Hamilton forced out after fresh allegations

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The Independent Online
Neil Hamilton bowed to intense pressure by resigning yesterday, only a few hours after issuing a defiant statement of his determination to stay in ofice while mounting a libel action to clear his name.

He was summoned back to London by telephone in the midst of a ministerial tour of Sussex, and just before he was due to arrive to address the Sussex Chamber of Commerce at the Ramada Hotel at Gatwick airport.

Mr Hamilton, a prominent figure on the hard right-wing of the party, was confronted with a series of allegations unconnected with the original ones that had led to his investigation by Sir Robin Butler.

John Major told the Commons: 'I must consider whether the combined impact of these allegations disables Mr Hamilton from carrying out his responsibilities as Minister of Corporate Affairs. I believe they do and Mr Hamilton agrees and has resigned from the Government.'

In a letter of resignation finally released at 9pm yesterday, Mr Hamilton observed the usual courtesies but added: 'I think it is sad and deeply disturbing that I have been forced to leave office because of foully motivated rumour and a media witch-hunt.' Both the letter and Mr Major's reply confirm that Mr Major - who did not see Mr Hamilton personally - had asked for his resignation.

Mr Hamilton was confronted with a list of allegations when he was hastily called to meet the Chief Whip, Richard Ryder, and Michael Heseltine, the President of the Board of Trade. One friend said there were only two new allegations. One concerned oil interests which he had declared in the Register of Members' Interests. The second was not described in enough detail for him to be able to respond. 'They were just out to get him,' said a close friend. The register for the year ending January 1990 shows that Mr Hamilton was then a taxation consultant to Mobil Oil plc.

Mr Hamilton had earlier issued a statement comparing his fight to clear his name with John Mr Major's libel action over allegations made by Scallywag magazine about an affair. He admitted that 'with hindsight' his stay at the Ritz in Paris should have been put in the Register of Members' Interests, but added: 'There is no reason whatsoever why a Minister of the Crown should not remain in office whilst undertaking libel proceedings. The Prime Minister did just that - and quite rightly so.'

Mr Hamilton's friend said Mr Hamilton had not personally authorised the statement and it should not have been a pretext for his sacking.