Anti-sleaze watchdogs face axe in shake-up

Anti-sleaze watchdogs who have criticised Tony Blair or caused trouble for the Government face abolition under plans being considered in Whitehall.

The House of Lords Appointments Commission - which blocked several peerages nominated by Mr Blair - and the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments - which David Blunkett, the former cabinet minister, failed to consult about his outside interests - are in the firing line. Whitehall sources say they could be scrapped and their powers merged into a new super-ethics watchdog.

Baroness Amos, the leader of the House of Lords, last week refused to rule out the abolition of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, whose chairman Sir Alistair Graham, has sharply criticised Mr Blair.

Other bodies that regulate or advise the government, including the Civil Service Commissioners, could be merged.

The prospect of the abolition of the powerful sleaze watchdogs has alarmed figures in Whitehall, who fear that more compliant bodies are planned.

One senior Whitehall source said the issue had been revived because Mr Blair was "furious" at the embarrassment caused to him by the House of Lords Appointments Commission and by Sir Alistair. But any attempt to abolish the commission would be bound to provoke a backlash from politicians, who would see it as an act of revenge by the Prime Minister.

Lord Oakeshott, the senior Liberal Democrat peer, said: "Tony Blair must stop the sleaze, not silence the whistle-blowers."

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