Blair knew background to Davies encounter

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The Independent Online
DOWNING STREET'S strategy for dealing with the Ron Davies affair was unravelling last night after it emerged that Tony Blair knew some of the background surrounding the scandal before he accepted the resignation of the Secretary of State for Wales last week.

The disclosure is certain to revive questions about whether Downing Street tried to cover up allegations of gay sex and blackmail surrounding the robbery and theft of the cabinet minister's car, which forced his resignation.

As the Prime Minister's official spokesman fended off more questions yesterday about whether Mr Blair knew that allegations of gay sex had been made, it emerged that Scotland Yard's Deputy Commissioner, John Stevens, briefed No 10 on Tuesday morning last week. Mr Stevens informed the Prime Minister's private office of the events at Clapham Common 40 minutes before Mr Blair met Mr Davies to accept his resignation.

Mr Stevens discussed the situation with No 10 from the office of the Home Secretary, Jack Straw. The Deputy Commissioner had a few minutes earlier rung Mr Straw to tell him of an incident involving Mr Davies. He then travelled the short distance from New Scotland Yard to the Home Office before "dropping in" on Mr Straw "as a matter of courtesy", a senior Home Office spokesman said.

The disclosure that Downing Street had been briefed by a police chief changed the impression given last week by Downing Street, when the Prime Minister's official spokesman insisted that the press had "all the salient facts" that had been given to No 10.

Details emerging last night suggested that Mr Blair had been prepared to act decisively after discovering that his cabinet minister was at a police station being interviewed about a crime of which he was the victim. Mr Blair had ordered Mr Davies to Downing Street before the latter had "checked in" to his office to ask for a meeting to resign.

Mr Davies was said to have broken down and sobbed to police on Monday night, blurting out that his reason for going to Clapham Common was cruising for homosexual sex.

It also emerged yesterday that Sir Richard Wilson, the Cabinet Secretary, has been asked to inquire into "some details" of the affair, but has not yet reported back.

The gradual disclosure of details, including some explicit accounts of gay sex, threatened to backfire on the government machine, which was anxious to end the speculation.

Downing Street yesterday continued to deny any knowledge of gay sex being involved in the resignation. It stuck to the version of events set out in Mr Davies' resignation letter, that the minister was resigning from the Cabinet because of a "serious lapse of judgement".