Hands versus The Hook: the MP and Hamza's wife

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The Independent Online

Abu Hamza yesterday moved a step nearer the departure lounge for Extradition Airways. His disappearance to the United States to face terrorism-related charges might solve one niggling headache for the Home Office, but the hookman continues to upset our elected representatives.

The MP for Hammersmith and Fulham, Greg Hands, objects to Hamza's family living at taxpayers' expense while the cleric sits (for now, at least) atop a supposed fortune made by Del Boy-esque property trading.

Hands says that Hamza's wife, Nagat, and (some of) his eight children still live on benefits in a five-bedroom council house in Acton, west London, and will be able to continue to do so regardless of any "foreign holidays" Dad might take. Interestingly, the health minister Ben Bradshaw lives on the road, and Business Secretary John Hutton was the Hamzas' next-door neighbour until he sold up this summer. (Hutton called Abu "my mate" via gritted teeth, insisting: "They're a perfectly charming, polite family.")

"The house is in the wife's name," says Hands, left. "I can't imagine she will give it up easily since she knows she is on to a good thing.

"Benefits should not be paid to people with significant assets. The whole family should be investigated."

Judges have ordered Hamza to pay back his £1.1m legal aid. "We're in the process of enforcing a Recovery of Defence Costs Order," says a Legal Services Commission spokesman. "Early days – but we have a restraining order on a property he's linked to in Greenford."

* Someone please lend James Nesbitt a pair of fingerless gloves. The actor currently has to spend his evenings in east London on the bitterly cold set of Midnight Man, a three-hour political thriller for ITV.

He plays a muck-raking showbiz journalist who, while rummaging through dustbins, stumbles across a brutal neo-conservative political conspiracy related to the "war on terror" [sic].

"I play an investigative journalist who has phengophobia – an irrational fear of daylight," explains Nesbitt. "So I'm spending nights on the street, freezing my bollocks off."

Nesbitt spoke at a lavish and intimate dinner in Hennessy's Belgravia ballroom in honour of his friend James Lawton, the chief sports writer for The Independent.

Sir Bobby Charlton led the toasts. The World Cup winner thanked Lawton for his help with his new autobiography My Manchester United Years, which is favourite to win the £18,000 William Hill Book of the Year gong in 10 days.

* While down on two knees at 2am exploring the carpet of the Groucho Club, Pandora bumped skulls with actor-comedian Alexander Armstrong. He was carrying two beige folders.

Pandora: What's in those files?

Xander Armstrong: "Details for the house where we are going to spend the rest of our lives."

Pandora: That's a bit presumptuous.

Xander: "Me and my wife, I mean. It's in Northumberland, a fantastic, spectacular place. That's where the Armstrongs come from. It's a big house, somewhere to bring up the kids." (He has one child – note to Mrs Armstrong.)

As for his Have I Got News For You and Armstrong and Miller projects, he adds, astutely: "The problem we have is how to work in London and live in the North."

* Harriet Harman faces a rival Queen Bee when she hosts her Christmas party in London's Sound club next month. On the same night, Liz Hurley also throws a bash at the Leicester Square hotspot, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Chicago in the West End. Guests include Andrew Lloyd Webber and ex-cast members Nigel Planer and Denise Van Outen.

* A hat-tip to the Jewish Chronicle for arming English football fans with Hebrew chants for tomorrow's pivotal Israel/Russia match. "Yallah, Yisrael!" (Come on, Israel!), "Echad-efes labanim haYisraelim" (1-0 to the Israeli boys) and "Mi achal et kol hapashtidot?" (Who ate all the pies?) should help you shout at the telly.

* David Walliams appears to be working on a great new character for his American follow-up show to the cult comedy Little Britain. On Wednesday night, the actor rocked up to a charity cocktail party for the Elton John Aids Foundation, hosted by Grey Goose Vodka, and appeared in character as a puffed-up prima donna.

"No, I am not doing any interviews tonight," Walliams declared, after posing at length for several dozen paparazzi, when one partygoer approached to say hello. He found something extremely interesting to stare at in the corner of the ceiling: "I am not speaking. I am not speaking to you. I am here to relax."

Brilliant. Can't wait to see it transfer to the screen.