Detectives widen net over peerages

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Indy Politics

Detectives investigating claims that Labour donors were offered peerages for cash have called in more people for questioning under caution.

Scotland Yard said all the interviews had been arranged by appointment and none of those involved had been arrested. No names were released of those called in but neither Tony Blair nor the Labour Party's main fundraiser, Lord Levy was on the list.

Earlier, MPs on the all-party Public Administration committee had shown signs of impatience at the apparently slow progress of police inquiries. The committee had agreed in March to suspend its inquiry into the allegations after the Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, John Yates, had warned it could prejudice any future criminal proceedings.

Committee members are to meet the police and lawyers from the Crown Prosecution Service on 15 May to find whether there is any realistic prospect of charges being brought. But yesterday, the committee's Labour chairman, Tony Wright announced a provisional timetable, implying the committee is close to abandoning hope the police are going to get anywhere.

The MPs propose to question the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell on 16 May, and Lord Levy on 23 May. The committee also wants to take evidence from some of those who lent money to the party and were then nominated for peerages, including Sir David Garrard and Chai Patel.

It is a criminal offence to offer honours in exchange for cash. Scottish and Welsh nationalists complained to police that four businessmen who made loans totalling £4.5m to the Labour party to assist last year's general election campaign had been offered peerages.