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Monday, October 19, 1998 Published at 08:13 GMT 09:13 UK

UK Politics: Talking Politics

Sir Gordon Downey's report

Sir Gordon Downey: Received a written denial from Neil Hamilton

In his report published in July 1997, Sir Gordon Downey cleared Neil Hamilton of charges he took money indirectly from the lobbyist Ian Greer and received free Harrods gift vouchers directly from Mohamed al-Fayed.

But Sir Gordon's 900-page report concluded there was "compelling" evidence Mr Hamilton received cash payments of between £18,000 and £25,000 in brown envelopes at face-to-face meetings.

The former MP submitted a written denial to Standards and Privileges Committee, claiming he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice and Sir Gordon Downey's procedures did not constitute a fair trial.

The committee agreed to Mr Hamilton's request to hear his evidence under oath.

'Miscarriage of justice'

At the meeting of the Commons standards committee the former barrister announced he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice like the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four.

Having taken the oath, Mr Hamilton cast doubts on the credibility of Mr al-Fayed, the honesty of his long serving employees and the integrity of Sir Gordon Downey.

[ image: Neil Hamilton: Annoyed]
Neil Hamilton: Annoyed
What irked Mr Hamilton was that the testimony by Mr al-Fayed had been thrown out when he accused Michael Howard, the then home secretary, of taking bribes as a junior minister but he was believed when he made claims against Mr Hamilton.

The former MP said the inquiry had relied on claims from Mr al-Fayed and his employees who he termed "inveterate liars".

The Harrods boss had wanted ministerial scalps following the 1990 Department of Trade and Industry report into his battle for the prestigious store.

He accused Mr al-Fayed and a member of his staff accessing the safe deposit box of rival businessman Tiny Rowland and photocopying documents - claims which Harrods rejected.

Later, at a press conference, Mr Hamilton produced tapes supplied by Mr Rowland of phone conversations between Mr al-Fayed and the tycoon which showed how the Harrods boss had wanted help from Mr Rowland to expose others who had taken cash. Reporters who had gathered to listen to the tape also heard how the Harrods boss had fathered 200 illegitimate children.

But instead MPs upheld the report compiled by Sir Gordon over six months to make their final judgement on Mr Hamilton.

The committee failed to decide whether he was guilty of taking cash in brown paper envelopes from Mr al-Fayed, instead finding he was culpable of a series of breaches of parliamentary rules.

The committee found "there can be no absolute proof that such payments were, or were not, made".

If the disgraced former minister had not lost his seat then the committee would have recommend a substantial period of suspension from the service of the House, the report declared.

Mr Hamilton was guilty of conduct that fell below the standard required of MPs.

He was censured over his failure to disclose payments from lobbyists, his free holiday at Mr al-Fayed's Paris Ritz hotel and for "deliberately misleading" Michael Heseltine to keep his job.

Upholding, sir Gordon's findings, the report said:

  • Mr Hamilton's stay at the Ritz Hotel in Paris should have been registered and Mr Hamilton must have known it should have been.

  • Detailed evidence came to light of a relationship between Mr Hamilton, Mr Fayed and campaign managed by Ian Greer Associated - a business relationship which Mr Hamilton advocated Mr Fayed's cause.

  • Mr Hamilton deliberately misled Mr Heseltine, then President of the Board of Trade, over his relationship with Mr Greer.

  • Mr Hamilton failed to declare interests when dealing with ministers and officials.

  • The former MP for Tatton failed to register his interests on a number of occasions, including a visit to Mr Fayed's Highland castle, a £4,000 consultancy fee from National Nuclear Corporation and a £6,000 introduction fee from Ian Greer Associates in 1986.

Mr Hamilton accepted he had been found guilty of "errors of interpretation" over the rules on declaring payments.

But on the charge of cash for questions corruption, he said: "It's the difference between murder and a parking offence."

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