Baldry apologises for not declaring loan

A former Tory minister yesterday apologised to the House of Commons after being criticised for recommending that a lawyer from whom he had just borrowed £5,000 should be awarded a CBE.

In a personal statement, Tony Baldry the MP for Banbury, who was an Agriculture minister when he borrowed the money in January 1997, said he had clearly made "an error of judgement". He apologised as Sarosh Zaiwalla, the lawyer from whom he borrowed the money, denied he had ever asked for a reference from the MP.

Mr Baldry was criticised by the Standards and Privileges Committee on Wednesday for failing to make any mention of the loan when he urged ministers to honour Mr Zaiwalla.

He said yesterday: "The Parliamentary Commissioner Elizabeth Filkin has held that I breached the code of conduct for MPs in not making clear to the Lord Chancellor's Department, when giving a reference for a person for an honour, that the person concerned had not long before given me a loan.

"This was clearly an error of judgement on my part for which I ... wish to say sorry sincerely to the House without reservation or hesitation of any kind ... I should thus wish to apologise to each and every Member of the House for what was an error of judgement and a mistake on my part and my part alone."

Mr Zaiwalla, who is the senior partner in the law firm Zaiwalla and Co Solicitors, said: "I must make clear that I neither solicited the reference nor had any knowledge that such a reference was being obtained or indeed had been given by Mr Anthony Baldry MP. Neither had I any expectation of Mr Baldry to give any reference in my favour, particularly relating to honours." Mr Baldry has, Mr Zaiwalla said repaid the loan, with interest.

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