A former Conservative cabinet minister intervened last night to block plans to give the independent anti-sleaze MP Martin Bell a seat on the committee which investigated the cash-for-questions affair.
The former Agriculture Secretary Douglas Hogg shouted "object!" as a motion on the move was put up for approval without a vote. He stressed he had no personal objection to Mr Bell, who beat Neil Hamilton in the general election after a contest based on claims that the former MP had taken cash for questions.
Mr Hogg's move appears to have been designed to reopen the debate over whether Mr Hamilton was guilty. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Sir Gordon Downey, found "compelling" evidence that he had taken the money but the former MP has consistently protested his innocence. There was widespread anger over the committee's decision not to give him a right of appeal.
If the move to appoint Mr Bell is blocked repeatedly, the Government may be forced to provide time for a Parliamentary debate.
Mr Bell said later that he had "no problem" with the objection and that Mr Hogg had earlier left him a message, warning of his intentions. "He made it clear it's nothing personal, and I appreciate that," he said.
- Fran AbramsReuse content