Ministers face questions over sex case MoD man: Labour attacks appointment of former high-profile Conservative to Civil Service post. Graham Moorby reports

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The Independent Online
MINISTERS are to be questioned about the appointment to the Ministry of Defence of a civil servant at the centre of allegations about an illegal homosexual affair.

Labour's Welsh affairs spokesman and former civil servant Rhodri Morgan said he wanted to know how Paul Martin, 36 - formerly a high-profile Conservative councillor in Edinburgh and twice a candidate at general elections - was appointed to the allegedly politically neutral Civil Service. Mr Morgan said: 'It looks as though Mr Martin was a political appointee but given a neutral title.'

Mr Martin - a convicted drink-driver - has been suspended from his position as an official in the Nato and European policy secretariat after being named with the Conservative MP Michael Brown in Sunday newspaper allegations about a homosexual relationship with an under-age man.

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman refused to comment on Mr Martin's appointment because discussing vetting procedures could pose a 'security risk'. She refused to say if applicants to the MoD were vetted for convictions or if the MoD knew Mr Martin was a homosexual. A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said an individual's political past was irrelevant as long as they were non-political while employed by the Civil Service.

A spokesman for the Association of First Division Civil Servants said applicants to join the Civil Service were asked if they had a police record but a drink-driving conviction would not usually prevent employment.

Controversy has surrounded the career of Mr Martin - one of the high-flyers of Scottish Tory politics. After becoming one of Britain's youngest councillors in 1980 at the age of 21, Mr Martin took over the leadership of the Tory group on Edinburgh council in 1984.

In 1985, he admitted subscribing to the Association of Liberal Councillors to receive inside information about his political rivals.

In 1986, he was fined pounds 200 and disqualified from driving for a year after admitting driving his car while over the legal alcohol limit. According to a report in the Edinburgh Evening News, he ignored a police warning not to drive after he was seen staggering to his car.

In the same year, he was criticised by the council's Labour leaders after he visited South Africa as a guest of the Pretoria government. At the Conservative conference that year he criticised black African leaders as 'some of the worst tin-pot dictators in recent history'.

Two years ago, Mr Martin was named in a complaint to police over a major planning development in the Burdiehouse district of Edinburgh.

He was a member of Edinburgh council's planning committee and backed the committee's decision to support proposed development on green-belt land.

Approval was given against the advice of the director of planning and it was overturned by Lothian Regional Council. It was claimed that Mr Martin made an improper approach to a regional councillor prior to the decision being reversed. One Tory councillor who was approached informed the police.

Mr Martin denied his actions were improper and said he merely wished to say why he had backed the application. Police took no further action and the case remains on file.

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