Blair called on to answer for Concorde trip

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Indy Politics
Tony Blair has been asked by the cross-party members' interests committee of the Commons to answer a complaint by a Tory backbench MP that he failed to declare a trip to the US on Concorde in the register of members' interests.

David Shaw, MP for Dover, who made the complaint, said last night that he believed the leader of the Labour Party should be suspended from the Commons for failing to make the declaration.

But a spokesman for Mr Blair's office dismissed the complaint as "frivolous". Mr Blair will respond by letter but the committee, chaired by Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith, a well- respected senior Tory backbencher, has the power to call him if it is not satisfied.

A statement issued by Mr Blair's office said: "Mr Blair will welcome the opportunity to deal with David Shaw's complaint, which he believes is frivolous. There was no personal interest in the visit to Washington in 1986, which he made clear at the time was undertaken at the request of the Government to make representations on behalf of British companies about the double taxation in the US."

Mr Shaw said the trip should have been listed, whether or not he was going at the Government's request as a shadow Treasury spokesman.

Labour sources accused Mr Shaw of making the complaints as part of a smear campaign to distract attention from Labour allegations of sleaze which led to the suspension of Tory MPs, Graham Riddick and David Tredinnick, in the "cash for questions" row, and the resignation of Neil Hamilton as corporate affairs minister after allegations that he failed to declare interests.

Mr Shaw denied spreading smears or acting for Conservative Central Office. "The Labour Party is campaigning against Tredinnick, Riddick, Neil Hamilton; they have been campaigning against so-called Government sleaze; they cannot kick up a fuss and then try and get out of this. It is the most outrageous hypocrisy by the Labour Party.

"Tony Blair has got to admit he has broken the rules and accept the punishment that the committee impose on him. I shall be very upset if they don't recommend suspending him from the House. You cannot be a senior member of the Commons, break the rules, and then expect to get away with it."

The committee is not pursuing a second allegation that he failed to register a trip to the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland at the expense of an oil company when he was a frontbench spokesman. Michael Portillo and Stephen Dorrell, now Cabinet ministers, also failed to declare their visits to similar seminars when they were ministerial aides.

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