MP quits sleaze committee

The senior Conservative backbencher, Sir David Mitchell, is standing down as a member of the Commons committee investigating the cash for questions affair because his son, the former whip, Andrew Mitchell is to be called to give evidence to the committee.

The Standards and Privileges Committee, which last week produced a highly critical report on David Willetts that resulted in his resignation as a Treasury minister, will in the New Year be investigating the role of Mr Mitchell in the parliamentary investigation into the Neil Hamilton MP and cash for questions affair.

Mr Mitchell was a whip in 1994 when, unusually, he was appointed to the now defunct Members' Interests Committee. According to Angela Eagle, a Labour MP on the committee at the time:"Mr Mitchell was always at the forefront of things. He took a a very active role. He would make his views known very early on, so that his side knew what the line was. This was not the way a quasi-judicial committee should conduct its business."

Mr Mitchell will be asked by the Standards and Privileges Committee why he wrote a note to the chief whip in October 1994 following an article in The Independent, which revealed that Mr Hamilton had failed to declare a consultancy with a public relations company.

The note, written on the day the article was published, said that Mr Mitchell had spoken to the Registrar of Members' Interests and the memo explains that the Registrar would have to conclude that the committee was entering unchartered waters, and that there was no precedent to knowing what it would decide

Mr Mitchell, MP for Gedling, has written an explanatory note to the Standards and Privileges Committee about his role in the Hamilton affair, but feels he has done nothing wrong and refuses to apologise for any actions.

Under new terms of giving evidence announced by the Committee following the Willetts hearings, Mr Mitchell will be expected to give evidence on oath.

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