Battle of the tycoons that led to saga of disgrace grace

It started in Mohamed al Fayed's sumptuous office in Harrods and by last night was stalling the start of the Conservative offensive in the election campaign.

The battle between Mr Fayed and Lonrho's Tiny Rowland for the Knightsbridge store led to lobbyist Ian Greer dispensing money to some 40 MPs and candidates, mainly Tory, as Mr Fayed sought political support in the Commons.

Flush with Mr Fayed's cash, Mr Greer paid for questions to be asked in Parliament, and meetings to be arranged with ministers.

Sir Michael Grylls, the Tory MP with whom he had a longstanding relationship, received at least pounds 86,000 in payments from Mr Greer. Other Tory MPs who received cash include Neil Hamilton, who now admits having received pounds 10,000 from Mr Greer without declaring it; Tim Smith, MP for Beaconsfield, who resigned as Northern Ireland minister when it emerged he had accepted cash to ask questions for Mr Fayed (sum later estimated at between pounds 18,000 and pounds 25,000); Sir Andrew Bowden, MP for Brighton Kemptown who admits that he received election expenses of pounds 5,319 which were not declared on his election return or with the register of members' interests; and Michael Brown, MP for Cleethorpes, who admits receiving pounds 6,000 from Mr Greer to lobby for a manufacturer of tobacco chewing gum and not declaring it on the register.

Five other Tories are still under investigation by Sir Gordon Downey but Sir Gordon has stressed that this does not imply that there is any substance to the allegations against them. They are: Sir Peter Hordern, who is standing down, Lady Olga Maitland, Norman Lamont, Gerry Malone and Nirj Deva.

Mr Fayed also wanted to be a British citizen, but was being blocked. He couldn't understand why all the money he had paid out had not reaped any benefits. Back home in Egypt, he would have got anything done for that kind of money. Eventually, he began to tell his tales to journalists.

In September 1994, he summoned Brian Hitchen, editor of the Sunday Express to his office and told him the tales of cash for questions and other allegations against MPs. He specifically named Neil Hamilton and Tim Smith.

Mr Hitchen alerted John Major to the allegations, and the Prime Minister set up an inquiry headed by Sir Robin Butler, the Cabinet Secretary. While many of Mr Fayed's allegations may have proved unfounded, his scattergun approach hit a few targets and led to the libel case which was to expose the murky relationship between MPs and lobbyists to the public gaze.

Five days before Sir Robin Butler's inquiry was published, towards the end of October, the Guardian ran a story about cash for questions involving Mr Smith and Mr Hamilton. Mr Smith held up his hands and went quickly, but Mr Hamilton demurred, and only eventually resigned because, according to Mr Major, there were other allegations to be investigated.

Mr Hamilton and Mr Greer launched a libel campaign against the Guardian that was to prove their undoing. Days before it was due to reach court in October 1996, first Mr Greer, then Mr Hamilton pulled out.

The focus turned to Sir Gordon Downey, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, whose post had been created as a result of the Nolan Committee, itself set up as a result of Mr Fayed's allegations. Sir Gordon began an inquiry which he was to have presented to the Standards and Privileges Committee, another Nolan innovation.

Sir Gordon amassed another set of documents and was expecting to present his findings to the committee next Tuesday. But the unexplained 19-day gap between the prorogation (the suspension of activity) and the dissolution of Parliament on 8 April meant that the committee had no chance to deliberate on it before the election.

As a result of that, the documents were leaked yesterday - sparking off another round in the saga that started because Mr Fayed got the better of Mr Rowland in the Harrods takeover battle.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable