Fresh calls for Hunt inquiry as Warsi faces watchdog
David Cameron yesterday ordered an inquiry into claims that one of his cabinet ministers invited a business partner on an official government trip to Pakistan.
Baroness Warsi, the Conservative Party co-chairman, became the first minister to be referred to the Prime Minister's adviser on ministerial interests, after allegations that she failed to declare her connection to Abid Hussain when he joined the trip shortly after the 2010 election.
Labour said Mr Cameron's decision threw "into sharp relief" his refusal to hold a similar inquiry into Jeremy Hunt, despite "clear evidence" that he had broken the Ministerial Code. Mr Cameron has repeatedly refused to involve his adviser, Sir Alex Allan, in the investigation of the Government's handling of News Corp's takeover of BSkyB, despite claims that Mr Hunt breached the code on several occasions.
Yesterday, Lady Warsi wrote to Mr Cameron apologising for failing to declare her connection with Mr Hussain to the Foreign Office and the Cabinet Office before the trip. However, she insisted the visit could not have resulted in any financial benefit either to Mr Hussain or the company involved. Mr Hussain is Lady Warsi's husband's second cousin, and the pair are both minority shareholders in a food company.
In reply, Mr Cameron said he accepted her apology but added that he was referring the matter to Sir Alex. In her letter, Lady Warsi blamed the omission on the fact she was new to office at the time of the visit, and insisted Mr Hussain's role had had nothing to do with his business interests.
"Mr Hussain is a community activist who has worked with politicians of all parties both in Pakistan and in the UK," she wrote. "It was felt he would be able to help as he has extensive links to the local community. However, I did not recognise, at the point that this visit was arranged, a need to disclose that Abid Hussain and I have a common business interest. In retrospect, I accept I should have made officials aware of the business relationship between Mr Hussain and myself, and for this I am sorry."
In his reply, Mr Cameron said it was important for ministers to ensure there was no "real or perceived conflict between their official responsibilities and their personal interests".
Michael Dugher, Labour's shadow Cabinet Office minister, said it was right for the Warsi case to be referred to Sir Alex but contrasted it with the decision not to refer Mr Hunt. "Baroness Warsi clearly has very serious questions to answer," he said.
"But David Cameron's actions in this case draw into sharp relief his refusal to hold a similar investigation into Jeremy Hunt, despite clear evidence that he broke the Ministerial Code by misleading the House of Commons on at least three occasions. David Cameron is bending over backwards to defend Jeremy Hunt because he knows that it is his own judgement, in appointing a man he knew to be biased to oversee the BSkyB bid, that is in question."
- 3 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
- 4 British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Paris attacks: Do not call Charlie Hebdo killers 'terrorists', BBC says
UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
Asteroid narrowly scrapes past Earth: how to watch the closest space rock for decades as it flies by
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Prince Philip set to be knighted by Australia: Celebrate by reading his greatest gaffes
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
30,000 reasons why the rhetoric on immigrants claiming benefits can stop now
£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...
£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...
£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...