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Tuesday, January 13, 1998 Published at 17:26 GMT

UK: Politics

Cook faces MPs after affair controversy
image: [ Robin Cook is taking part in Foreign Office Questions ]
Robin Cook is taking part in Foreign Office Questions

The British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, has faced MPs for the first time since controversy over his love life resurfaced - and escaped without having to answer personal questions.

Mr Cook, who says he intends to marry his secretary, Gaynor Regan, answered questions in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Some backbench MPs said they would put him on the spot about the affair during Foreign Office Questions, but the threat did not materialise.

The Foreign Secretary was the target of comments about his behaviour from political opponents last week.

The former Home Office minister and Tory MP, Ann Widdecombe, said: "I do not comment on people's personal lives, but I cannot resist observing that when our ministers had similar difficulties Labour were relentless in their pursuit."

The leader of the opposition Conservative Party, William Hague, says he does not think Mr Cook should resign.

In August of last year Mr Cook announced his 28-year marriage to his wife Margaret was ending after a newspaper disclosed he was having an affair.

[ image: Margaret Cook said her comments were not meant for publication]
Margaret Cook said her comments were not meant for publication
The matter was revived at the weekend with an interview given by Mrs Cook, which she later said she had not intended for publication, in which she criticised Downing Street.

Mr Cook says he plans to marry his mistress, Gaynor Regan, as soon as the divorce from his wife is finalised.

Attention has been focussing on whether Ms Regan will be travelling with Mr Cook on an overseas tour to the United States and Canada on Wednesday, and Hong Kong and China next week.

Downing Street said she would not be with him on his official trip to Strasbourg, Washington and Ottawa, and that it was not known if she would go with him to Hong Kong and China.

That conflicted with widespread reports that she would go with him and sparked speculation that Downing Street had put its foot down.

However, Downing Street and the Foreign Office said it had never been in the plans that she should go to the US and Canada. The tour is part of Britain's presidency of the EU.


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