Home Secretary is urged not to sue for child access

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Indy Politics

David Blunkett is being urged by political allies to avoid legal action to secure access to the two-year-old son of his former lover Kimberly Quinn.

David Blunkett is being urged by political allies to avoid legal action to secure access to the two-year-old son of his former lover Kimberly Quinn.

As the political crisis engulfing the Home Secretary deepened, it emerged that some cabinet colleagues fear any claim in the family courts would merely prolong Mr Blunkett's personal agony and the acrimonious war of words between him and Mrs Quinn, with whom he had a three-year affair that began months after she married her second husband, Stephen.

Mr Blunkett, who pleaded with Mrs Quinn on several occasions to marry him, has taken the first steps to secure access to her son, William, after a private DNA test showed that he was the father. He believes that he is the father of the second child Mrs Quinn is expecting in February.

The Home Secretary has told friends he simply wants access to the child and that he is "deeply angered" by Mrs Quinn's claims that he wants to win custody of William. He fears that unless he establishes a right to access now, he may never win it in future. He is said to be determined to fight for such access in spite the growing threat to his political career.

But allies of Mr Blunkett are worried that a prolonged legal battle will fuel the damaging public dispute with his former lover. One cabinet minister told The Independent: "This is just going to cause David more heartache. I would advise anybody involved in a personal dispute never to go to to court. It just makes things worse."

Another minister and friend of Mr Blunkett said: "It will be impossible for him to continue in his job while a bitter court battle is being fought. Any human being would be distracted by that." Ministers pointed out that the Government's own policy is to encourage mediation over custody and access when couples split up. A draft Bill to be published in response to the campaign by Fathers 4 Justice will call for the use of conciliation procedures before all cases come to court.

Mr Blunkett's fight for political survival suffered a setback yesterday after it emerged that Leoncia Casalme, Mrs Quinn's nanny, obtained a visa granting her permanent leave to remain in Britain only 19 days after she applied. She was initially told it could take up to a year to resolve her application.

The Home Secretary, who admits that he read her application, denied strongly yesterday that he played any role in speeding it up. He pointed out that many claims were being fast-tracked before a decision to charge for such applications took effect. "I have done nothing wrong," he said. But immigration experts said 19 days was an unusually fast period for such an application to be dealt with.

Tony Blair's official spokesman said the Prime Minister continued to have full confidence in Mr Blunkett. He denied the Home Secretary was being distracted by his personal problems, pointing out that he did more media interviews than any other minister last week, when the Queen's Speech was dominated by Home Office legislation.

Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, gave his strong personal backing to Mr Blunkett and predicted he would continue as Home Secretary for the months and years ahead.

A public war of words broke out between Mrs Quinn and Mr Blunkett after she ended the affair in August. Allies of both of them have briefed newspapers to put their side of the story. At one point friends of Mrs Quinn suggested that the Home Secretary could not be William's father but later appeared to accept that he was.

Some newspapers, including The Independent, refrained from reporting the story on the grounds that it was a private issue. But it became a highly political issue last weekend after the Quinn camp alleged that Mr Blunkett helped to secure the nanny's visa, forcing the Home Secretary to set up an inquiry into the claim.

Friends of Mr Blunkett are convinced that Mrs Quinn's supporters were trying to frighten him off by fuelling the row over the visa. One said yesterday: "It is wholly untrue that he wants to fight for control of William in any way. He is very well aware that would not be in the boy's interest. David is a man who works 18 hours a day. There is no way that he would expect even part-custody of William. But he has had a close and loving relationship with the child from the beginning up until this summer and does not think it is in the boy's interests that he should be completely barred from his life from now on. All he wants is a basic right to see the child he and Mrs Quinn had together." Mrs Quinn is resting at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, west London, after doctors expressed concern that she was under stress.

Yesterday her husband, Stephen, appealed for a truce in the battle with Mr Blunkett. He said: "I think it is in the best interests of the child and her that the matter is put aside. I would like to seek an adjournment until such a time as our baby is born and my wife has recovered from that."

DAVID BLUNKETT'S STATEMENT

I am very clear that many people will be bewildered and bemused.

I would like to thank so many people who have been in touch with me, offering their support and giving me their trust.

I have done nothing wrong.

While the review by a former adviser to the previous Conservative government takes place, it will have all the papers and materials available.

There is no dispute whatsoever about the documents that the 'Daily Mail' have produced this morning. They are authentic.

They prove absolutely nothing except that we were moving through the process of fast-tracking a very large number of documents prior to the beginning of charging for indefinite leave to remain, and we will be saying later in the day something about that without actually damaging Sir Alan Budd's investigation.

Thanks again to people who are giving me their support.

I wouldn't be standing here and I wouldn't have had the support of the Prime Minister or have requested myself on Sunday the review if I thought there was any doubt whatsoever about my integrity.

I have spent 34 years building peoples' trust. I do not intend to throw it away.

STEPHEN QUINN'S STATEMENT

Speaking outside his London home, Kimberly Quinn's husband Stephen said:

I think it is in the best interests of the child and her that the matter is put aside. I would like to seek an adjournment until such a time as our baby is born and my wife has recovered from that.

Mr Quinn said his wife had difficulties during her first pregnancy and that her health was his main priority.

Mrs Quinn, who is seven months pregnant, was in hospital on Tuesday night after stress caused by the revelations.

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