Ministers deny cover-up over expenses allegation

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A Cabinet minister and the Minister for the Armed Forces yesterday denied claims they had knowingly failed to declare expenses for a trip to Switzerland four years ago as part of a Bosnian peace mission headed by Dr David Owen, the former government representative.

David Clark, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and John Reid, the armed forces minister, in a joint statement, rejected as "nonsense" suggestions it was a secret trip. They said the three-day stay at the Richemond Hotel in Geneva, where Dr Clark and Dr Reid met Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, was part of the initiative under Dr Owen to end the war in Bosnia. "On the facts as we knew them - that the UN were to cover the hotel costs - we did not consider that the visit required formal declaration," the ministers said in their statement. They added that they "very much regret it" if it was now felt they should have declared the visit in the Register of Members' Interests at the Commons. Colin Brown