Tory Conference: Hamilton seeks a reason for snub

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The Independent Online
NEIL HAMILTON, the disgraced former Tory MP, demanded an explanation from William Hague yesterday as to why he had been warned he would not be welcome at this week's party conference in Bournemouth.

Mr Hamilton, who lost his seat at Tatton at the last general election to the anti-sleaze candidate Martin Bell, said in a letter that if Mr Hague was prejudging his own legal actions to clear his name, then he was "putting the cart before the horse and pronouncing sentence before trial". Mr Hamilton continues to deny allegations he accepted cash in brown envelopes from Harrods owner Mohamed al-Fayed for asking questions on his behalf in the House of Commons.

Mr Hamilton's outburst followed a statement by the Tory leader that people who had brought bad publicity and, in some cases, some disgrace to the Conservative Party were not going to be playing any part in its affairs in the future. Mr Hague said: "Neil Hamilton is not going to be coming back into a Conservative conference. He's not going to be a Conservative MP in the future."

But Mr Hamilton, who wanted to launch a new book at the conference, insisted in his letter that he was still clearing his name. "I have written to Mr Hague today to seek clarification of these remarks. It could just be that he is saying until I clear my name of Mohamed al-Fayed's allegations I cannot play a full part in the Conservative Party and if so, I understand that.

"But if he is prejudging the outcome of my libel action with Mr Fayed over these allegations he is putting the cart before the horse and pronouncing sentence before the trial," he said.

The book launch has now been postponed for two weeks.

Mr Hamilton added: "I would have thought it would help the Conservative Party to remove the stain of sleaze which this book helps to do, but Mr Hague does not seem to be very interested.

"If he had spoken to me before he had attacked me, he would perhaps have better understood that the issue won't go away and I won't go away before my name is cleared."

The former Trade and Industry Minister has consistently denied Mr Fayed's allegations that he paid him money to act in Parliament on his behalf.

Mr Hamilton also complained that he was never given the chance to question the tycoon under oath when the matter was investigated by Parliament's Standards and Privileges Committee last year.

The Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, Sir Gordon Downey, concluded that there was "compelling" evidence to suggest that Mr Hamilton had taken cash payments from Mr Fayed and had misled the then President of the Board of Trade, Michael Heseltine. A subsequent report by the all-party Standards and Privileges Committee added that Mr Hamilton's conduct had fallen "seriously and persistently" below the standards expected of MPs.