The Hamilton Affair: How a Tory minister enjoyed the good life at the Ritz, received cash for questions, fought to clear his name and finally fell from grace

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1985 to 1989

Neil Hamilton is one of four MPs assembled by lobbyist Ian Greer (right) to ask questions in Parliament on behalf of Mr Fayed to help him in his ongoing feud with Tiny Rowland. In that period he tables 10 questions, is involved in eight early day motions and leads two delegations to Secretary of State and has 30 meetings with Fayed and Greer.

September 1987

Mr Hamilton and his wife, Christine, spend six luxurious days at the Fayed-owned Paris Ritz - with the bill paid for by Mr Fayed. Their "extras" bill alone costs pounds 3,238 at today's prices as they enjoy four-course meals and bottles of champagne.

June 1989

Mr Hamilton demands pounds 10,000 from Mobil Oil for Commons questions he asked in relation to clauses in a Finance Bill.

20 October 1994 The "Cash for Questions" row, including allegations made by Mr Fayed that Mr Hamilton demanded envelopes of money, is revealed by The Guardian after the then editor Peter Preston is tipped off by Mr Fayed. The Harrods owner claimed he did not know paying MPs to ask questions on their behalf constituted a bribe.

21 October Mr Hamilton meets with Michael Heseltine, the deputy Prime Minister and President of the Board of Trade, and denies the allegations. Tim Smith, the Northern Ireland minister also named in the story, resigns his position and apologises.

25 October Mr Hamilton (left) resigns as Minister of Corporate Affairs.

17 January 1995 The Nolan Committee set up to investigate parliamentary sleaze meets for the first time.

Mr Hamilton and Mr Greer announce plans to sue The Guardian.

30 September 1996 Libel action is dropped just hours before case is due to start. Mr Hamilton claims he cannot fund the action.

January 1997 Channel 4 Dispatches programme repeats the Guardian allegations about cash for questions.

May 1997 Mr Hamilton loses his parliamentary seat of Tatton to independent Martin Bell (below), the former BBC reporter and white-suited crusader against sleaze.

July 1997 Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Sir Gordon Downey, (right) concludes that evidence that Hamilton accepted payments was "compelling".

November 1997 Committee says it is satisfied Downey carried out a thorough inquiry. Commons debates and approves report.

16 November 1999 Hamilton's libel action against Fayed starts in Court 13 at the High Court in London.

21 December 1999 Hamilton loses action

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