Blunkett's future still in doubt as shares sale fails to dampen row

Under mounting pressure for apparently breaching the code of conduct for ministers, Mr Blunkett announced last night that his three eldest sons had agreed to dispose of their shares in DNA Bioscience, where he was briefly a director.

The Conservatives claim there is a conflict of interest because the company is expected to seek contracts from the Child Support Agency, which comes under the remit of his department.

But a spokesman for Tony Blair said: "The Prime Minister believes no further action is needed and the matter is closed."

But Mr Blunkett's announcement failed to end the controversy. The Tories demanded a full inquiry into whether he had breached the ministerial code and said he should resign if he had done so.

Rumours swirling around Westminster that Mr Blunkett might have to quit the Cabinet for the second time in 10 months were fuelled when Mr Blair gave less than wholehearted support for the Work and Pensions Secretary.

He told a Downing Street news conference: "I do give him my confidence ... But I think that he should be allowed to get on with his job, which is very important, reforming and reshaping our welfare system." Some Labour MPs likened Mr Blair's remarks to a football club chairman's vote of confidence in a manager just before sacking him.

There are signs too that Mr Blunkett is losing the confidence of Labour MPs and fellow ministers, some of whom believe he cannot carry on in such a critical job. Peter Kilfoyle, a former minister, said the barrage of publicity surrounding Mr Blunkett could make it "untenable for him to remain in a senior position".

Some MPs said the latest row raised questions about Mr Blair's judgement in recalling Mr Blunkett to his Cabinet only five months after he resigned as Home Secretary following allegations that his staff fast-tracked a visa for the nanny of his former lover Kimberly Quinn, the publisher of The Spectator.

Mr Blunkett, who agreed last night's statement with the Prime Minister in talks at No 10, later sought to clear up some of the unanswered questions about the affair. His spokesman insisted that his family would make "no profit" on the disposal of the shares, details of which are still being finalised. He placed £15,000 of shares in trust for his sons, which could be worth up to £300,000 if the firm is floated on the stock market.

His statement also left unresolved the status of the ministerial code. The Independent on Sunday disclosed at the weekend that Mr Blunkett broke the rules by failing to consult the advisory committee which monitors such appointments. The body told him such an action was only "voluntary" but the code says former ministers taking outside jobs "should" consult the committee.

In a fresh twist last night it emerged that Mr Blunkett failed to consult the Government's official appointments watchdog when he took up a private sector post with the business consultants Indepen Consulting in January after resigning as Home Secretary.

Correspondence leaked to The Times showed the independent advisory committee on business appointments, chaired by Lord Mayhew, told Mr Blunkett three times that he should consult the committee about taking private sector work for two years after taking office.

A spokesman for Mr Blunkett said he had acknowledged already that, with hindsight, he should have consulted the committee.

Sir Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, will now issue new guidance to end the confusion.

Chris Grayling, the shadow Leader of the Commons, said: "We need a rapid inquiry into what has happened to clear the matter up once and for all. Until this takes place, the questions about Mr Blunkett's dealings will remain and his position will become increasingly untenable."

Mr Grayling said Mr Blunkett had showed a "monumental lack of judgement" by having private meetings with people whose family own the company. Tariq Siddiqi, whose wife Lucy owns the DNA testing firm, introduced Mr Blunkett to the estate agent Sally Anderson, with whom he had a relationship that he insists was "platonic" but she says was sexual.

David Laws, Work and Pensions spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said Mr Blunkett had "used up eight of his nine lives" and any further blunders would make his position untenable.

Mr Blunkett insisted: "DNA Bioscience does not have any contracts with my department or the Child Support Agency. I have not made any representations to any government department or agency on behalf of DNA Bioscience since returning to government, nor have I provided any advice to the company"

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
science
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HSE Manger - Solar

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: HSE Mana...

Data Governance Manager (Solvency II) – Contract – Up to £450 daily rate, 6 month (may go Permanent)

£350 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently looking...

Recruitment Resourcer

£18000 - £22000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Recruitment Resour...

2nd line support - Derbyshire - 6 months

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: 2nd line support - Derbyshire - 6 months...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried