Jowell faces queries on declaration of interests

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Indy Politics

Tessa Jowell is facing calls for a fresh inquiry by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards over complaints that she failed to declare the "gift" to her husband, David Mills, of £350,000 in the register of MPs' interests.

The Tory MP Nigel Evans is writing to Ms Jowell to ask her to correct the register for MPs' interests for 2000, the year in which her husband received the money, which is alleged to have come from Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister or his associates. Her register for declarable interests for that year reads "Nil". Under the code, she was required to register all gifts of more than £150 and other benefits in excess of £250 received by herself or her spouse "which in any way relates to membership of the House".

The demand for a new inquiry by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Sir Philip Mawer, has dashed Downing Street's hopes that it could draw a line under the charges against Ms Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, after she was cleared by Tony Blair of breaching the ministerial code. MPs said she could soon be in a deeper crisis because reports by the Parliamentary Commissioner are judged by a committee of MPs, rather than the Prime Minister.

Ms Jowell consulted the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards yesterday afternoon about her financial affairs and her declaration of interests as an MP. She has denied that the £350, 000 given to her husband was a gift, stating she was not aware of the money until 2004, when the Inland Revenue ruled the sum represented earnings on which her husband was obliged to pay tax. The Prime Minister cleared her of breaching the ministerial code on that ground, and she could escape censure from the Standards Commission with the same defence.

Mr Evans said: "I think Blair is a pal of hers and protected her. I can understand that, but I think he was wrong to defend her, particularly when he said his Government on the day they took office would be 'whiter than white'. I am writing to Tessa Jowell to give her the opportunity to amend the record."

Mr Blair's spokesman said Ms Jowell had spoken to the standards commission "and continues to do that". He added: "All ministers and MPs make sure they are in compliance with the standards commissioner's criteria so that should come as no surprise to you whatsoever." He added: "In terms of her conversation with the standards commissioner, it's private like anyone else's."

A spokesman for the commissioner said: "She is not under investigation. MPs routinely seek advice about all sorts of things."

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