Cash for honours: donors say Blair 'misled' police

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Indy Politics

Millionaire Labour Party donors have contradicted Tony Blair's evidence to the police in the cash-for-honours affair - saying that they were nominated for their public service to the nation, and not for services to Labour, as claimed by the Prime Minister.

Secret No 10 papers, copies of which have been seen by The Independent on Sunday, back up their claims, putting fresh pressure on Mr Blair over the cash-for-honours affair.

The donors expressed surprise after Mr Blair's historic interview with Scotland Yard in Downing Street last Thursday, when he told the police the honours were "expressly party peerages given for party service".

In contrast, the official nomination documents, marked "Restricted Appointments", say that Mr Blair's "grounds for recommendation" to the House of Lords were the donors' work in the fields of education, health and charity. The leaked citations make no mention of "party service" and cast doubt on No 10's assertion that the honours were not bestowed in exchange for cash.

The revelation comes as Mr Blair's personal fundraiser, Lord Levy, again became the focus of the police inquiry following the PM's evidence in which he said he personally did not have "full knowledge" of the financial help received by Labour, or the nominations of lenders for peerages.

Mr Blair's evidence has baffled the donors, who believe they were nominated for the contribution they made to British society, not to the party. The curry magnate Sir Gulam Noon, who lent £250,000 to Labour, told the IoS he had been nominated for a peerage "for my charitable work [and] my building of the business".

A spokesman for the other businessmen at the centre of the cash-for-honours affair, Sir David Garrard and Barry Townsley, said: "My recollection was they were told it was for services to education." Earlier this year, Dr Chai Patel gave a BBC interview in which he outlined the achievements that had led to him being nominated - including founding the Priory Group of clinics. His office refused to comment on his nomination, but a friend said: "When he was nominated he thought it was for public service."

Last night, opposition politicians queried the nature of the "party service" provided by the millionaires, as none has a clear track record of Labour Party activism. It is not clear whether Sir David Garrard is even a Labour Party member, while Sir Gulam Noon has also given cash to the Liberal Democrats.

Downing Street said the "party service" referred to their willingness to serve as working Labour Party peers. A party spokesman said: "I am not going to get into how many leaflets they have delivered."

But Lord Oakeshott, a LibDem Treasury spokesman, said: "What services have the failed peers performed for Labour apart from giving big donations? The sooner Mr Blair has to tell the truth on oath in court about the real reasons he nominated these people for peerages the better."

Dr Chai Patel's official citation lists his contribution to mental health services as well as his advisory positions. The citation for Sir David Garrard notes his £2.4m contribution to the Business Academy in Bexley, and other work. Barry Townsley's citation says he "is involved with numerous charitable organisations and good causes". It concludes: "He would be [sic] active contributor to the Lords speaking on education and business matters." Sir Gulam Noon's citation says "he would be an active member of the Lords bringing wide ranging business experience".

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