegas to play poker… That is what makes her one of the most head-hunted of libel lawyers.‟ Proudler‟s firm, Olswang, also vouch for her prowess. On their website they state: „For many years Geraldine has specialised in media litigation including defamation, breach of confidence, contempt of Court and broadcast complaint cases... Recent cases include leading the teams acting for The Guardian in its successful defences of claims from MP‟s (sic) Neil Hamilton and Jonathan Aitken…‟ Geoffrey Robertson QC also appears to have full use of his faculties. On page 22 of the appendices there is another extract from Sleaze, in which Leigh states: „Geoffrey Robertson, born in Sydney, Australia, has a shock of greying hair and wears designer shirts. A degree of detachment from the pompous assumptions and claustrophobia of the British legal system had helped him to shine at the London Bar, both as a master craftsman and radical theoretician of the law.‟ One can only wonder just what being a „radical theoretician of the law‟ entails — but the evidence discussed here suggests that lawful practice is certainly not one of them. The fact that Robertson also sits as a judge at Knightsbridge Crown Court, and the fact that Proudler is held in such esteem by her peers, merely adds weight to the notion that our legal system is as vulnerable to malpractice as that other pillar of our fragile democracy, the media. To conclude this examination of our work, it serves to discuss why the Guardian and its lawyers would have allowed themselves to get so deeply involved in such a conspiracy — instead of owning up, paying the damages to Neil Hamilton and Ian Greer, and forgetting the matter, as other newspapers have to do occasionally. The answer to that question can also be found in Geoffrey Robertson‟s book, The Justice Game, where the boastful Robertson describes the goings-on in the Guardian camp during the run up to the 1996 libel trial. The two relevant extracts can be found on page 23 of the appendices: „The Guardian could not back down: it had staked its credibility on this story. There was no possible compromise, because Neil Hamilton and Ian Greer would not bottle out at the last moment — their political and business future depended on winning such a resounding victory. They claimed that the Guardian article meant that they were corrupt — a libel worth a large sum at going rates, and together with a bill for the legal costs, this case could easily cost the newspaper a million pounds. Not content with this prospect, the plaintiffs demanded more: Hamilton claimed that the Guardian story had forced his resignation, and so demanded „special damages‟ for the loss of his salary. Greer went much further, alleging that the Guardian article had cost him clients and projects worth £10 million. If his damages claim for that amount succeeded, there would not be much to read in the slim-line Guardian when the time came to pay out…‟ … The defence case, at this stage, rested largely on the word of Mohammed Al Fayed. It was the same with Greer, and if the case against him were lost, his unprecedented „special damages‟ claim for £10 million would then succeed, at least in part. The Guardian, unlike most publishers, was not insured against libel, a fact which freed it to fight this action (libel insurers would long ago have cut their losses by insisting on apologies to both plaintiffs) but made it a fight to the death.‟ I will now chronicle the events that support my complaint against Granada Television. Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 15 The events that underpin my complaint against Granada Television By the time Sir Gordon Downey‟s report was released on 3 July 1997, Malcolm Keith-Hill and I had become satisfied that Hamilton was innocent of all corruption charges, and had been instead the victim of a massive criminal conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. We also concluded that the „wrongdoing‟ charges were trumped up by the Guardian as a smoke-screen, and that Hamilton‟s behaviour as an MP was no worse, and a great deal better, than other MPs from all sides of the House, including the current Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, and former Conservative ministers. In his report, Sir Gordon dismissed the corruption allegations in the Guardian‟s original article that gave rise to Hamilton‟s & Greer‟s libel actions in the first place, including the central charge that lobbyist Ian Greer paid MPs „cash for questions‟. However, Downey found in favour of the allegations that did not appear until two years later in which the three Fayed employees had a supposed involvement. For reasons that remain unexplained, Sir Gordon ignored the irreconcilable explanations given by the Fayed/Guardian camps for their late emergence, and he also ignored the many irreconcilable anomalies arising from their testimonies. Sir Gordon also accepted uncritically two documents submitted by the Guardian‟s editor Alan Rusbridger, which we proved by documentary evidence were forgeries. These documents purported to show that Fayed had made all allegations against Hamilton over a year before the ECHR ruling, and so could not have been motivated by it to make his allegations out of spite. A few days after the Downey report was published, I visited my former boss Susan Woodward in the newsroom at Granada, at which time she was still Editor of Granada Tonight. My memory is clear. I informed her that, in our opinion, Downey‟s report was unjust, and that our investigation cleared Hamilton of all essential charges, and instead concluded that he was the victim of corrupt journalism by the Guardian. Though she was convivial, she displayed no interest in what we had uncovered. Nevertheless, Keith-Hill and I redoubled our efforts. Over the following three months we worked long hours to produce an interim report, in time for a televised address that Hamilton was due to give the Standards Committee to answer Downey‟s judgement. That interim report showed, among other things, that (a) Fayed‟s first set of allegations against Hamilton were made out of spite in September 1994 as a consequence of the ECHR ruling, (b) Guardian journalists lied to the Downey inquiry to support the false contention that Fayed had made all his allegations against Hamilton a year before the ECHR ruling in July 1993, (c) the Guardian submitted forged documents to the Downey Inquiry to support this false contention, (d) Fayed and his employees lied to the Downey Inquiry to support this false contention and also the false contention that Hamilton had actually taken cash, (e) the various stories put forward by the Guardian and Fayed camps to explain away the late emergence of the three Fayed employees are false, (f) Fayed has a history of making false corruption allegations against those who he feels have betrayed him, (g) the Guardian-led assertions that Hamilton is a „liar‟ and a „wrongdoer‟ are either false or specious. On 19 September, Granada‟s Controller of Factual Programmes, Charles Tremayne, wrote to Neil Hamilton, to invite him to take part in an intended TV programme about the events that led to his demise at the general election. This is reproduced on pages 24/5 of the appendices. The next day Hamilton replied, accepting the invitation and reasserting his innocence. Hamilton‟s letter is reproduced on pages 26-8 of the appendices. In the highlighted text Hamilton stated: „There is one of the great stories of the century here — of enormous public interest and importance — after all, many people believe Fayed played a significant part in bringing down the Government of the country. For any enterprising journalist or media company prepared to invest a modest amount of time Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 16 researching the facts I believe that this story could be the British Watergate… … Jonathan Hunt (whom you will know from „On the Hunt‟), has, on his own initiative, been investigating this story full-time for the last five months. I can testify, from his badgering me nearly every day, of the thoroughness of his investigations. He has uncovered evidence which passed me by and his revelations will be published in a 45,000 word report in the coming weeks. I suggest that you ask him for a copy. I look forward to hearing from you in due course.‟ However, neither Charles Tremayne, nor anyone else from Granada Television contacted me for a copy of our report, or to discuss what we had uncovered; nor was Neil Hamilton contacted again. On 29 September 1997 at 4.38 p.m., my colleague Malcolm Keith-Hill faxed the Guardian‟s former editor, Peter Preston, under whose authority the Guardian‟s original story was published, requesting interviews with himself, David Hencke and John Mullin. No response was forthcoming. In the days that followed, Keith-Hill chased up our request twice by telephone, but still we received no response. Four days later, on 3 October 1997, Preston‟s replacement, Alan Rusbridger, announced in the Guardian a number of initiatives. Among these would be a „readers‟ editor‟ and a „corrections column‟ to deal with minor complaints, and an „independent ombudsman‟ (who writes for the Guardian) to deal with serious issues. Rusbridger‟s article is reproduced on page 29 of the appendices. Within the text Rusbridger stated: „All newspapers make mistakes. Some make more than others. Some care more than others. What marks one newspaper from another is its willingness to own up to its mistakes… Newspapers fool ourselves and our readers if we pretend that what we are producing each night is the definitive work of the truth which will stand for 100 years. We are not. On the Guardian we are a collection of honest journalists who do our best to bring you the most accurate account we can of events around the world at the moment of deadline. Most of the time we do pretty well. Sometimes we fail.. when we fail we should come back the next day and tell you so... The most confident and honest papers are the ones that have the best mechanisms for doing that. The New York Times.. carries more corrections than any paper I have read. The Irish Times — another fine and serious paper — has a regular, fixed column devoted to corrections. And so, from next week, so will we. But we are going further. We are setting up a unique two-tier system for handling readers‟ inquiries and complaints. The first tier will be a staff journalist whose sole function will be to deal with the readers and mediate their complaints, small or large. His/her job will be to explain particular beefs or frustrations to reporters and editors and to make sure that, where appropriate, errors are corrected promptly. He/she will also write regularly in the paper about issues raised by readers. The second tier is the appointment of an independent ombudsman to deal with substantial complaints or matters where the paper‟s integrity is called into question. The Guardian led the way in Britain by appointing an ombudsman in 1990. In the past our ombudsmen have been former senior members of staff. The next ombudsman, whose appointment we announce today, has no connection with the paper, though he has written for it and will, we hope, continue to do so… I hope the Guardian‟s new two-tier model — further details of which will follow — may become a model of good practice in the newspaper industry… I hope this new system works for you, as readers, as well as for us. As the assistant editor of the Bystander said: “If you can‟t trust it, why should you read it?” ‟ The fact that Alan Rusbridger announced his new measures before he had even filled all the posts, suggests that these initiatives had perhaps been conjured up a little hurriedly. A few days later Keith-Hill and I visited the BBC‟s political correspondent, Jim Hancock, at the BBC in Oxford Road, Manchester. Keith-Hill and I summarised our conclusions and gave him a copy of our report. This was passed to two higher authorities for consideration, after which the BBC recorded a feature about our Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 17 investigation. This was broadcast on 13 October 1997 on local news bulletins throughout the day, including GMR radio. The Northwest Tonight item can be located at 1 hour 9 mins into the enclosed VHS tape. The next day, Neil Hamilton appeared before the Standards Committee. Speaking passionately, he dissected Downey‟s findings, and quoted widely from our report. Hansard shows that Hamilton stated: “This issue is exhaustively gone into in a document which I have not been responsible for producing (and I am grateful to the authors for pointing all this out to me), in a document which I shall be giving to the Committee, produced by two independent journalists wholly unconnected with me, who after the General Election decided there was a story here worth investigating because they wanted to make a TV programme about it. They have been working at their own expense, without income, putting their own money from their own meagre resources into the investigation. I have given them free run of all the papers that everybody produced for the inquiry and they have gone on and done it...” After his address, Neil Hamilton handed our report to the clerk, who copied it for each Member of the Standards committee. On Wednesday October 22 I telephoned Granada Television and spoke to my old acquaintance Helen Michael, assistant to Granada‟s then Head of Regional Political Programmes, Rob McGloughlan. I informed her of our investigation, and dropped in to see her and gave her a copy of our report for Mr McGloughlan‟s attention. However, no attempt was made by anyone from Granada to contact me. On Friday, 24 October 1997 at 11.25 a.m., Guardian and World in Action reporter David Leigh telephoned me at my office. Leigh told me that he had heard about our report and that we claimed a cover-up had taken place at the Guardian. After questioning me about my career, Leigh then warned me that Keith-Hill and I should not publish our report, as to do so would damage our future careers in television, and also elicit a libel action against us from Peter Preston. Despite these threats, three days later on Monday 27 October 1997, Malcolm Keith-Hill and I faxed an embargoed news release to the newsrooms of Granada and the BBC in Manchester; the BBC and ITN in London; the Press Association; and all the national newspapers. The news release gave notice of a press conference scheduled to take place two days later in Westminster on the 29th, at which we planned to release copies of our report. A copy of our news release can be found at pages 30/1 of the appendices. After receiving our fax Susan Woodward telephoned me that same day. However, she continued to show no interest in what we had uncovered, but instead expressed concern that I might claim the status of a Granada staff reporter. The next day, on 28 October at 5.39 p.m., Miss Woodward faxed me a statement to this effect. This can be found on page 32 of the appendices. An hour or so after receiving this fax, as I was leaving the office for London, I received a friendly telephone call from the lobbyist Ian Greer. He warned me that „an intermediary‟ had told him that the Guardian were „out to get‟ Keith-Hill and myself if we released our report the next day as planned. A few weeks later Greer wrote a statement detailing these events, which can be found at page 33 of the appendices. (Greer disclosed later that this „intermediary‟ was Andrew Pierce of the Times.) Ian Greer‟s warning did not dissuade us, and the next day Malcolm Keith-Hill and I held our press conference at a Parliamentary outbuilding in Millbank as planned. Guardian journalists David Leigh and Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 18 David Hencke arrived early and Leigh once again threatened us with libel actions and warned us that releasing our report would damage our careers in television. Ignoring Leigh‟s repeated threats, Keith-Hill opened the conference with a prepared address, which was received in silence. A copy of this can be found at pages 34/5 of the appendices. But when I started discussing the evidence, Leigh started hurling derisory comments about my journalistic credentials that he claimed he had learned from „Sue Woodward‟ — that „Hunt had only done stories about leaky pipes and was only a presenter, not a reporter.‟ At the time I dismissed the possibility that Miss Woodward had said these things, which are untrue. The BBC NW‟s Westminster correspondent, Robin Crystal, attended with a camera crew and recorded the proceedings. A clip of this was broadcast on NorthWestminster TX 9.11.97. This can be found at approx. 1 hour 11 mins into the enclosed VHS. Granada Tonight‟s Westminster correspondent, Mark Lyons, also attended, presumably under instruction from Miss Woodward, but without a camera crew. His only contribution to the proceedings was to state loudly that I was not a staff reporter for Granada. Regardless, I gave Mark Lyons and all other attendees a copy of our report, but neither our report nor conference was reported by Granada. Incidentally, whilst all this was going on, Granada‟s editor-in-chief of World in Action, Steve Boulton, and the Guardian‟s editor Alan Rusbridger, were preparing to give a joint address on „press honesty‟, to be held in Manchester two days later at a conference organised by the Institute of Public Relations. The theme of the conference was „accountability.‟ This was given billing in Guardian Group newspaper the Manchester Evening News on the very day that Keith-Hill and I were discussing evidence which proved that Rusbridger had submitted two completely bogus, but pivotal documents to the Downey Inquiry. On Saturday 1 November, the IPR conference was reported again in the Manchester Evening News, in a story titled „Editor urges press honesty.‟ Both these cuttings are reproduced on page 36 of the appendices. On 6 November, the Standards committee released its report on Downey‟s verdict. Two Conservative members, Anne Widdecombe and Quentin Davies, both of whom had savaged Conservative ministers on matters of principle previously, refused to endorse Downey‟s findings. It was an unprecedented split of the committee. Theresa Gorman MP later informed me that Widdecombe and Davies had told her that their decisions had been influenced heavily by our report. A week later on 15 November I attended the NW Royal Television Society Awards, ironically as Granada‟s only representative for Best News Reporter of 1997, accompanied by Malcolm Keith-Hill. After the ceremony I had a friendly chat with Susan Woodward. I remember clearly expressing disappointment at not winning the prize for the Granada Tonight team, after which we discussed the awards generally before she went on to ask me about my current activities. When I told her that I was continuing with my investigation she expressed concern that this would harm my career in television. I replied that I would continue with my work, my exact words being „because the truth is addictive.‟ The fact that Susan Woodward responded by embracing me warmly, heartened me that Granada would now finally take an interest in our investigation. I also took the opportunity afforded by the awards evening to speak to other Granada personnel about our investigation. These included Steve Boulton of World in Action; Rob McGloughlan, Granada‟s Head of Regional Political Programmes; and Charles Tremayne, Granada‟s Controller of Factual Programmes. None expressed any interest in our work. Steve Boulton, in particular, was openly hostile, despite his campaigning for „press honesty and accountability‟ just two weeks earlier. Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 19 A few weeks later in December 1997, with little sign of any commission for our proposed documentary, Malcolm Keith-Hill returned home to Brazil, accompanied by his Portuguese wife and two children. In mid January 1998 a publisher contacted me and asked me if I would like to write a book about the Hamilton affair. I sent him a copy of our report, and within days he offered a contract, which I signed. On 30 January 1998 I faxed Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger a letter requesting interviews with himself and six other Guardian journalists. On 2 February Alan Rusbridger replied, but stonewalled my request. On 3 February I faxed Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger a second letter requesting interviews, and offered myself to be interviewed by the Guardian in return. On 3 February Alan Rusbridger replied, but stonewalled my request and ignored my offer. On 5 February I faxed Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger a third letter requesting interviews. I informed him that I was writing a book titled Trial by Conspiracy to be published later in the year, and that it was important that he and his journalists were given a chance to answer questions. I repeated my offer to be interviewed and ended by suggesting that he need not bother replying unless he was prepared to grant my request. Rusbridger did not reply. This correspondence can be found between pages 37 - 49 of the appendices. On 10 March I received a letter from the Guardian‟s head of legal affairs, Siobhain Butterworth, containing veiled threats of legal action if I published my book. On 12 March I wrote my response, rebuffing her threats and repeating my request for interviews. On 20 March Siobhain Butterworth wrote another letter containing veiled threats of legal action. On 27 March I wrote a lengthy reply rebuffing her threats and repeating my request for interviews. This correspondence is reproduced between pages 50 - 58 of the appendices. Either sometime during the course of this correspondence or shortly afterwards, the Guardian removed from its website „Corruption in the Commons: The Hamilton Case‟ and all archive material going back to 1995, never to be reinstated. However, I had anticipated this and downloaded „Corruption in the Commons prior to writing my first letter to Alan Rusbridger (I have since had it written to CD ROM). Four days later during the morning of Tuesday 31 March, Guardian and World in Action journalist Luke Harding telephoned Malcolm Keith-Hill‟s elderly mother in Cornwall, deceiving her into believing that he was a friendly journalist who knew her son. He did not disclose that he worked for the Guardian and World in Action. Harding told Mrs Keith-Hill that he was interested in her son‟s investigation and hoped to write a feature about him and his work. He then asked for Malcolm Keith-Hill‟s address. Mrs Keith-Hill believed Harding‟s lies and consequently gave him Malcolm‟s address on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. But Mrs Keith-Hill‟s telephone number is ex-directory, and Malcolm told me later that he had given it to no one. The Guardian has refused to answer my questions as to how they acquired it, so it seems likely that the Guardian obtained it via breaking the Data Protection Act. Mrs Keith-Hill‟s letter to me concerning these events can be found at pages 59/60 of the appendices. Later that same day, Guardian journalist Alex Bellos visited Malcolm Keith-Hill at his home on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, whereupon Bellos questioned him in an intimidating fashion. Malcolm Keith-Hill‟s letter to me concerning these events can be found at pages 61-4 of the appendices. That same day after lunch, I too received a phone call from Luke Harding, requesting an interview for a „feature‟ that he said the Guardian intended publishing on Keith-Hill and myself. He implied that the Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 20 credibility of our findings would be undermined by the fact that I had under-declared the values of certain second-hand cars that I had imported from America, eight years earlier prior to entering journalism (the matter was settled amicably without charges being brought, as Mr Martin Lennon, Customs & Excise, Ralli Quays, Manchester, will testify). Luke Harding‟s information was wildly inaccurate, so I advised him to contact Customs & Excise in Manchester to get his facts right before the smear-job appeared in the Guardian. I also suggested that Harding should speak to people who could vouch for my motivation, such as the Manchester Evening News‟s former gossip columnist, Andy Spinoza; the BBC‟s Jim Hancock; and the Labour Peeress Baroness Turner of Camden. I concluded by offering to travel to London to the Guardian‟s headquarters to discuss the evidence we had collated against his colleagues, but after a lengthy pause Harding declined this suggestion. Later that same afternoon (probably at the exact time that Alex Bellos was putting the frighteners on Keith-Hill in Brazil), I visited Susan Woodward in the Granada newsroom and told her that the Guardian were out to smear me. I asked her what she would say in support of my competence as a journalist if the Guardian contacted her. After being pressed, Miss Woodward eventually assured me that she would express satisfaction with my work if asked. Shortly afterwards I learned from two reliable sources that Luke Harding had already visited Susan Woodward three weeks beforehand in early March. However, she did not disclose this to me when I saw her. In the run up to the publication of my book, Trial by Conspiracy, my publisher sent out publicity flyers to the press. Then began a series of sneering anonymous items in Private Eye, based on information provided by the Guardian, most likely by David Leigh, who contributes to that magazine. One of these items was published on 2 October 1998. It stated that a previous company of mine, J. B. Hunt Transport Ltd, had „folded,‟ thus implying that I had ceased trading insolvently. In fact, I established and ran a successful company for four years without incurring a single debt, and closed it of my own free will without leaving a penny unpaid — I had simply wearied of running a road transport company. There is a letter from my former accountants at page 65 of the appendices. Another comment referred to my time importing cars from the US as having „come to grief.‟ In fact, the market for classic cars collapsed but I nevertheless ceased trading without leaving any debts. I enclose an unsolicited testimonial from a customer on page 66 of the appendices. Another comment referred to my being „a driller of oil in Libya.‟ Though drilling for oil is a highly technical and demanding job, and certainly nothing to be ashamed of, I was actually a „formation tester,‟ which involved being responsible for enabling the initial flow to surface of hydrocarbons from wildcat oil & gas wells, and collating and validating data to allow for the determination of reservoir parameters (among other things). I enclose a reference from my former employer at page 67 of the appendices. But I suppose the nastiest comment was the one which referred to my time at Granada, where it was claimed that I was „impossible to work with‟ and, in a comment ascribed to Susan Woodward, described as a „fucking nutter.‟ I refute both suggestions, as the enclosed testimonials from Granada Tonight‟s anchor, Bob Greaves, and others with whom I have worked, bear out. I also continue to socialise with my old Granada friends. The Private Eye article can be found on page 68 of the appendices. Following this smear job, I asked Susan Woodward to publish a statement clarifying her position, which she did. Though I did not ask her to do so, Miss Woodward made clear that she had never spoken to anyone from the Guardian. You will find Miss Woodward‟s statement at page 69 of the appendices. This surprised me, given that two sources had told me that Miss Woodward had seen Luke Harding in early March 1998; and given that David Leigh had hurled abuse at our press conference in October 1997, supposedly based on other remarks that Miss Woodward had made about me to him. Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 21 Accordingly, I wrote to Susan Woodward on 8 October to set out my understanding of what she had said in her statement, with the request that she correct me in writing if I was wrong, which she didn‟t. You will find my letter to Miss Woodward on pages 70/71 of the appendices. Susan Woodward‟s statement was published in the letters page in the following issue of Private Eye, complete with a footnote written by Private Eye‟s acting editor at that time, Guardian journalist Francis Wheen. This can be found on page 72 of the appendices. Wheen‟s footnote stated: „Susan Woodward‟s memory has let her down. Earlier this year she gave two long telephone interviews to a GUARDIAN reporter during which she happily dished the dirt on Jonathan Hunt — whom she described as a “fucking nutter”. Ed.‟ Whilst I would not normally question Miss Woodward‟s word, Francis Wheen‟s public denial of her statement does tend to corroborate my own information. Nevertheless, despite this provocation, I continued to keep my counsel — which I have maintained for the last three years until now — in the hope that Granada Television would discharge its responsibilities under the Broadcasting Act, and give due prominence to the existence of an independent investigation clearing Neil Hamilton of all essential charges and questioning the role of the Guardian. On 19 October 1998, on the morning of the launch of Trial by Conspiracy, the Guardian ran two articles covering a whole page of the broadsheet. One featured an extract from Tom Bower‟s biography of Fayed. It was an out-and-out but evidence-free assault on Neil Hamilton. The second article was the threatened smear job on me, containing the same combination of lies and disingenuous statements that the Guardian had succeeded in having published in Private Eye, plus other remarks. One of these claimed that I had „tried my hand at PR‟, thus implying that I had not been successful. A testimonial from a former client can be found at page 73 of the appendices. Another suggested that I had lied about my tax infraction from 1990 when asked about this by Luke Harding on the telephone in March 1998. The charge that I lied is the lie. In fact, I had admitted my transgression to Harding, and been quite open about it to other journalists such as Stephen Glover, Frank Johnson and Paul Johnson months before the Guardian started digging around in my background. Furthermore, I had recorded it in detail in my book, which was printed in thousands even before the Guardian‟s smear article was published. I invited the Guardian to release an unedited copy of the tape recording of our conversation, which Harding undoubtedly made, to establish which of us was telling the truth. The Guardian refused. Nor was I „investigated‟ by Sheffield Customs & Excise, nor did I evade „£119,000‟ or pay a „fine‟ of £23,000 (i.e. a supposed total of £142,000). The total tax shortfall was just £15,016 to which a penalty was added, making a total of just £23,000. It is telling that the piece ends by implying that I had not bothered to speak to Guardian journalists, though former Guardian editor Peter Preston had ignored Keith-Hill‟s three requests for interviews; though his successor Alan Rusbridger had ignored my own five written requests for interviews; and though Harding had refused my offer to visit the Guardian‟s headquarters in London. Overleaf an advertisement loomed large giving notice of a new imminent edition of Sleaze. These Guardian articles on Hamilton and myself can be found at page 74 of the appendices, and a clarifying letter from Customs & Excise at page 75. That same morning, Gerald Howarth MP, acting on my behalf, passed to Sir Gordon Downey a letter that I had written for his, Sir Gordon‟s, attention. It contained 42 separate questions under 25 individual headings, concerning his conduct of the inquiry into Fayed‟s and the Guardian‟s allegations against Neil Hamilton. This can be found at pages 76-87 in the appendices, and Sir Gordon‟s unsatisfactory reply at page 88. Sir Gordon resigned shortly afterwards. Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 22 I think that my letter raises many important questions about Sir Gordon‟s handling of his inquiry, which all decent journalists would agree deserve answers. The launch of Trial by Conspiracy took place as planned at a press conference on 19 October 1998, in the Jubilee Room in the Palace of Westminster, London. Granada Television could not have been unaware of this, as I had given Susan Woodward due notice of it in my letter of 8 October, mentioned earlier. Nor could Miss Woodward have misunderstood its significance. As per my letter to her, important people were present. In addition to Neil & Christine Hamilton, Conservative MP Gerald Howarth MP and Labour Peeress Baroness Turner of Camden also attended. The room was packed with journalists from the Evening Standard and the national dailies, plus camera crews from ITN and the BBC. A total of at least five journalists from the Guardian also attended. However, Granada Television was notable by its absence. The NW BBC ran news items about the book launch later that evening on Northwest Tonight, which can be found at approx. 1 hour 18 mins from the start of the enclosed VHS. However, despite the importance of the book, both nationally and regionally; despite my being formerly one of the Granada Tonight team, and despite Neil Hamilton‟s demise as MP for Tatton being one of the major stories in the Northwest of England, Granada Television did not even mention the launch in its news bulletins. By coincidence, the Guardian also gave no coverage, despite having sent by far the largest representation. In the event, ITN did not broadcast the news of the launch either, despite my understanding from ITN‟s Senior Political Producer, Graham Forester, that it would do so. When I spoke to Mr Forester the following day he told me that he had been overruled. It has been plausibly suggested that Granada Television‟s documented attitude caused it to use its leverage as ITV‟s biggest television company to pressurise ITN into suppressing news of our investigation. However, ITN did provide me with a tape of the rushes, which make interesting viewing. These can be found at approx. 16 mins from the start of the VHS. I ask the Commission to pay particular attention to the behaviour of Guardian/Granada reporter David Leigh — if one looks carefully, one can clearly see Leigh‟s World in Action colleague, Mark Hollingsworth, smiling, sitting next to him as he rants. I will come to the significance of Hollingsworth‟s presence shortly with respect to this complaint. The next day, only the Daily Telegraph reported the launch. You will find the Telegraph‟s leader on page 89 of the appendices. Incidentally, though the piece stated that Trial by Conspiracy „fell well short of establishing‟ that a cover-up had taken place at the Guardian, the Telegraph‟s top investigative journalist, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, who had spent days examining our research, agreed with our conclusions 100 per cent. Nevertheless, it is uncommon for two regional journalists‟ investigation to make it into the editorial of the Telegraph, which makes Granada‟s silence on our work even more conspicuous. Later that day the Guardian purchased 15 copies of Trial by Conspiracy from Politico‟s book shop, Westminster. However, despite its numerous threats of legal action over the preceding 12 months, and despite the book containing serious corruption allegations against senior named Guardian journalists, neither I nor my publisher have heard a peep from the Guardian since. Nor, incidentally, has the trumpeted new edition of Sleaze ever materialised. I think that both these facts are telling. A few days later the Tatton-based Knutsford Express — a Guardian-owned newspaper which conceals that fact and which for five years has been broadcasting to its unknowing readership a sustained anti-Hamilton pro-Bell campaign on the Guardian‟s behalf — ran a headline story about me based on its parent‟s smear job. This can be found at page 90 of the appendices. Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 23 The following Sunday of 25 October, the BBC NW ran another feature on the book launch, as part of its NorthWestminster programme. This can be located at approx. 1 hour 21 mins from the start of the VHS. However, Granada Television‟s news blackout on our investigation remained intact. That weekend, the Spectator carried an article by Stephen Glover, exposing the Guardian‟s dirty tricks against Keith-Hill and myself, within which he referred to the smear article published in the Guardian. Glover‟s article is reproduced on page 91 of the appendices. Alan Rusbridger and I both wrote responses to the Spectator‟s editor, Frank Johnson, which were published the following week on the letters page. These are reproduced on page 92 of the appendices. It is notable that, in his letter, Rusbridger repeats his disingenuous spin on events, and states: „We openly interviewed Hunt and his helpmate. Hunt, by contrast, distributed his main findings without once speaking to anyone at the Guardian. Mr Glover points out that we did not mention Hunt‟s nomination for a local television award. This is true. Nor did we report the unflattering opinions of his boss at Granada who told us he was a „fucking nutter‟… … The allegation against Tim Smith MP — that he took large sums of cash in return for lobbying — was true and precisely as damaging as the one against Hamilton.‟ Once again Rusbridger (a) implies that I had not bothered to seek interviews with him and his staff, though it was he who refused to accede to my five written requests for interviews; (b) restates a nasty comment about me ascribed to Miss Woodward, in full knowledge of her denial, and (c) seeks to portray that the Guardian‟s original allegation against Smith was true, though he knew it was false. Over the following months, a number of journals published reviews of my book, three of which are reproduced on pages 93, 94-96, and 96 of the appendices. There is also a compilation of quotations on page 97. However, though most national newspapers were provided with copies of my book — many at their own request — not one national newspaper has seen fit to review it or pose the questions that we raise. It seems that the gravity of our findings cause too many difficulties for individual journalists to cope with. However, Trial by Conspiracy did have one important effect. A group of ordinary people, none of whom I would call political activists, read my book and became so outraged at the injustice to Neil Hamilton, they formed a loose alliance which they call the „People of Tatton for Justice‟. They issued news bulletins to the press and wrote letters and provided copies of the book to Members of Parliament. This attracted the interest of the BBC NW‟s Political Editor, Jim Hancock, who contacted its ringleader, David Lonsdale, an airline pilot by profession, to learn more. Subsequently, on Friday, 26 February 1999, BBC Northwest broadcast an item on Northwest Tonight about the „People of Tatton for Justice‟. Granada Television, however, did not reply to any of David Lonsdale‟s circulars, and have never acknowledged his group‟s existence. In March 1999 Neil Hamilton continued with his legal battle to win the right to sue Mohamed Fayed for libel. Fayed was challenging Hamilton on the grounds that Parliament had already decided the matter. Unlike Hamilton‟s first libel action, which was against the Guardian, this time Hamilton had issued a writ against Fayed himself, concerning Fayed‟s repetition of the allegations on a Guardian-Fulcrum Productions co-produced Dispatches programme, broadcast on Channel 4, on 16 January 1997 (i.e. the same day that Sleaze was published, which marked the start of Downey‟s inquiry). I am sure that the Commission is aware that Fulcrum Productions is the same TV production company that Granada Television later commissioned to produce „The Secrets Behind The Crash‟ TV documentary, Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 24 which sought — by juxtaposition, omission, insinuation, and through the testimony of a proven crank, François Levistre — to give credence to Fayed‟s ridiculous allegations and lies concerning the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. This programme‟s single achievement is that it has convinced the Arab World — and the impressionable among the British population — that the royal family organised the assassination of the Princess through the British security services. On 9 March the BBC NW reported Hamilton‟s legal fight on Northwest Tonight, and again five days later on Sunday 14 March, on NorthWestminster. Granada Television remained silent. On 26 March, Neil Hamilton eventually won a ground-breaking ruling by the Court of Appeal that he could take his case to court over the top of Parliament‟s supposed final word on the matter. Lord Woolf, sitting with Lords Justices Hirst and Laws, upheld a ruling by Mr Justice Popplewell in the High Court the previous July. Popplewell had ruled that, although the Standards Committee had found that Hamilton had failed to declare certain interests, it was doubtful whether the committee had found him guilty of taking payments from Fayed. Given that Popplewell‟s ruling had itself been based on the committee‟s failure to agree, which in turn, according to Theresa Gorman MP, had been influenced heavily by our report, it would be fair to claim that Keith-Hill‟s and my work had had a direct bearing on Hamilton‟s historic victory. The BBC NW recognised the significance of the outcome and conducted a live television interview with Neil Hamilton on Northwest Tonight. However, despite its immense significance, as evidenced by the Times‟s description the next day: „A landmark legal ruling‟, Granada Television did not report it. Eight months later, on 15 November, Neil Hamilton‟s libel action began at the High Court in London. However, much of Keith-Hill‟s and my work was not used, as the case focused on the narrow issue of Fayed‟s utterances on Dispatches. Hamilton‟s legal team decided that to involve the Guardian would have expanded the case by three weeks beyond Christmas, which was not an option both in terms of time and legal costs. Most regrettably, few of the anomalies in the late emergence of Fayed‟s employees were aired in court. Even worse, when Hamilton‟s leading counsel, Desmond Browne QC, focused on the improbabilities of the one version that was aired — that of Doug Marvin — and was asked by Mr Justice Morland whether he was suggesting that a conspiracy had taken place, a wrong-footed Browne answered „No‟ — despite having concluded before the trial began, along with his assistant Adrienne Page QC, that the evidence showed that such a conspiracy had indeed taken place. Later in proceedings Browne clarified his position by making clear his view that there had indeed been a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Many people believe that Hamilton‟s action was sunk as a consequence of Fayed‟s performance in the witness box, which seemed to be unusually well prepared. Stephen Glover, for example, reported in the Spectator a few weeks later on 15 January 2000: „I personally thought that the jury would find against Hamilton, having been present in court during the early stages. But some who watched the final ten days thought it would go the other way.‟ The „early stages‟ that Glover referred to consisted entirely of the time that Fayed gave evidence. Fayed‟s evident preparedness, together with supplementary allegations that Hamilton had „demanded‟ £10,000 from Mobil Oil to table an amendment to a Finance Bill, coupled to five years of biased media coverage, tipped the balance in Fayed‟s favour. Just for the record, the allegation that Hamilton „had demanded money from Mobil‟ is demonstrably false. This allegation was based on evidence given by a tax adviser to Mobil, Professor Peter Whiteman QC. Whiteman‟s word was challenged directly by a number of witnesses, including Mobil executives and an independent witness, and by sound documentary evidence. Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 25 However, Whiteman‟s testimony, and the testimony of another Mobil executive named Blumenthal who had relied on what Whiteman had told him, appeared to convince the jury. It seems they saw little significance in the fact that Whiteman also happens to be retained as a tax adviser to Mohamed Fayed, for whom he has worked for the last fourteen years. Hamilton‟s QC was also prevented by the judge from introducing witness statements from three of Neil Hamilton‟s former constituents, and also a former executive of Calor Gas Ltd., which would have annihilated the contention that Neil Hamilton is an avaricious man, as implied by the Mobil allegations. One of these statements came from a Mr Colin Cook, who runs a workshop for disadvantaged children in Sandiway, Cheshire, which was so moving it reduced Adrienne Page QC to tears. The verdict, when it came, was devastating. The jury must have inevitably been influenced by the „Liar versus Liar‟ scenario painted by sections of the Guardian-influenced press — which is just one manifestation of the influence exerted by that newspaper in this affair. And so, the jury went along with Downey‟s perverse judgement, which itself was another manifestation of knuckling-under to the Guardian-led media witch hunt. That evening, I appeared on BBC News 24 to respond to the verdict. My interview (which was preceded by an interview with Fayed‟s spokesman, Laurie Mayer) can be found at approx. 6½ mins from the start of the VHS. Please note that I ended by saying to the news reader: “Now, every juror that went into that court — court 13 — took with him or her five years of media condemnation. Now I put it to you, Liz, that the media has a responsibility to investigate our investigation.” I believe that any journalist untainted by political racism would agree with my sentiments. However, despite my involvement in the Hamilton affair for two and a half years, and despite my association with Granada Television, I never received a call from Granada to speak in Neil Hamilton‟s defence. Later that same evening, Jane Lonsdale of the People of Tatton for Justice, appeared on the BBC‟s Newsnight programme to face Kirsty Wark in defence of Neil Hamilton. However, far from being fazed, Jane had the indomitable Kirsty stumped for words. The clip follows the BBC News 24 item at approx. 10 mins from the start of the VHS. Please note that Jane Lonsdale says, in reply to Kirsty Wark‟s question as to whether the jury was wrong: “Yes, I‟m afraid they were — and I say that on the basis of evidence that was uncovered by two independent journalists — Jonathan Hunt and Malcolm Keith-Hill — which I would challenge you to investigate their information and tell me that they‟re wrong.” However, though this programme was undoubtedly watched by many personnel from Granada Television, I received no call to elaborate on why we conclude that Neil Hamilton was wrongly condemned by the jury. Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 26 The role of World in Action reporter Mark Hollingsworth in Neil Hamilton‟s new legal action I now address the issue of former Granada staff journalist Mark Hollingsworth. On 13 February, 2000, Paul Henderson of the Mail on Sunday revealed that Fayed‟s deft parrying of awkward questions in the witness box had actually been facilitated by a remarkable event. It transpires that a loner called Benjamin Pell, who has a criminal record for stealing legal documents from the waste bins of solicitors‟ offices and barristers‟ chambers, had stolen sacks full of such matter relating to Fayed‟s impending cross-examination (among other things) from the chambers of Neil Hamilton‟s leading counsel, Desmond Browne QC. Pell passed these documents to Hollingsworth, whereupon Hollingsworth sold them to Fayed for £10,000 cash. The Mail on Sunday article can be found on pages 98/99 of the appendices. From the article it can be seen that the receipt of these papers gave Fayed „a steer‟ on how his cross-examination was planned to be conducted, and was fundamental to Fayed learning in advance that Neil Hamilton was not prepared to settle, but instead intended to clear his name in open court. As mentioned earlier, Mark Hollingsworth attended the launch of Trial by Conspiracy alongside David Leigh, and was captured by ITN cameras smiling whilst his Granada colleague hurled abuse and caused disruption. Hollingsworth can hardly claim to be a disinterested opportunist, out to make a quick buck. The fact that he was aware of our investigation demonstrates that his intervention was malicious and that he was out to pervert the course of justice like his fellow journalists and others. Mark Hollingsworth, like Leigh, worked for World in Action. Hollingsworth‟s time with Granada began in 1988, where he soon attained a central role in the production of documentaries such as MPs for Hire, broadcast on 15 January 1990, which suggested that Conservative MPs‟ registered business interests showed that they were driven by greed. No Labour MPs were featured in the programme, though many held outside business interests too. Later that year Hollingsworth published a book of the same name, following similar lines. Like Leigh, Hollingsworth is also a friend and collaborator of US-born Guardian journalist Andrew Roth, who helped Hollingsworth research his MPs for Hire programme and book. Espionage writer Rupert Allason, under his pseudonym Nigel West, revealed recently in his book Venona: The Greatest Secret of the Cold War, that this Andrew Roth is actually the former US naval intelligence officer Lieutenant Andrew Roth. In June 1945 the FBI discovered that Roth had passed a great many secret documents to a Soviet agent named Philip Jaffe, who was the editor of a New York journal called Amerasia. Roth was indicted by the Grand Jury subsequently, but he fled America for England, never to return. The now-disclosed top secret US Government documents damn Roth absolutely. As will be evident from reading Trial by Conspiracy and as I make clear during my address at the book launch, which was captured by the ITN cameras, Keith-Hill and I discovered that it was Andrew Roth‟s mistaken theory about lobbyist Ian Greer‟s convention of granting commission payments to people who introduced new clients to his company — a theory which Granada/Guardian reporter David Leigh then adopted — which lay behind the Guardian‟s publication of its original false story accusing Greer of paying Smith and Hamilton „cash for questions‟. Hollingsworth also co-wrote a political book with Charles Tremayne, the Controller of Granada Television Factual Programmes. The book was titled, The Economic League — The Silent McCarthyism, published in 1989. Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 27 So, given Charles Tremayne‟s joint authorship with Hollingsworth; and given that Tremayne employed Guardian journalists such as Hollingsworth, Leigh, Rusbridger, Harding, and Pallister, all of whom have shown themselves unfit to be in journalism, the Commission will appreciate the significance of Granada‟s three-year-long news blackout on our investigation, and Granada‟s other reporting with respect to Mohamed Fayed‟s and the Guardian‟s allegations against Neil Hamilton. Unless there is draconian action taken by the Commission, which clearly ought to include news monitoring, it is certain that Granada will not report the new legal action of Neil Hamilton faithfully, nor the role of Mark Hollingsworth therein, nor Hollingsworth‟s premeditation as demonstrated by his attendance at the launch of my book alongside his World in Action colleague David Leigh. There is also every prospect that Granada would try to influence ITN, as seems to have happened over the launch of ‘Trial by Conspiracy’ in October 1998. Unless the Commission takes action, it is impossible to envisage Granada reporting Hollingsworth‟s former tie-up with Charles Tremayne and Granada. Nor can one see Granada reporting Hollingsworth‟s alliance with Leigh, nor Leigh‟s alliance with Granada, nor Leigh‟s and Rusbridger‟s role in the „cash for questions‟ affair — especially as Leigh produced the World in Action documentary on former Conservative MP Jonathan Aitken, which won Granada so many plaudits. Even more certainly, there is no possibility of Granada exposing how Luke Harding, who also worked for World in Action, obtained an old lady‟s ex-directory telephone number and conned her into disclosing her son‟s address, so that he could be tracked down in South America and intimidated by a Guardian reporter, simply because her son had helped expose how the Guardian had framed an innocent man. Nor is it plausible to expect Granada to report why it abdicated its obligations under the Broadcasting Act, and how its own Director of Broadcasting ignored the research by one of her former reporters, though this reporter was Granada‟s sole representative for an important television award. It seems equally improbable that Granada would give an account of how its own former reporter was threatened, and then smeared by the Guardian, with comments attributed to Granada‟s Director of Broadcasting. The Commission should also take account of the way Granada Television began reporting this Neil Hamilton affair, before Malcolm Keith-Hill and I became involved ourselves. On the evening of Monday, 7 April 1997, former BBC reporter Martin Bell arrived in the Tatton constituency to begin his election campaign, having announced his decision to stand that morning at the Institute of Civil Engineers, Westminster, in a room that been hired for the occasion by the Labour Party. Bell‟s decision had only been finalised the day before, when he journeyed from London to Knutsford clandestinely to obtain the advance agreement from the Tatton Labour Party and LibDems to stand their respective candidates down. On Wednesday, 8 April, Bell was challenged on Knutsford Heath by Neil and Christine Hamilton. Bell demonstrated that he didn‟t have a clue what the allegations against Hamilton were. This prompted Alan Rusbridger to dispatch David Leigh to Knutsford the following day, after which Bell was fully briefed on Hamilton‟s „wrongdoing‟ charges that the Guardian had concocted. Bell‟s decision to enter the election had not been inspired by noble cause, as he portrayed, but in fact by ignoble self-interest. As Bell himself admitted on Radio 4 on Tuesday, June 13 2000: “I left journalism because I was getting too old and no one wanted me, and so when I was offered something else I jumped at it” (or words to that effect). Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 28 Bell‟s words confirm our own research. Despite his years of journalistic training, Bell had actually entered the election on a whim, against a man who pleaded his innocence, against whom no worthy evidence had been offered except the word of Fayed and three of Fayed‟s employees. Yet, just two days later on April 10 1997, in full knowledge of Hamilton‟s denials of allegations of corruption, dishonesty and wrongdoing (in the context of behaviour unbecoming of an MP), Granada Tonight broadcast an item about a „sleaze-keeping force‟, featuring a reporter patrolling the Tatton constituency in a white ex-UN armoured scout car. Light-hearted though the intention might have been, the piece was highly prejudicial and helped create the impression among the Tatton electorate that Neil Hamilton was indeed guilty of the sleaze that the item implied needed to be kept at bay in the constituency. Incidentally, as if breaching the Broadcasting Act and possibly the Representation of the People Act wasn‟t enough, the piece also involved a breach of the Road Traffic Act, for the vehicle was not taxed and motor-traders‟ plates (number 263 FV) were displayed illegally. It came as no surprise that, when Neil Hamilton lost his libel action against Mohamed Fayed last December, the person Granada turned to for an „independent‟ view on the verdict was Neil Hamilton‟s chief detractor — Martin Bell. For the Commission‟s understanding, I have lobbied Martin Bell a number of times to join me in an examination of the evidence we have uncovered. This included the occasion on Friday, January 23 1998, when Bell held a press conference in Knutsford to answer charges in that morning‟s Mirror that he had benefited from £9,400 of legal advice during the general election. It was stated that this legal advice had been paid for by the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, but that Bell had not declared this as required by law. It is certain that Granada was aware of my appearance at Bell‟s press conference, given that I had handed Bell our report in front of Granada cameras, and in front of my old Granada colleague, reporter Trevor Green. My latest approach was made recently on Fathers‟ Day, Sunday 18 June 2000, when I chanced across him in Great Budworth, Cheshire, where he lives across the street from my parents. Once again I asked him to examine our evidence which proves that Hamilton is the victim of a massive conspiracy. Bell declined and walked off, with the parting comment „I‟m happy being an MP, thank you.‟ A year ago on 7 July 1999, in an effort to pin Martin Bell down, I wrote to him and asked him on what grounds he intervened at the general election. On 12 July Bell replied, but dodged the question. On 17 July I wrote again and repeated my request. On 26 July Bell closed the correspondence with a single sentence. This correspondence can be found at pages 100-106 of the appendices. Bell‟s refusal to answer such a basic question betrays the fact that he actually stood for the Tatton seat without justification. Yet, three years later, Bell has yet to be pressed by Granada — or the BBC for that matter — to give an account of the specific wrongdoing that he claimed Hamilton was guilty of, so it can be tested by the facts and by comparison to other MPs‟ behaviour. Perhaps the person best placed to ask Martin Bell would be his daughter, Melissa, who helped her father oust Hamilton during the election and whom Granada Television enrolled subsequently as a political reporter. Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 29 Conclusion The evidence shows that Granada‟s news blackout on our work has been prompted by its alliance with the Guardian, revealing it to be a similar politically-motivated organisation unworthy of its broadcasting licence. Regardless of whatever spin Granada might care to put on these events, the stark facts cannot be denied. They are, in total, a damning indictment of Granada‟s tenure of its ITV franchise and its attitude to news journalism. It is clear that the shared political beliefs of the Guardian and Granada Television have prompted their suppression of news about our investigation and our findings. Clearly, they believe that their combined massive influence over the British media and politics is unassailable, and that they can bluster their way out of answering for their behaviour and ride roughshod over anyone and anything — such as the truth — that conflicts with their political standpoint. I therefore call on the ITC Commission to respond to this complaint. I also call on the Commission to instigate a full inquiry into the relationship that exists between the Guardian and Granada Television. Such an inquiry would serve notice among Britain‟s independent broadcasters that they may not abuse their power for political ends, such as exhibited by Granada Television in this matter over a sustained period in league with the Guardian. The fact remains, the research undertaken by Malcolm Keith-Hill and myself has been assessed and vindicated by some of the best brains around, and is available to be examined further by any independent experts the Commission may appoint. We have stumbled across and uncovered an audacious, enduring, sprawling criminal conspiracy, perpetrated by the most influential organisation in the British media, the Guardian, and spilling over into the legal profession and Parliament itself. This conspiracy destroyed an honourable and conscientious MP and minister; it also destroyed the successful business of an honourable lobbyist. The whole nation was force-fed a notorious liar‟s lies, and a democratically-elected government — and Parliament itself — was tainted thereby. Meanwhile, the conspirators themselves have continued to prosper in positions of influence in the British media and elsewhere. Granada Television ignored all calls to consider the evidence unearthed by Malcolm Keith-Hill and myself, despite their previous experience of my competence. Instead, Granada was complicit with the Guardian in shunning, patronising, ridiculing, intimidating, and smearing us and our work; with a devotion to the suppression of truth that would have done credit to George Orwell‟s „Thought Police‟. Whether the dark events described in this submission occur again in this country, and whether the British media returns to delivering dispassionate and balanced reporting of political issues, will depend to a great degree on the Commission‟s examination of this complaint. Whatever the ITC‟s response may be, the truth will out for sure, even if it has to wait until future generations have replaced those currently in positions of power and influence. As, indeed, historian Paul Johnson wrote in the Spectator, on 7 November, 1998: „The scandal will not disappear. Hunt‟s [and Keith-Hill‟s] findings are now in print, on the record, and will be read, and studied, and followed up. The truth will continue to smoulder beneath the surface, as in the Dreyfus case, and will one day bust into fearsome flames which will engulf all those who tried to bank them down.‟ Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 30 The Commission should take account of the fact that I have made no complaint about Granada‟s behaviour in this affair previously, though there have been solid grounds for doing so on numerous occasions since Granada‟s first obvious example of news censorship in October 1997. The appendices, videotape, and the attached Summary of Events relating to this complaint, are proof enough of my restraint. Since its first betrayal of its broadcasting licence obligations nearly three years ago, Granada Television‟s bias has become even more demonstrable. However, Granada now has a clear conflict of interest in reporting Neil Hamilton‟s forthcoming legal action, involving as it does one of its former staff reporters, Mark Hollingsworth, who is also proven to be a close associate of Granada‟s Controller of Factual Programmes; and it is this that has compelled me to bring this whole issue to your attention at this juncture. This letter will be posted on my website: www.coverup.net, and together with its appendices & videotape, will be disseminated to those named on the attached following page in three mailshots. I look forward to your considered reply in due course. Meanwhile, I would be happy to respond to any queries you may have and to make myself available for interview. Yours sincerely, Jonathan Boyd Hunt enc: 1. bound appendices 2. summary of events supporting this complaint 3. copy letters to Susan Woodward and Charles Tremayne 4. VHS videotape 5. mailing list to whom this complaint is copied Complaint regarding Granada Television‟s reporting of the Neil Hamilton affair since April 1997 31 c.c. First mailshot 14/07/2000 Board of Granada Television: Ms Susan Woodward, Ms Gail Rook, Mr Charles Allen, Mr Stewart Butterfield, Mr David Croft, Mr Michael Fegan, Mr Simon Shaps, Mrs Brenda Smith; Plus Mr Charles Tremayne. Board of Independent Television News: Mr James Scorer, Mr Roger Gilbert, Mr Michael Green, Mr Grant Murray, Mr Graham Parrott, Mr Henry Staunton, Mr Michael Stewart, Mr Richard Tait, Mr Nigel Walmsley, Mr John Willis, Mr Mark Wood. Board of Telegraph Newspapers: Mr Alan Davies, Mr Adrian Berry, Mr Conrad Black, Mr Peter Buckley, Mr Daniel Colson, The Rt Hon The Viscount Cranborne, The Hon Jeremy Deeds, Sir Evelyn De Rothschild, Mr Rupert Hambro, Mr Henry Keswick, Lord King of Wartnaby, Mr Niamh O'Donnel-Keenan, The Right Hon Lord Rawlinson of Ewell, The Right Hon Lord Carrington, Sir Frank Rogers, Mr Leonard Sanderson, Mr Raymond Seitz. Board of Associated Newspapers: Mr Ian Jackson, Mr Kevin Beatty, Mr John Bird, Mr Paul Dacre, Mr Simon Dyson, Mr Max Hastings, Mr Michael Ironside, Mr Murdoch Maclennan, The Hon Viscount Rothermere, Mr Charles Sinclair, Mr John Williams, Mr Peter Wright, Mr Anthony Zitter. Plus: Geoffrey Robertson QC, Miss Geraldine Proudler, Mr Roger Boulton, Mr Jim Hancock, Mr Adam Boulton, Sir Bernard Ingham, Sir Trevor MacDonald; Professor Patrick Minford, Dr David Starkey.
Pages to are hidden for
"Sue Woodward"Please download to view full document