Neil Hamilton has been the UK Independence Party (UKIP) Member of the National Assembly for Wales, representing Mid and West Wales, since 2016.
Hamilton was previously the Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Tatton (England) from 1983 to 1997. From April 1992 to October 1994, Hamilton was the Deregulation and Corporate Affairs Minister at the Department of Trade and Industry.
In 2002 Hamilton left the Conservative Party and joined UKIP.
The Cash for Questions Scandal
In October 1994, the British newspaper The Guardian carried a report that alleged that lobbying firm Ian Greer Associates (dissolved in 2000), had paid Hamilton and Tim Smith MP to table questions in the House of Commons (at £2000 each), on behalf of Harrods owner Mohamed Al-Fayed. The scandal forced Hamilton to resign from his ministerial post.
A 1997 inquiry into the 'cash for questions scandal' by the UK House of Commons Select Committee on Standards & Privileges, led by Sir Gordon Downey, further found that Hamilton and fellow MP Michael Brown were guilty of accepting payment from U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company (UST) in return for parliamentary services. For Hamilton's relationship with UST, and his lobbying activities on behalf of the tobacco company, see the section below.
The inquiry also found that Hamilton had been paid £6,000 by Ian Greer Associates to introduce the firm to UST. None of the payments had been declared in the Members' Register of Financial Interests. When asked to clarify his position, Hamilton denied he was a consultant to UST, claiming that his support for UST came from his libertarian views that people have the right to make decisions without interference from the state.
Hamilton lost his parliamentary seat in the 1997 general election, and was asked to stay away from the Conservative Party conference in 1998 "because he had brought the party into disrepute". That same year, Hamilton sued Al-Fayed claiming that Al Fayed' allegations had "destroyed his political career". Hamilton lost the case. The action was funded by the "Neil Hamilton Fighting Fund" which was run by Lord Harris of High Cross (Chairman of pro-smoking group Forest and one of the founders of the Institute of Economic Affairs). Several Conservative politicians donated money to the fund, including Gerald Howarth MP. In 1999, the jury unanimously decided against Hamilton. The former MP also lost a subsequent appeal in 2000.
Relationship with the Tobacco Industry
According to his own accounts, Hamilton's first contact with UST was in April 1986 when the company wrote to him, and he subsequently met the company to discuss "public policy issues affecting the tobacco industry in general".
At the time, UST was trying to introduce a new smokeless tobacco (SLT) product, called 'Skoal Bandits' to the UK market. SLT use was not well-established in the UK. The tobacco company anticipated that Skoal Bandits would appeal to a new generation of better-educated people no longer interested in taking up cigarette smoking, and the product was marketed as "the new way to enjoy tobacco" and aggressively targeted at young people.
Accepted Tobacco Hospitality
In response to the UK Government's announcement of its intention to ban the sale of Skoal Bandits in February 1988, Hamilton and fellow MP Michael Brown were invited to lunch by UST. Hamilton also accepted hospitality from UST the following year:
- In summer 1989, Hamilton stayed one night at a luxury hotel in London, paid by UST. Hamilton said of the event: "I was invited to attend a dinner with them [UST] in London. My flat at the time was lent to American friends on holiday in London, and it was not possible to return to my home in the constituency following the dinner. Hence US Tobacco offered me a night's accommodation".
- In October 1989, when Hamilton was on official business in the United States with the Treasury Select Committee, Hamilton was invited by UST's Vice-President of Marketing to extend his stay to attend a dinner party. Hamilton stayed a couple of nights, free of charge, at a luxury New York hotel, that had rooms permanently retained for the use of UST employees and guests.
Hamilton failed to declare above hospitality in the House of Commons Register of Members Interests, claiming that "neither accommodation can reasonably be described as a 'benefit', in that on both occasions the accommodation was a direct consequence of, and necessary for, the discussions between myself and US Tobacco. The function of the discussion was to obtain information so that I could exercise my judgment as a Member of Parliament and make informed decisions on a matter of political interest to me".
Paid to Lobby Health Ministers
Hamilton met several times with ministers without declaring his financial relationship with UST. Kenneth Clarke, who was appointed Secretary of State for Health in 1988, recalled he was "being lobbied vigorously by Neil Hamilton, who was very indignant of the [SLT] prohibition".
Edwina Currie, then junior Health Minister, recalled that the relationship between Hamilton and the tobacco lobby "was well known and understood". She added that "on the whole their lobbying agents, the MPs, were those associated with the Right Wing or more 'libertarian' side of the Party, who could legitimately make out an argument for freedom of choice". Currie met with Hamilton and other libertarian MPs on 12 May 1988, on the request of the MPs. Currie recalled distributing photos of mouth cancer, at the meeting, pointing out that Skoal Bandits caused these cancers, and although others had allegedly been shocked, Hamilton had argued that he did not thought the photos were relevant.
David Mellor, who took over from Currie as Health Minister, recalled that he received representations of Hamilton and Michael Brown who claimed that "on personal liberty ground it was appropriate that people should be free to use this substance if they so wished, and that it should be freely sold in this Country".
Despite Hamilton's efforts, in 1989 the UK government introduced the Oral Snuff (Safety) Regulations which banned the sales of certain SLT products, including Skoal Bandits. This intervention was in line with a previously issued WHO recommendation which urged countries with no history of SLT use to pre-emptively ban SLT, to prevent it from becoming a future public health problem.
Although UST successfully challenged the ban in the British High Court, an EU-wide ban was enacted in 1992.
- For more information go to Snus: EU Ban on Snus Sales.
In a statement to Downey's inquiry, Hamilton declared that he had been associated with tobacco-industry front group Forest "since its inception in 1984", with his statement supported by Lord Harris of High Cross, former Forest President, who told the same Commissioner that Hamilton had been a member of Forest "for many years".
It is unclear whether Hamilton is still a Forest member.
Tobacco Advisory Council
Offering hospitality to those with influence over the passage of tobacco policy is a well-documented tobacco industry tactic to interfere with tobacco control legislation. For more information, go to Tobacco Industry Hospitality for UK Politicians.
- U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company
- Tobacco Advisory Council
- Smokeless Tobacco
- Snus: EU Ban on Snus Sales
- Institute of Economic Affairs
- Gerald Howarth MP
- Transnational tobacco company interests in smokeless tobacco in Europe: Analysis of internal industry documents and contemporary industry materials, S. Peeters, A. Gilmore, PLoS Medicine, 2013,10(9):1001506
- N. Hamilton, Appendix 34: Statement of Mr Neil Hamilton MP: Formal response to allegations of misconduct, 10 February 1997. In: Select Committee on Standards and Privileges First Report, UK Parliament website, accessed January 2018
- Companies House, Record: IGA (Holdings) Limited. Accessed in January 2018 by subscription
- D. Hencke, Tory MPs were paid to plant questions says Harrods chief, The Guardian, 20 October 1994, accessed January 2018
- D. Macintyre, The Cash-for-Questions Affair: Major rocked as payments scandal grows: Minister resigns over 'cash for questions' PM reveals he knew of allegations by Harrods owner three weeks ago, The Independent, 20 October 1994, accessed January 2018
- Hamilton v Al-Fayed case. The Neil Hamilton file, The Guardian, 21 December 1999, accessed January 2018
- J. Walsh, Neil Hamilton: disgraced MP to Z-list celebrity to political comeback, The Guardian, 10 May 2016, accessed January 2018
- S. Peeters, A. Gilmore, Transnational tobacco company interests in smokeless tobacco in Europe: Analysis of internal industry documents and contemporary industry materials, PLoS Medicine 2013,10(9):1001506
- Neil Hamilton sues Mohamed Al Fayed over 'cash for questions', The Guardian, 15 November 1999, accessed January 2018
- K. Sengupta, The Hamilton Affair: The cost-Right-wing donors united by their loathing of Fayed, The Independent, 22 December 1999, accessed January 2018
- N. Hamilton, Appendix 33: Continued-Appendix 7. In: Select Committee and Standards and Privileges First Report, UK Parliament website, 8 July 1997, accessed January 2018
- E. Currie, Appendix 100: Letter From Mrs Edwina Currie MP to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, 29 January 1997, In: Select Committee on Standards and Privileges First Report, UK Parliament website, accessed January 2018
- N. Hamilton, Appendix 35: Schedule for Neil Hamilton's Statement dated 10 February 1997, In: Select Committee on Standards and Privileges First Report, UK Parliament website, accessed January 2018
- K. Clarke, Appendix 101: Letter from the Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke QC, MP to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, 19 February 1997, In: Select Committee on Standards and Privileges First Report, UK Parliament website, accessed January 2018
- Lord Harris, Letter from Lord Harris of High Cross to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, 26 February 1997. In: Select Committee on Standards and Privileges First Report, accessed January 2018