Brown backs Blears despite 'unacceptable' tax claim









Gordon Brown continues to have full confidence in Communities Secretary Hazel Blears, despite twice publicly branding her behaviour "unacceptable", the Prime Minister's spokesman said today.



Mr Brown yesterday told a Downing Street press conference that it was "totally unacceptable" for the Salford MP to avoid capital gains tax by telling the taxman her London flat was her main residence after designating it her second home for expenses purposes.

This morning he repeated the comment in a TV interview, adding that it was "difficult" that a member of his Cabinet had been caught up in the scandal over parliamentary allowances.

The comments came just weeks after Ms Blears was forced to deny that a newspaper jibe at YouTube campaigning was intended as a criticism of the PM's much-mocked appearance on the video-sharing website.

They further fuelled Westminster speculation that she may be dumped from the Cabinet in a reshuffle expected next month. But in a regular daily briefing of Westminster reporters, Mr Brown's spokesman refused to discuss whether a reshuffle was in the offing.

Ms Blears last week apologised for her handling of the flat sale and handed over £13,000 to the taxman. Last night her constituency party ruled out deselecting her, with a statement saying: "Hazel Blears will be our Labour candidate at the next General Election. We have full confidence in her."

Challenged over Ms Blears' actions this morning, Mr Brown told GMTV: "Hazel didn't break any rule or law. But what she did was unacceptable. She came to me, we talked about it and she paid back the money."

He admitted that it was "difficult" that a member of his Cabinet had been caught up in the scandal.

Pressed on the issue of whether Ms Blears should be sacked, Mr Brown said: "I have already suspended - I am the only party leader to have done so - I have suspended two Members of Parliament from the Parliamentary Labour Party, I have told a minister to step down because of difficulties and irregularities that have got to be investigated in his affairs.

"I am the only party leader in these last few weeks to have actually suspended and asked people to step down.

"If it became necessary to do so for other people, I will not resile from doing so. We will take all the action that is necessary."

Mr Brown's spokesman was this morning asked whether the PM continued to have full confidence in Ms Blears and replied simply: "Yes."

Challenged over whether the PM's comments were undermining the Communities Secretary, the spokesman said: "He was saying that the whole situation is difficult and that is a situation that relates to many MPs as a result of the revelations we have seen in recent weeks.

"Hazel Blears was the first person to acknowledge that the issue wasn't about whether or not she had broken the law or the rules at the time.

"The Prime Minister stressed this morning and yesterday that Hazel Blears didn't break the law or the rules. She has taken action to to pay capital gains tax even though she is not required to do so by the law. She wanted to do that in order to avoid any doubt about the money and the Prime Minister respects that.

"In the Prime Minister's view she is doing a good job as Communities Secretary."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project