Minister questioned in cash-for-honours probe

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A government minister has been questioned by police investigating the cash-for-honours allegations, according to reports today.

The Science Minister Lord Sainsbury is the first minister to be questioned by police during their investigation into whether or not people have been given honours in return for making financial donations to political parties.

A spokesman for Lord Sainsbury told the BBC that the minister had not been cautioned before being questioned.

In April, the supermarket millionaire faced a possible probe into an alleged breached of the ministerial code after admitting he had failed to disclose a £2 million loan he had made to the Labour Party - despite publicly stating that he had.

He apologised for "unintentionally" misleading the public, blaming a mix-up between that loan and a donation - also of £2 million - he had made at about the same time.

Later that month Prime Minister Tony Blair - with whom the ultimate decision on whether ministers have breached the code rests - backed Lord Sainsbury, saying he thought he did a "superb job" for the Government.

Scotland Yard was accused yesterday of whipping up a "media circus" over the investigation.

Criticism of the force came from Labour's chief fund-raiser Lord Levy who faced a second day of police questioning yesterday after being arrested on Wednesday.

He denounced his arrest as "unnecessary, disproportionate and... theatrical" and insisted once more that he was innocent of any wrongdoing.

Lord Levy is among 48 people questioned so far by the Metropolitan Police's Specialist Crimes Directorate, 13 of them under caution.

Three individuals - understood to be Labour lenders - had refused police requests to be questioned, the officer leading the investigation told MPs yesterday.

Two files had been submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service so far, with a full report by October, Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Yates said.