Key players in the Westminster affair

Shirley Porter

Heiress to the fortune of her father, Tesco founder Jack Cohen. She became Leader of Westminster Council in 1983 and ruled with determination and zeal until 1991. Always a controversial figure, she gained notoriety after selling the city's cemeteries for 5p each. She has also been criticised after it was revealed that the council housed homeless families in asbestos- riddled tower blocks. The Barratt report found earlier this year that the council had known that the blocks were laden with asbestos since 1982. It spoke of "improper objectives and ... known asbestos risks being overridden". She responded from her home in the United States that she felt the report "utterly disproved the wild and monstrous allegation made by the Labour Party that homeless people were deliberately put at risk".

But it is this week's Magill report which contains the most serious allegations: that her council planned the sale of council houses in marginal wards to win the 1990 council elections, at an estimated cost to the taxpayer of pounds 21m.

She now lives mainly in Israel, though she has homes in Florida and London.

Margaret Thatcher

Alleged to have been informed of the on-going "homes for votes" plan while Westminster Tories were considering it in 1986. Lady Porter wrote to her: "Unless something can be done, it will be very difficult for us to keep Westminster Conservative".

Barry Legge

Then Lady Porter's chief whip, now a Conservative MP and a member of the Treasury and Civil Service Select Committee. If he is surcharged by the auditor, he might become bankrupt and be forced to resign as an MP, robbing the Government of its majority of one.

David Weekes

Alleged to have been the third member of a council triumvirate involving Porter and Legg which, the provisional Magill report suggested, masterminded the alleged "homes for votes" scheme. Like Dame Shirley and Mr Legg, he faces the possibility of being surcharged as a result.

John Magill

A senior partner at the top City accountants Ernst & Young. Seconded from the private sector to work as District Auditor. His provisional report in 1994 accused Westminster Council of "gerrymandering" and described council policy as "disgraceful, improper and unlawful".

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