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The BBC's Jane Peel
"Mr Hamilton's biggest financial backers may be forced to pay up"
 real 28k

Lord Portsmouth, Hamilton backer
"Mr Fayed will have to justify why he thinks I should compensate him"
 real 28k

Neil Hamilton
"I literally have nothing left"
 real 28k

Lord Harris, treasurer of Neil Hamilton's fund
"I approached this in an informal and amateur way"
 real 28k

Mohammed al Fayed spokesman, Laurie Mayer
"Lord Portsmouth cannot deny Mohammed's legal right to recover his costs"
 real 28k

Thursday, 23 December, 1999, 18:12 GMT
Hamilton backer to fight cash demand

Hamiltons Neil Hamilton: I could not have done it without my supporters

The maverick peer who backed Neil Hamilton's disastrous libel action against Mohamed al-Fayed says he will fight any attempt to recover more of the outstanding court costs.

Libel Trial
The Earl of Portsmouth was one of the biggest contributors to the fighting fund set up for the disgraced former Tory MP.

The peer, whose family name is Quentin Gerard Carew Wallop, was codenamed "Q" in an attempt to protect his identity.

Mr al-Fayed, the owner of Harrods, has vowed to recover his one million pounds in legal costs from Mr Hamilton and his supporters.

Lord Portsmouth Defiant: Lord Portsmouth
Mr Hamilton has more than a million pounds worth of costs of his own to meet as well, while his assets - including two homes - are thought not to exceed 1m.

In an interview with the BBC, Lord Portsmouth said: "I shall be vigorously resisting any attempt by Mr al-Fayed to take my cash.

"If he wants me to contribute towards his costs, he will have to take me to court and if he does that I shall attempt to procure that he and his legal team come to court to explain certain things to the judge.

"Mr Hamilton had to fight all the way simply to establish his right to put his case before a jury" he continued.

Determined: Mohamed al-Fayed
"Mr Fayed spent, I believe, something like three quarters of a million pounds and delayed the case by 18 months in what looks suspiciously like an effort to avoid appearing in court before a jury."

Lord Portsmouth criticised the government's plans to consider banning fighting funds like that enjoyed by Mr Hamilton.

He said: "That would be a very bad development. It would result in people being shut off from access to justice."

Fighting fund review

The government's move was decided before Mr Hamilton took his doomed libel action.

A minister in the Lord Chancellor's department, David Lock told the BBC a consultation paper would be issued in the New Year to look at ways of preventing the use of fighting funds to drive up the costs of libel actions.

Mr Lock said: "We are concerned to look at those who fund others to bring libel proceedings and the extent to which they should be responsible for the financial consequences of their own actions."

Many other issues would be examined he said, including, "the problem of wealthy people who start proceedings in order to stifle legitimate criticism of their activities."


The trial judge ordered that the names of those who contributed more than 5,000 must be passed to Mr al-Fayed's lawyers within 28 days.

Mr al-Fayed said he would "punish" his opponents' backers by forcing them to pay any costs Mr Hamilton is unable to meet, as the law allows.

Mr Hamilton said: "I put everything I had in the world on the line to fund this legal action and I couldn't have done it without the additional support that I had from hundreds and hundreds of individuals, many of them of very modest means who thought they were fighting for a principle of justice."

"I personally will have literally nothing left."

5 notes

However, the fund's organiser, Lord Harris of High Cross, said he would not be able to provide a full list of those who gave money.

He said the "informal and amateur way" he had raised about 500,000 would make this impossible.

"Money came in, 500 responses up and down the country but the amounts varied from postal orders or even 5 notes to thousands of pounds," said Lord Harris.

"The majority of people did not want their names to be involved and they contributed in confidence and I don't see how it would be honourable for me to start trying to recollect the names and the amounts they gave me.

"My records are extremely scrappy and I would not be able to assemble an accurate list."

About 40 Conservative MPs are believed to have given money to Mr Hamilton's fund.

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See also:
23 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
The odd couple behind the odd couple
22 Dec 99 |  UK
Hamilton 'brought it on himself'
22 Dec 99 |  UK
The undoing of Neil Hamilton
22 Dec 99 |  UK
Q&A: Legal options left to Hamilton and al-Fayed
22 Dec 99 |  UK
Hamilton's 1m hang-up
22 Dec 99 |  UK
Al-Fayed - no longer 'by appointment'?

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