Ministers say Blunkett visa inquiry will find 'cock-up not conspiracy'

Click to follow
Indy Politics

The official inquiry into the alleged fast-tracking of a residency visa application by the nanny of David Blunkett's former lover will dismiss claims that there was a Home Office cover-up, ministers predicted last night.

The official inquiry into the alleged fast-tracking of a residency visa application by the nanny of David Blunkett's former lover will dismiss claims that there was a Home Office cover-up, ministers predicted last night.

The report by Sir Alan Budd, a former Treasury adviser, is to be published today. It will be anxiously awaited by Mr Blunkett, Tony Blair and Home Office officials accused of concealing what role the former home secretary played in securing in securing a visa for Leoncia Casalme, the nanny of Kimberly Quinn with whom he had a three-year affair.

Speculation about a cover-up has been fuelled by the revelation that a crucial fax sent by Mr Blunkett's private office to the Immigration and Nationality Department (IND) was destroyed. No Home Office officials can remember what instructions were written on it.

Mr Blunkett resigned last week after Sir Alan discovered he had given a misleading version of events. Initially, he claimed to have read Ms Casalme's application but had not put her case into the system.

Although the case was dealt with more quickly than usual, Sir Alan is expected to conclude that it was handled within the rules because many applications were being fast-tracked at the time, ahead of the introduction of charges.

Ministers believe Sir Alan will play down the idea of a Home Office cover-up after the inquiry was launched. "People are looking for a conspiracy but it was a cock-up," one said.

However, there were fresh claims of a cover-up last night after it emerged that the nanny's case file had been marked "restricted". A senior source at the IND revealed that the classification was imposed last year after Ms Casalme was given indefinite leave to remain in Britain. "I can't think of a Filipina nanny in the country who has this categorisation, other than this one," the source said. "It would suggest that somebody did not want her case to be widely known."

David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, said the revelation reinforced his concern that a cover-up may have taken place as far back as last year. The Tories will demand a wider inquiry by a senior judge if today's report fails to answer all the unresolved questions.

Mr Davis said: "Sir Alan Budd's inquiry has had a limited remit and limited powers. If he is able to get to the bottom of these matters then the question for the Government will be what action it will take to put right a seeming culture of incompetence, collusion and cover-up at its heart.

"If, however, Sir Alan is unable to explain clearly the series of inaccuracies, incomplete statements and misleading briefings, accounts and denials which have subsequently been proven wrong - then we will need a new, judge-led inquiry with witnesses giving evidence under oath and with a remit that covers all the allegations."

Mr Blunkett will also discover today whether he faces any further action for giving Mrs Quinn two rail travel warrants worth £180 for MPs' spouses. A report by Sir Philip Mawer, the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, was discussed yesterday by the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee, which will announce today whether the former home secretary should be punished or reprimanded. He has already admitted a mistake and agreed to refund the money.

There were reports yesterday that Mrs Quinn's friends were deserting her after it emerged at the weekend that she was having an affair with the journalist Simon Hoggart at the same time as she was engaged in a relationship with Mr Blunkett. There was also speculation that she might return to her native America with her husband, Stephen.

Comments