Parliament & Politics: Duncan warns press over father's suicide: 'Back to basics' continues to dominate Westminster debate

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THE CONSERVATIVE MP at the centre of the row over the sale of a Westminster council house yesterday surprised colleagues by issuing an enigmatic statement about his father's suicide.

Alan Duncan, the Tory MP for Rutland and Melton, warned in the statement that any attempt by the press to 'investigate and misconstrue' his father's suicide four years ago would be an 'unwarranted invasion of privacy and must immediately cease'.

Mr Duncan, a millionaire bachelor, who resigned as a parliamentary aide over the disclosures about the council house, told the Press Association he had issued the statement in response to 'persistent questioning' by the tabloid press about the suicide of his father.

'Mr Duncan wishes to make it clear that four years ago, his father, who was suffering from terminal cancer, died at the hand of his own gun. It is a decision of which his family remains proud,' the statement said.

Mr Duncan, 36, refused to give his father's name and it is not included in parliamentary biographies or Who's Who. Although he resigned at the weekend as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Brian Mawhinney, the health minister, while on a skiing trip with other MPs, he has denied any impropriety in the sale of the Georgian terraced house, which adjoins his house close to Westminster.

A freelance oil trader before winning his seat at the last election, Mr Duncan loaned his next-door neighbour the money to buy the house in Gayfere Street from Westminster council for pounds 140,000 under the Government's right-to-buy scheme. Mr Duncan later bought the house, valued at more than pounds 300,000, from his neighbour.

Mr Duncan's house was used by the Major team as their headquarters during John Major's campaign for the Tory party leadership. Last night, Jack Straw, Labour's local government spokesman, attacked 'sleaze' in Westminster council.

Mr Straw said Mr Duncan's house had been used by the author of a profile on Mr Major and raised questions in the Commons about whether Mr Duncan had paid business rates on the property. Mr Straw said he had sent a letter listing questions to Mr Duncan, who was absent from the chamber. 'I am astonished that when legitimate questions have been raised and the MP has been given proper notice, he has not come to the House.'