Ex-Blair aide in expenses fraud works for top lobbyist

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The Independent Online
A LOBBYIST who worked for Tony Blair during the general election campaign left a top job in government relations where he had been caught fiddling expenses and forging his boss's signature.

Tim Fallon left BAA, formerly the British Airports Authority, in February and now works for a leading political consultancy, advising clients on how to deal with ministers.

Mr Fallon is a director at Lowe Bell Political, the company set up by Sir Tim Bell, Baroness Thatcher's public relations guru and image maker. While at BAA as head of government relations, one of Mr Fallon's tasks was to persuade ministers to give approval to widening of the M25 in order to make a fifth terminal at Heathrow feasible. Approval was announced yesterday.

Mr Fallon worked for the company for about two years. During the election campaign, he was seconded to Mr Blair's office. Within months of his return to BAA, however, questions were raised about claims on his corporate American Express card.

On 16 February, at the time of his departure, Sheila Clark, BAA head of human resources, told him the company wanted to reclaim from his pension contributions "monies outstanding to BAA which were the result of false claims made by yourself on your company credit card ... This may be a useful way of assisting you in paying back a portion of pounds 1,570."

The Independent has established that Mr Fallon signed a form on 2 March authorising the deductions "... as a result of false accounting in respect of my BAA company credit card".

Des Wilson, director of corporate and public affairs at BAA, said Mr Fallon's departure had been planned for some time, was amicable and had nothing to do with expenses irregularities. Mr Fallon was repaying a "company loan".

"At the time Tim was leaving there were discrepancies in expenses that had as much as anything to do with the fact that we had been incredibly busy and had not conformed with procedures," he said.

Stephen Sherbourne, chairman of Bell Pottinger, the parent company of Lowe Bell Political, said Mr Fallon had resigned only because Bell Pottinger offered him a job.

However, The Independent has obtained details of a draft statement written by Mr Fallon in which he said: "I took it upon myself to enter explanations for lunches/dinners that were not accurate. Whereas these claims were genuine business expenses, the explanations were misleading. Associated with this mis-administration of my statements was the fact that on occasions ... I authorised these claims forms myself, signing off in Andrew Currie's name." Mr Currie is an assistant director of BAA's corporate and public affairs department.

"This is something I am particularly ashamed of," wrote Mr Fallon. "The final main area of wrong-doing is that on certain occasions I have used my Amex card to pay for personal expenses. For some of these expenses, I have declared them and I have paid the company back in full. For others I have not and have failed to declare them truthfully.

"This practice is dishonest and wholly wrong ... I cannot adequately explain the deep sense of regret I feel. Regret that I have let down my company and regret that I have let down colleagues who over the last couple of years have helped, nurtured and supported me."

Further, while apologising profusely, Mr Fallon said: "I do not want to leave this company." He failed to return calls yesterday.