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Thursday, 1 February, 2001, 10:46 GMT
Hindujas gave job to Tory minister
Hinduja brothers
The Hindujas have lobbied both Labour and the Tories
A Conservative immigration minister who reportedly handled one of the Hinduja brothers' passport applications was given a job by the family soon after.

Timothy Kirkhope, now Tory chief whip in the European Parliament, is said to be the Home Office minister who received Gopichand Hinduja's application for British nationality in March 1997.

A year after losing his seat in the May 1997 election he was given a job by the wealthy Indian brothers, leaving in June 1999 after winning a European Parliament seat representing Yorkshire and the Humber.

Timothy Kirkhope
Timothy Kirkhope lost his seat in the general election
Mr Hinduja was given a passport by Labour in November 1997.

During his time at the Home Office Mr Kirkhope had special responsibility for immigration, nationality, the UK Passport Agency, extradition and international police issues.

He reportedly told The Times that he had received the billionaire businessman's application while he was in the post.

"I'm pretty sure that this was one of the ones that went through to officials and were left to officials when we left office," Mr Kirkhope is quoted as saying.

No favours

He said he had done nothing wrong by taking a job with the Hindujas and the work he did was essentially linked up to infrastructure issues.

"I had nothing to do with any of their other interests, such as the Dome," he is reported as saying.

"I was certainly not involved in government affairs. What I did there was perfectly proper."

A spokesman for the Hindujas insisted Mr Kirkhope advised them only about water and power projects in India.

A Conservative Central Office spokeswoman added: "The key point in this whole affair is that the Conservative Party has never traded passports for favours. We didn't give the Hindujas passports."

William Hague
Mr Hague attended the Hindujas' party last year
It is the passport application of Gopichand's brother Srichand that is at the heart of the controversy that last week forced the resignation of Peter Mandelson as Northern Ireland secretary.

Srichand Hinduja was also given a passport by Labour, a few months after donating 1m to the ill-fated Millennium Dome.

Mr Mandelson has denied attempting to influence the handling of the passport application with the Home Office and an inquiry is now examining the matter.

The saga embroiled the Conservatives this week when it emerged that Tory leader William Hague did not declare that a reception thrown in his honour by the brothers was used to raise funds for the party.

The Tories have insisted that the event did not need be declared in the Commons register of members interests because it was not held to benefit one person.

Despite raising questions over the acceptance of the Hindujas' hospitality by Labour figures, the Tories insisted Mr Hague had done nothing wrong.

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See also:

01 Feb 01 | South Asia
Hindujas barred from leaving India
30 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Hague attended Hinduja party
30 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Tories draw MI6 into passport saga
24 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Hinduja brothers: Wealthy and reclusive
01 Feb 01 | South Asia
Hindujas barred from leaving India
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