Hamilton to escape penalty over Ritz

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Indy Politics
BY DONALD MACINTYRE

Political Editor

A Commons select committee hit by a walk-out of its Labour members is expected to recommend that Neil Hamilton, the former trade minister, should not face any penalty for his Ritz Hotel stay in Paris, despite finding that he was wrong not to register it.

The Members' Interest Committee decided last night to complete its report on the hotel stay after Labour members had boycotted the meeting in protest at the Tory majority's refusal to consider further allegations against Mr Hamilton in the same inquiry.

The report will say that although there was an argument that at the time of the pounds 4,000 stay in 1987 the rules might not have required registration, the committee had decided that he should have done so. Mr Hamilton had admitted in correspondence with the committee his omission.

Labour members had argued that the committee should have also considered further allegations - denied by Mr Hamilton - that he had accepted vouchers from Mohamed al-Fayed, the proprietor of Harrods and the Ritz.

Tory members said last night that the committee would now be considering complaints about a Concorde flight taken by Tony Blair on an all-party trip to the US in 1986.

Meanwhile, Labour was last night locked in delicate negotiations with the Government on the remit and composition of a new Commons select committee with the aim of ensuring that it produces clear proposals for implementing the Nolan proposals for regulating the behaviour of MPs.

Prospects for a deal today on a new committee of up to 10 members, chaired by Tony Newton, the Leader of the House, appeared to grow after John Major promised the Commons that it would be required to produce an "interim report" by the summer recess - one of Labour's central demands.

Ministers were last night believed to be considering draft terms of reference drawn up for such a committee by Mr Newton and Ann Taylor, the shadow Leader of the House.

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