MP gatecrashes `Ritz' committee

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Indy Politics
A protest by a Labour MP has opened the prospect of a wide-ranging Commons debate centring on allegations that Neil Hamilton, the former corporate affairs minister, accepted hospitality at the Ritz hotel in Paris, owned by Mohammed al-Fayed, without declaring it in the MPs' register of interests.

The move will come in the wake of a resolution by the Commons Select Committee on Members' Interests last night to seek an order from the House excluding Dale Campbell-Savours, the MP for Workington, from gatecrashing committee deliberations, which, by convention, are held in private.

For the second time in a month, Mr Campbell-Savours entered the committee room yesterday evening, forcing members to adjourn without any business being transacted.

The committee is investigating a complaint by Alex Carlile, a Liberal Democrat frontbencher, that Mr Hamilton failed to declare a stay at the Ritz at the expense of Mr Fayed, the owner of Harrod's.

Mr Campbell-Savours' protest relates in part to the presence on the committee of a Government whip, Andrew Mitchell, whom the MP believes will ensure that Mr Hamilton receives a relatively mild admonishment for the alleged offence.

But Mr Campbell-Savours is understood to have three further concerns about the inquiry. The first is the committee's decision to call neither Mr Fayed nor Mr Hamilton as witnesses, and nor Ian Greer, a PR consultant once retained by Mr Fayed.

The second concern is that further allegations relating to Mr Hamilton are not being addressed. The third is the slow progress of the committee - in essence that parliamentary justice is running second to Mr Hamilton's forthcoming libel case against the Guardian over the Ritz affair.

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