Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Tessa under New Pressure; Minister Should Quit If She Has Broken Rules, Says Cameron

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Tessa under New Pressure; Minister Should Quit If She Has Broken Rules, Says Cameron

Article excerpt


TESSA JOWELL should resign if she broke the ministerial code of conduct over her husband's financial dealings, David Cameron said today.

The Tory leader piled pressure on the embattled Culture Secretary by saying she would have to quit if an inquiry by Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell finds against her.

The call came as Ms Jowell faced claims that five mortgages were taken out on the London home at the centre of bribery allegations against her husband, and on the same day that a Commons watchdog said she faced months of questions unless Tony Blair ordered an independent inquiry into the affair.

Mr Cameron said: "If you break the ministerial code then you cannot be a minister in my view."

He stopped short of calling for Ms Jowell to resign and stressed the case was "very complicated".

He added: "There should be a process in these things and Gus O'Donnell has been asked to look at this case and I think we should wait for what he has to say."

Sir Gus is understood to be seeking answers to whether Ms Jowell declared a home loan, now at the centre of bribery allegations, to her department's permanent secretary. Ms Jowell signed a mortgage document allowing her husband David Mills to take out a loan of about [pounds sterling]400,000 on their home in Kentish Town.

Lawyer Mr Mills is fighting newspaper claims that he used a [pounds sterling]340,000 bribe from Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to repay the loan. He allegedly received the money for protecting Mr Berlusconi during a corruption trial. Mr Mills denies the claims.

Downing Street again appeared to maintain some distance from the under-fire minister, refusing to confirm that no evidence had been found against her.

Shadow Commons leader Theresa May has urged Sir Gus to rule whether Ms Jowell breached the code of conduct, but the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "Sir Gus O'Donnell has to make sure he knows the facts before he replies. He will reply when he is ready."

He added that Ms Jowell herself had stressed the importance of ministers keeping to the code of conduct. But Tony Wright, Labour chairman of the Commons public administration committee, said that even if Sir Gus were to clear her, "it won't make it go away". …

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