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Wednesday, 8 December, 1999, 18:54 GMT
Hamilton drops 'ruined career' claim
Neil and Christine Hamilton outside the High Court Neil and Christine Hamilton outside the High Court

Former Tory MP Neil Hamilton has abandoned his claim that he could have won promotion to the shadow cabinet were it not for the "lies" told by Harrod's boss Mohammed al-Fayed.

Libel Trial
Mr Hamilton abandoned his claim for damages for loss of a frontbench parliamentary career under cross-examination by George Carman QC, counsel for the Harrod's boss.

Mr Carman asked the former MP for Tatton whether he was seriously asking for such damages in the light of a 1997 parliamentary standards committee report which found his conduct "fell seriously and persistently below" the standards expected.

The committee said the list of interests which Mr Hamilton had not registered "adds up to a casualness bordering on indifference or contempt towards the rules of the House on disclosure of interests", the court heard.

I'm very happy to exclude from the damages any possibility of being a front bench spokesman in the House of Commons
Neil Hamilton
Pressed by Mr Carman the one-time minister for corporate affairs conceded: "I'm very happy to exclude from the damages any possibility of being a front bench spokesman in the House of Commons.

"I'm quite happy to abandon that specific point."

Mr Hamilton is suing Mr al-Fayed for claiming that he corruptly demanded and took cash, gift vouchers and a free holiday at the Paris Ritz in return for asking questions on behalf of Harrods in 1997.

The Harrods owner denies libel and pleads justification.

The committee had concluded that, had Mr Hamilton still been a member of the House after the General Election it would have recommended a "substantial period of suspension".

Mr Carman described the findings as "grave".

Error of judgement

Earlier in the hearing Mr Hamilton admitted he had made an "error of judgement" in not reporting his trip to the Paris Ritz - paid for by Mr al-Fayed - to the parliamentary committee.

Mr al-Fayed pleads justification
But he told the court: "No-one else, to my knowledge, had registered hospitality of that kind and there had been several invitees who been invited to Paris and were flown out and they didn't register that either."

Asked by his counsel Mr Desmond Browne QC if he had regarded The Ritz hospitality as linked to his parliamentary activities, Mr Hamilton said: "Well no, not at all."

He added that "it wasn't a deliberate attempt to conceal or to pull the wool over the eyes of my parliamentary colleagues."

'Unsolicited gifts'

Mr Hamilton told the libel trial that he was "pressed" with gifts by Mr al-Fayed.

The Harrod's boss gave him "unsolicited" gifts such as such as two 100 Christmas hampers, ties and teddy bears, he said.

But these gifts were, he felt, in no way related to his parliamentary activities, he told the court.

He said he had given the Harrod's owner gifts in return, including a House of Commons coffee service, cufflinks, whisky and brandy.

"All members of parliament receive unsolicited gifts of a relatively modest nature at Christmas as indeed do people in many walks of life, particularly in the business world," said Mr Hamilton.

Mr Hamilton described Mr al-Fayed's allegations as a "pack of lies".

The case continues.

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See also:
06 Dec 99 |  UK
Hamilton 'asked firm for cash'
29 Nov 99 |  UK
Hamilton took 'wodge' of cash
26 Nov 99 |  UK
Al-Fayed cries in court
25 Nov 99 |  UK
Al-Fayed's fury over cash withdrawal questions
03 Dec 99 |  UK
Hamiltons' '2000 Ritz extras'
30 Nov 99 |  UK
Al-Fayed's ex-secretary 'not lying'
07 Dec 99 |  UK
Hamilton attacks 'pack of lies'
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