Hamilton admits taking money

List grows of MPs who received received payments from parliamentary lobbyist
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The Independent Online
Neil Hamilton confirmed last night that he received payments from the parliamentary lobbyist Ian Greer but continued to deny he had done wrong.

After issuing a statement yesterday evening, Mr Hamilton went on BBC2's Newsnight programme to say that the payments he received from Mr Greer had been one of pounds 4,000 and another of pounds 6,000.

He confirmed that when the Guardian made its allegations in October 1994 he assured Mr Heseltine that he did not have any financial relationship with Mr Greer. "It was very fraught . . . The conversation we had was in terms of a kind of retainer relationship or consultancy agreement with Greer to do things in Parliament. I didn't consider I had any financial relationship with Ian Greer," he said.

Last night, as the cash-for-questions controversy spread to senior Labour as well as to Tory members, the list of MPs said to have received payments from Mr Greer was growing.

The Guardian, quoting a document from Conservative Central Office, alleged that pounds 18,000 paid by Mohamed Al Fayed and pounds 11,000 by Dave Allen, of DHL, to Mr Greer was distributed to 21 Conservative Party candidates in the 1987 general election in amounts ranging from pounds 500 to pounds 5,000. Among those who allegedly benefited were Michael Portillo, now the defence secretary, Gerry Malone, health minister, and Sir Michael Hirst, chairman of the Scottish Conservatives.

Lord Tebbit, Baroness Chalker of Wallasey, Sir David Trippier, Colin Moynihan, Norman Lamont and Gerry Malone were among other beneficiaries. There is no suggestion any of the candidates acted illegally.

Sir Michael Grylls, MP for North-West Surrey, received at least three payments for introducing Mr Greer to new clients but had waited several years before declaring them. In April 1989, Sir Michael allowed Mr Greer unprecedented access to a meeting of the committee.

Sir Peter Hordern, MP for Horsham, stuck closely to the Commons rules in declaring in the Members' Interests register that he was a paid consultant to House of Fraser, Mr Fayed's then parent company. Mr Greer formed a group to lobby for Mr Fayed in his long battle against Lonrho and for acceptance by the authorities.

Tim Smith, MP for Beaconsfield, repeatedly used the Commons to ask questions about management consultancy companies used by the Government. The questions were criticised as being of more use to Smith's own consultancies than to his constituents. As soon as he was named as having received cash from Mr Fayed via Mr Greer, he resigned. Mr Smith, 48, recorded payments from Mr Greer in his income tax returns for 1987-89 but never mentioned them in the Members' Interests register.

Andrew Bowden, MP for Brighton Kemptown, was recruited by Mr Greer in 1987 to help in the Fayed campaign, and reportedly paid pounds 5,000 for his lobbying efforts. Mr Bowden yesterday issued an angry denial of the allegations and will not welcome the unfavourable publicity as he prepares to defend a majority of 3,056.

David Mellor, MP for Putney and a former Home Office minister, admits to receiving assistance from Mr Greer, who then lived in Putney, towards his 1987 election expenses.

Doug Hoyle, MP for Warrington North, is likely to be deeply embarrassed by today's revelation of his links to Mr Greer. During the arms-to-Iraq scandal, Mr Hoyle, as a member of the Trade and Industry select committee, was one of the most outspoken critics of government sleaze. He is also regarded in the Commons as pro-Israeli and has campaigned against Arab purchases of British properties and industries.

Michael Brown, MP for Brigg and Cleethorpes, confirmed he was paid in 1987 an introduction fee for introducing US Tobacco to Mr Greer's lobbying company after ministers decided to to close a factory in Scotland owned by the firm. Chris Smith, MP for Islington South and Finsbury, could have done without news of Mr Greer's payment to his election fund emerging as he tries to make his mark at the Labour conference.

Yesterday a spokesman for Mr Greer said the lobbyist liked to pay towards MPs' election costs. The spokesman said he did not dispute a remark attributed to Mr Greer that paying an MP's fighting-fund was a more efficient way of giving money than a cheque made out to the central party machine.

That drew something close to a reprimand from Lord Nolan, the Law Lord who chairs the Committee on Standards in Public Life. He said in a statement: "The continuing accusations and counter accusations in this case are damaging to the reputation of Parliament, and the truth of the matter needs to be properly investigated."