Nanny's visa 'was approved within 19 days'

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Indy Politics

David Blunkett was facing fresh questions last night over allegations that he fast-tracked a visa application for his ex-lover's former nanny.

David Blunkett was facing fresh questions last night over allegations that he fast-tracked a visa application for his ex-lover's former nanny.

Home Office letters sent to Leoncia Casalme, the former nanny of Kimberly Quinn, first warned her of a delay of up to 12 months in processing her visa, before granting her leave to stay in Britain indefinitely just 19 days later.

The revelation will increase the pressure on Mr Blunkett, who has spent the past few days fighting a series of allegations that have arisen from his affair with Mrs Quinn, the married publisher of The Spectator magazine. On Sunday the Home Secretary set up an inquiry into the claims, to be undertaken by Sir Alan Budd.

Mrs Quinn, 43, who is pregnant, was being treated in hospital yesterday after collapsing from stress. Her health has reportedly been affected by the disputed paternity of her son and her unborn child.

David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, said Mr Blunkett would have to resign if it was proved that he had influenced the application. "If the Daily Mail story is correct, it is very difficult to understand how this can be the normal length of procedure for an application to remain," he said.

"Mr Blunkett will have to explain precisely how this rapid processing of the application came about. If he influenced this matter, his position is untenable."

Mr Blunkett's spokesman insisted that the letters, published in today's Daily Mail, were routine and repeated that the Home Secretary had done nothing wrong.

He said: "David did not interfere with or fast-track this application. He has done absolutely nothing wrong." The spokesman insisted that Mr Blunkett had checked the form when Ms Casalme made her visa application but had not intervened to get it approved.

It was not unusual for applications to receive a standard letter warning of potential delays, he said.

Earlier Mr Blunkett had given an apology as he announced he would pay for the first class rail ticket he gave Mrs Quinn under a scheme intended for MPs' spouses and partners.

His move came as he faced an inquiry by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Sir Philip Mawer, into the issuing of travel warrants. The Home Secretary denied that he had acted to forestall any investigation by Sir Philip, who received two complaints from members of the public on the subject yesterday.

Hours later, however, Mr Blunkett's spokesman said that he would repay the £180 cost of the return trip to Doncaster. He said: "Having examined the detailed rules today, he realises he has made a genuine mistake and will be repaying the cost of the ticket to the parliamentary authorities, and he apologises for his mistake."

Mr Blunkett had previously insisted that he had been within the rules to hand out the ticket because Mrs Quinn, whom he believed was carrying his child, counted as his partner under the scheme. The spokesman added: "He has checked the rules today and realised he was under a misapprehension."

Ministers reacted furiously yesterday after Sir Alistair Graham, the chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, spoke out against the "ad hoc" way in which the Home Office had been allowed to launch the Budd inquiry into its own political master and choose the person to head it. Sir Alistair, warned that the inquiry could be tainted because Mr Blunkett had asked his own top civil servant, John Gieve, to set it up.

Tony Blair's official spokesman confirmed that the code of conduct for ministers would be reviewed after the next general election as a result of the scandal that has engulfed Mr Blunkett.

THE HOME OFFICE LETTERS

23 April 2003

"The waiting period for these cases is about 12 months at the moment. We are doing all we can to reduce it and on current performance we estimate your application will be decided by January 2004"

12 May 2003

"I am writing to say there are no longer any restrictions on the period for which you may remain in the UK. You can now remain indefinitely in the UK."

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