New ministerial role for cleared Shahid Malik

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Indy Politics

Labour MP Shahid Malik returned to the Government today after a watchdog inquiry cleared him of breaching the ministerial code over a housing arrangement.

Mr Malik stepped down as justice minister last month while the Prime Minister's independent adviser on the code, Sir Philip Mawer, examined his financial arrangements.

But the Dewsbury MP announced today that Gordon Brown had restored him to the frontbench, in a new role as a junior minister at the Department of Communities and Local Government.

The PM is expected to complete his reshuffle with junior appointments today.

Mr Malik said this morning that Sir Philip had found no breach of the ministerial code over a reported sub £100-a-week rent deal on a property in the MP's constituency.

The inquiry findings have been passed to Downing Street but will not be published.

"Naturally, I am very pleased and relieved that the inquiry into allegations that I had breached the ministerial code has cleared me of any wrongdoing," Mr Malik said.

"Although I, along with my friends and family, never doubted the outcome, it has undoubtedly been an incredibly stressful period.

"Sir Philip's clean bill of health will go some way to mending some of the damage to my reputation and healing some of the hurt caused to family and friends.

"I always welcomed Sir Philip's inquiry as an opportunity to clear my name and I am delighted that this has now been achieved."

Mr Brown ordered Sir Philip's inquiry after the Daily Telegraph reported that Mr Malik claimed tens of thousands of pounds on his second home in London while renting his constituency home for less than £100 a week.

The Telegraph said Mr Malik's landlord, local businessman Tahir Zaman, confirmed he was paying well below the market rent for his address in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire - a claim the landlord later denied.

The newspaper reported that Mr Malik's claims for his second home in Peckham, south London, amounted to £66,827 over three years - the highest figure for any MP.

These claims were said to include £2,600 for a home cinema system - which was cut in half by the Commons Fees Office - £730 for a "massage chair", and £65 for a court summons for the non-payment of council tax.

The MP, who was Britain's first Muslim minister, said the inquiry concluded that he was "paying the market rate" after receiving evidence from the Daily Telegraph, the MP and commissioning independent valuations.

He criticised the reporting of the allegations, saying it led people to believe the inquiry was about expenses, rather than an alleged breach of the code.

He said: "Lazy reporting by segments of the media has caused great confusion, with many believing that the inquiry was about expenses, rather than an alleged breach of ministerial code.

"It took me 15 years to build my name and reputation and tragically it was trashed in one mad media day."

He said he would now focus on serving his constituents.

"I will now focus all my attention and efforts on serving constituents in Dewsbury and Mirfield with my integrity intact and serving my country as minister in this Labour Government."

The Prime Minister's spokesman later confirmed that Mr Malik had been cleared of breaching the ministerial code.

"This is on the basis of an independent valuation of the properties," the spokesman said. "Mr Malik will be appointed to a junior ministerial role as part of the ongoing reshuffle."

Mr Malik had agreed to put his tenancy arrangements on a more formal footing, he added.

The spokesman said the Prime Minister "would support whatever Mr Malik believed was the right thing to do" in relation to repaying the expenses money.