Al-Fayed to testify on Aitken

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The Independent Online
COLIN BROWN

Mohamed Al-Fayed was last night called by a cross-party Commons select committee to give evidence over his allegations about the payment of a bill for Jonathan Aitken, the former minister, to stay at the Ritz, Paris.

Mr Fayed's allegations about payments and gifts to Tory MPs led to the resignation of a string of ministers and the establishment of the Nolan committee into standards in public life.

Mr Aitken, who has not been called by the committee to give evidence, resigned as Chief Secretary to the Treasury last week to fight a libel action over the allegations. The decision by the Commons Select Committee on Privileges to call Mr Fayed could revive the "sleaze" row.

Mr Fayed, the chairman of Harrods and owner of the Paris Ritz, has a dossier of information which he is keen to make available to MPs.

Labour MPs were expected to be unable to persuade Tory MPs, who have a majority on the committee, to call Mr Fayed, because of the damage it could cause. The committee's inquiry was given a narrow remit to investigate a false fax, known as the "cod fax" sent by the Guardian to the Ritz to gain confirmation about who had paid Mr Aitken's bill.

A statement issued by Tony Newton, the Leader of the House, who chairs the committee, made it clear the Tories will seek to limit Mr Fayed to giving evidence about the "cod fax".

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