Labour MPs also took cash from lobbyist

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The Independent Online
Two leading Labour politicians, one of them a Shadow Cabinet member, are among 25 MPs to have received financial assistance from Ian Greer, the controversial Westminster lobbyist at the centre of the cash-for- questions affair.

Chris Smith, Labour's Health spokesman, and Doug Hoyle, Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, both confirmed to The Independent yesterday that they had received money from Mr Greer to help with general-election expenses. Mr Hoyle served on the Committee of Privileges looking into the allegations about Mr Hamilton's failure to declare hospitality from Mohamed al Fayed, a client of Mr Greer.

News of the payments to the two men's fighting funds will knock a serious dent in Labour's plans to make political capital from the collapse of the libel case brought by Neil Hamilton, the former Tory minister, and Mr Greer, over cash for questions.

John Major now faces the heavy embarrassment of the re-opening of the entire cash-for-questions scandal. Last night it was alleged that 21 Conservative Party figures including members of the House of Commons and the Lords were the beneficiaries of donations from Mr Greer. Alan Beith, the Liberal Democrats' deputy leader, is also alleged to have received help from Mr Greer.

Mr Major yesterday faced renewed demands for his full co-operation with a parliamentary investigation into the increasingly controversial affair.

Labour immediately called for an adjournment debate when MPs return to Westminster. In his speech yesterday, Tony Blair seized on the affair. "The Tories changed the law to let Mr Hamilton put his case," he said. "We will change the law to make the Tories clean up their act. To coin a phrase, we will be tough on sleaze and tough on the causes of sleaze." Mr Blair promised to ask the Nolan Committee on standards in public life "to investigate political funding".

Until The Independent contacted them yesterday, neither Mr Smith nor Mr Hoyle's involvement with Mr Greer had been made public. Several senior Tories, including two government ministers, are also understood to have received contributions to their election expenses from Mr Greer.

So far, only David Mellor, the former minister and MP for Putney, has admitted to taking the cash. At that time, Mr Greer was a constituent of Mr Mellor's. There is no such constituency connection between Mr Greer and the Labour MPs.

Mr Smith said the lobbyist sent a cheque for pounds 200 during the last general election in 1992. "Ian Greer made a donation of pounds 200 to my election campaign fund at the last election. I accepted it in the normal way, as a donation to my campaign."

Asked if he knew Mr Greer, the shadow minister replied: "Not particularly." After receiving the money, said Mr Smith, "I phoned him and said "thanks very much'." Mr Smith stressed that Mr Greer had received nothing in return.

Mr Hoyle, chairman of the influential PLP since 1992 - he is up for election this autumn - was twice paid pounds 500 to his election fund to help him win two general-election campaigns.

In the 1987 and 1992 campaigns, Mr Hoyle, the MP for Warrington, was sent pounds 500, unsolicited, by Mr Greer. "I've never asked Ian Greer for a donation," said Mr Hoyle, adding, "it was very welcome to my agent because we're not exactly awash with money."

Dossier of claims, page 2

Andrew Marr, page 15

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