Government objection led to summit ban on Ashcroft

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MICHAEL ASHCROFT, the Conservative Party treasurer, was barred from an international summit after government objections, it emerged last night.

Mr Ashcroft had been due to attend the recent Commonwealth leaders meeting in South Africa as a representative of Belize. He holds dual British- Belize nationality and is the Central American country's representative to the United Nations. But the former colony dropped plans to include him in its delegation after the Foreign Office expressed reservations about his presence at the meeting in Durban.

Whitehall sources denied that an official objection to Mr Ashcroft's presence was made, saying the Government would never formally tell another country who should represent it. The sources suggested Belize had decided it would not be in its best interests for Mr Ashcroft to attend , because of the controversy in Britain over his role as Tory treasurer.

The Independent revealed earlier this year that Mr Ashcroft's nomination by William Hague as a peer was turned down by the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee. This decision is said to have been in the Foreign Office's mind when a discreet message of concern was passed to Belize. It is understood there is concern at the Foreign Office over Mr Ashcroft's "dual role".

At the UN, he has voted against the British government on 10 occasions this year. However, the involvement of the Foreign Office is bound to fuel Tory claims that the Government is involved in a "dirty tricks" operation against the party's treasurer.

Mr Ashcroft, who has blamed the snobbery of the British establishment for the attacks on him, was not available for comment last night. He has previously insisted that he has always voted at the UN in accordance with the wishes of the Belize government.

MP rebuked, page 2