Hamilton refuses to follow Smith

 

LONDON Pressure on the British Conservative MP, Mr Neil Hamilton, intensified last night after another former minister at the centre of the cash for questions affair announced he was resigning.

Mr Tim Smith said the latest disclosures in the Guardian newspaper had made his decision to stand down as MP for the ultra safe seat of Beaconsfield "inevitable". While senior Tory sources praised the "good grace and dignity" he had shown, officials in Mr Hamilton's Tatton constituency said their man - had no intention of following suit.

Mr Smith's announcement came despite a robust defence by ministers, led by Mr John Major who dismissed the Guardian claims as "junk", and a vote of confidence from his local party as recently as last Friday.

The paper last week published details of evidence Mr Smith gave in private to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Sir Gordon Downey, in which he admitted receiving up to £25,000 from the Harrods store owner, Mr Mohamed Al Fayed - some of it cash stuffed in brown envelopes.

It also claimed Mr Major had allowed him to stay on as a Northern Ireland minister after being told he had accepted payments for tabling parliamentary questions and that he was not forced to go until the paper published its allegations in October, 1994 - a claim Mr Major strongly denied.