Tuesday, May 16, 2006

MPs fold under Yard pressure

The Commons Public Administration Committee has capitulated to Scotland Yard's insistence that parallel investigations of "loans for peerages" alegations be delayed.

MPs yesterday demanded the right to question witnesses, including Lord Levy, the Prime Minister's personal fund raiser, as early as next week.

But police, supported by Whitehall officials, who feared that MPs could damage the eight week Scotland Yard investigation, argued that he should be formally interviewed by detectives first.

The police needed time to collate the evidence and a week was not enough, one source said.

"The question has to be asked whether this is an orchestrated move by MPs to protect their own, and avoid scrutiny," they added.

The Committee, which holds a one vote Labour majority, refused last night to back down.

But in a statement to the Press Association on Tuesday afternoon Tony Wright, Labour's Chairman of the Committee, said that MPs would conduct no more interviews until September.

Deputy assistant commissioner John Yates, in charge of the police investigation, had told the Committee earlier that "a number of people" had been interviewed under caution.

Four peers in waiting, Chai Patel, Sir David Garrard, Sir Gulam Noon and Barry Townsley, have removed themselves from Tony Blair's honours list after revelations that they had given secret "loans" to Labour.

MPs clash with police on loans for peerage inquiry

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