Labour checks Howard's record

Click to follow
Indy Politics

Labour Party researchers are using the Freedom of Information Act to try to winkle out information on Michael Howard's record as a government minister.

Labour Party researchers are using the Freedom of Information Act to try to winkle out information on Michael Howard's record as a government minister.

The request for government papers dating back to the late 1980s or early 1990s will open the Labour Party to the accusation that it is planning a campaign of dirty tricks. But it says that since Mr Howard is currently the only alternative to Tony Blair as a possible Prime Minister, his record in office is a legitimate election issue.

Ministers are normally barred from seeing the private advice given to their predecessors after a change in the governing party, but the Freedom of Information Act, which came into force this month, allows people access to the files of public bodies that were previously confidential.

The Tories have used it to put in more than 100 questions about issues such as the relationship between Mr Blair and Gordon Brown, and whether there was a cover-up on the origins of the foot and mouth epidemic.

Liberal Democrat MPs have already prised out information about who has been invited by Tony and Cherie Blair to dinner at Chequers at public expense. They are also seeking minutes of cabinet committee meetings, information on the poll tax and papers on plans for ID cards.

The Labour Party is hoping to turn up evidence that Mr Howard once used his position as Home Secretary to fast-track an application for a visa from a friend's nanny.

David Blunkett's resignation as Home Secretary last month was forced by the revelation that his office had intervened to help Leoncia Casalme obtain permission to live permanently in the UK when she was employed as a nanny by Mr Blunkett's lover, Kimberly Quinn. Mr Howard is alleged to have done a similar favour for the journalist Petronella Wyatt, in a diary published posthumously by her father, Woodrow Wyatt. But no evidence has yet emerged to support the claim, which Mr Howard has dismissed as "rubbish".

A Conservative Party spokesman said last night that Mr Howard was "relaxed" about inquiries into his ministerial record. "The only thing that people need to remember about Michael Howard's role as Home Secretary is that crime fell by 18 per cent," he added.

Comments