Mandelson delivers new evidence to inquiry

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Two new pieces of evidence which could enable Peter Mandelson to clear his name are being studied by Sir Anthony Hammond QC, who has reopened his official inquiry into the Hinduja affair.

Documents uncovered by Mr Mandelson cast doubt on whether a crucial telephone call between him and Mike O'Brien, the former immigration minister, took place. Mr O'Brien told the original inquiry he recalled a conversation about a passport application by SP Hinduja but Mr Mandelson has no memory of it.

According to Whitehall sources, Cabinet Office documents have also emerged showing Mr Mandelson sought guidance from his civil servants before taking up the case.

Mr Mandelson, who resigned as Northern Ireland Secretary in January last year because of the affair, sent the new information to Downing Street. After the evidence was studied by Sir Richard Wilson, the Cabinet Secretary, Tony Blair agreed Sir Anthony Hammond should take the unusual step of considering it.

Peter Kilfoyle, Labour MP for Liverpool Walton, said he was "absolutely sure" the Hartlepool MP was being prepared for a return to Government's inner circle but said such a move would be very unpopular. "It appears Mr Mandelson is going to have more comebacks than Mike Tyson but without the latter's personal charm," he told BBC Radio 4.

Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat MP who first raised the Hinduja affair in Parliament, described the Prime Minister's decision to re-open the inquiry as "very odd".

Yesterday Downing Street said Sir Anthony would give his verdict on the new evidence shortly.