`Devious' Hamilton lied to Heseltine and Chief Whip, says Fayed lawyer

NEIL HAMILTON was a "devious liar who weaved a web of obscurity ... and threw dust in the eyes of those who seek to find out the real truth", the jury at his libel action were told yesterday.

The first full day of cross-examination of the former MP for Tatton by George Carman, QC for Mohamed Al Fayed, in the High Court was heavy with tension and acrimony, both men clashing repeatedly.

Mr Carman accused the former Tory minister for Corporate Affairs of lying to the then Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine, Cabinet Secretary Sir Robin Butler, and Conservative Chief Whip Richard Ryder. He was also accused of misleading the Commons, of financial deceit, and of greed during his stay at the Paris Ritz Hotel in 1987.

Mr Hamilton said he objected to the word "greedy". On the Ritz visit, he and his wife Christine ran up bills of pounds 3,570 in six nights. He admitted: "I think we went over the top a bit" and now felt "an element of shame".

Mr Hamilton is suing Mr Al Fayed over claims that he had corruptly demanded and accepted cash payments, gift vouchers and a free holiday at The Ritz in return for asking parliamentary questions on behalf of Harrods. Mr Al Fayed, who made the allegations in a Channel 4 Dispatches programme in 1997, denies libel and has pleaded justification.

Mr Carman said Mr Hamilton had specifically and categorically denied to the inquiry by Parliamentary Commissioner, Sir Gordon Downey, that he had vintage champagne in the Ritz visit. But the couple tended to have two bottles every evening - Perrier-Jouet, Pol Roger, Roederer and Bollinger - said the QC.

Mr Carman asked: "Looking back at what you and your wife spent there on a nightly basis, is it unfair to say you were somewhat greedy?" Mr Hamilton said: "Well, obviously I don't like the use of the word "greedy" in this context but we certainly enjoyed very lavish hospitality and a very lavish time. I know this can be presented in a way which is very embarrassing to me but after what we have been through in recent years, one thing you do learn is perhaps a little more humility than you had before."

Mr Carman asked what "humility had to do with greed"? Mr Hamilton said: "I don't think that "greedy" even now is a word I would attach, but I think we went over the top a bit." He and his wife were not proud of the "depredations" into the food and wine at the hotel and agreed he felt "an element of shame".

Earlier Mr Hamilton was accused of taking part in an "elaborate charade" to avoid paying taxes on a commission from lobbyist Ian Greer. The former MP had been offered pounds 4,000 by Mr Greer for introducing his company to the National Nuclear Corporation.

The court was told Mr Hamilton bought a pounds 700 painting, garden furniture worth pounds 959.95 and air fares to New Orleans for himself and his wife, charging the pounds 1,594 total to Mr Greer's firm. Mr Carman said: "You were trying in your mind to avoid that income tax by using this charade to cause him to buy goods for you." Mr Hamilton said: "It wasn't a charade. If it is within the law, I can't see what is improper about it."

In later exchanges Mr Hamilton said: "It is because I was ultra scrupulous that I am in this pickle today." And if he had been corrupt: "I could have had cash by the Harrods' vanload ... and gone to a tax haven.

"But I put my public duty and the Government's image before any possibility of private profit. The reason I'm here today is not because I was corrupt as a minister but because I wasn't."

Acid exchanges continued. At one point Mr Carman asked: "Do you avoid paying attention to anything you find disagreeable?" Mr Hamilton said: "No, I'm playing close attention to you, Mr Carman ... that was just a joke Mr Carman." The QC said: "Not a bad joke."

The case continues.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
TVSPOILER ALERT: It's all coming together as series returns to form
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine