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
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine