Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Deadline for Police in Cash-for-Honours Row

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Deadline for Police in Cash-for-Honours Row

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL WAUGH

MPs have set Scotland Yard a three-week deadline to come up with criminal charges over the "cash for peerages" affair.

The Commons public administration committee has agreed reluctantly to delay its own plans to quiz millionaire Labour backers Sir David Garrard and Chai Patel over the allegations.

The committee will press ahead after Easter unless the Metropolitan Police makes progress in putting a case together under the 1925 Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act which forbids the sale of peerages. Committee chairman Tony Wright insisted that the issue was not sub-judice as no charges had yet been brought and he had agreed only to a "short pause".

Following a meeting last night with Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Yates, who is leading the police inquiry, the committee agreed to postpone the hearing in order not to prejudice possible police action. Yet MPs are furious that the Commons legal counsel effectively forced them to give in to Mr Yates's pleas to hold off.

The committee is due to take evidence from Tony Blair's personal fundraiser, Lord Levy, who raised millions of pounds in undisclosed loans to bankroll Labour's general election campaign.

Four of the lenders, including Dr Patel and Sir David, have since had their nominations to become Labour peers blocked by the House of Lords Appointments Commission. In a further signal that the committee will not let up in its own probe, Mr Wright said that they intended to widen their inquiry to call witnesses from other parties.

Former Tory treasurer Lord Ashcroft, who lent the Conservatives [pounds sterling]3.5 million, and current Tory treasurer Jonathan Marland, himself nominated for a peerage, will also be called.

The row deepened last week when it emerged that Sir David's property firm Minerva had won planning permission for a City skyscraper months after he gave Labour a [pounds sterling]200,000 donation. …

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