Galloway facing 18-day Commons suspension

GEORGE Galloway, the Respect MP, faces suspension from parliament for 18 days after an inquiry by its standards watchdog chronicled his charity's links to Saddam Hussein's regime.

Following a lengthy investigation, the standards and privileges committee censured Mr Galloway for damaging parliament's reputation over links to the Mariam Appeal, an Iraq children's charity.

Mr Galloway was also criticised for failing to register an interest and "excessive" use of taxpayer-funded facilities for the cause.

The committee also said he should be heavily punished for concealing funding from Saddam Hussein's former regime and for unjustified attacks on the inquiry itself.

The report came at the end of a detailed investigation into the Mariam Appeal by Sir Philip Mawer, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

While there was no evidence showing Mr Galloway had profited from Saddam Hussein's regime, Sir Philip said; at best, he had "turned a blind eye" to where money was coming from for his Mariam Appeal, which was found to have been partly funded by the UN Oil for Food Programme.

Although Mr Galloway had insisted he had no idea where his major donors obtained their money, Sir Philip found the MP was probably "complicit" in concealing the true source of his funds.

The suspension will also be implemented for his "calling into question" the integrity of standards watchdogs. The committee has recommended Mr Galloway be suspended for 18 days from 8 October after the summer recess, but this must be approved in a vote by MPs.

Mr Galloway hit out at the report, insisting he had been punished for his "robust" defence by "a jury of my political enemies".

As part of his investigation, Sir Philip also published a memo documenting a meeting in August 2002 between Saddam and Mr Galloway. It showed the then-Iraqi president telling Mr Galloway "we are on the same wavelength" about Britain's role in the looming war.

Mr Galloway ended the meeting by saying: "We are now suffering from the problem of the price of oil, which has resulted in a reduction in our income and delay in receiving our dues."

Sir Philip said he had no reason to believe the memo was anything other than authentic. He also commissioned an independent forensic analyst to examine documents at the centre of a successful libel trial by Mr Galloway, and these were also found to be "authentic" by experts.

Sir Philip said: "The existence of the appeal, with resources eventually of 1.4 million, was a substantial material benefit to Mr Galloway in achieving his political objectives."

Mr Galloway pointed out that Sir Philip had not found he profited from the programme personally, adding: I will not allow people to make false allegations against me. If you aim low blows at me I will fight back. That's what I've done and that's what I've been suspended for."

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