The beleaguered Chancellor: Fresh till receipt aims to quash speculation

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The Independent Online
NORMAN LAMONT yesterday released his copy of a pounds 17.47 receipt for an off-licence purchase to end speculation about his private life prompted by the 'Threshergate' affair.

Like the retailer's receipt from Thresher, the off-licence chain, issued by the Treasury on Sunday, it confirmed his assertion that he bought two bottles of claret and a bottle of Chateau Margaux wine from a Thresher Wine Merchants branch on 15 November.

Mr Lamont's copy of the receipt also included the address of the Thresher branch in Connaught Street, Paddington, west London, which had been absent from the retailer's copy. That branch is only a few minutes walk from the Praed Street shop where two Thresher employees had told journalists that the Chancellor bought champagne and cigarettes, totalling pounds 17.47, on 16 November, and began four days of speculation about who he had bought the goods for.

Jayne Bridges, Thresher's public relations officer, said yesterday that the branch name had been deliberately deleted from Sunday's receipt to prevent journalists interrrupting business.

Ms Bridges also explained that Claret and Margaux wine were removed from Thresher's shelves at the weekend because of a 'coincidental' health scare after a food poisoning incident. It had proved groundless and the wine had since been replaced.

She said a security video would have provided proof of purchase, but video tapes were re-used every three days unless there was any reason to keep them. There had been no reason to believe that Mr Lamont's visit would stimulate such interest.