Jowell accused over husband's pub stake

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Indy Politics

Tessa Jowell was facing renewed questions last night over her husband's financial dealings. Nigel Evans, a leading Conservative critic of the Culture Secretary, wrote to the Commons standards watchdog asking him to investigate claims that Ms Jowell's husband, David Mills, held a stake in a pub chain while Ms Jowell was piloting reforms to licensing laws.

On Monday Ms Jowell said she had "never heard of this company or the transactions until this weekend" and said she understood that the shares were never owned by her husband.

But it was claimed that Mr Mills was the beneficial owner of a company that owned the shares in the Old Monk Company. A handwritten letter, released by Italian prosecutors, was said to suggest that shares in the firm, Struie Holdings, had been transferred to Mr Mills. According to other documents released in Italy, the millionaire Flavio Briatore told prosecutors that Mr Mills had confirmed that he owned the pub shares.

Mr Evans said Ms Jowell should have placed the holdings in the Register of Members' Interests. He told Sky News: "This is a declarable interest... It does not matter at the end of the day that his name was not on the share ownership. If it was on the company that owned the shares and he benefited from the profit then clearly they were declarable." But a spokeswoman for Ms Jowell said she stood by her statement, insisting she had not known about the dealings.

Pressure for an independent watchdog to oversee the ministerial code of conduct is expected to be stepped up tomorrow with the release of an annual report by Sir Alistair Graham, chairman of the Standards in Public Life committee.

The Prime Minister is likely to face fresh calls today to establish an independent panel to judge whether ministers have broken the code. Sir Alistair believes the David Blunkett and Tessa Jowell affairs have shown the limitations of the system under which Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell investigates but the Prime Minister decides the fate of ministers. He was also alarmed by the Government's refusal to honour its pledge to appoint an adviser on policing the ministerial code.