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Sunday, 4 February, 2001, 16:42 GMT
Cook stands by Vaz in passports row
keith vaz
Mr Vaz will not discuss his relationship with Mr Hinduja
Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has come to the defence of the Europe minister, Keith Vaz, following newspaper calls for him to resign.

Mr Cook called for an end to the "unedified and unjustified hounding" of Keith Vaz about his business interests and role in the granting of a British passport to Srichand Hinduja.

The foreign secretary said anti-Europeanism in the media made the minister for Europe a target even though he had done nothing wrong.

"Keith Vaz has done an excellent job as Europe minister and indeed, let's be frank, that is why some of the papers are out to get him," Mr Cook told the BBC Radio Four's The World This Weekend programme.


I have seen nothing in any of the stories that have been produced about Mr Vaz that are not innuendo and guilt by association

Robin Cook
"I have seen nothing in any of the stories that have been produced about Mr Vaz that are not innuendo and guilt by association as to where he is supposed to have broken the ministerial code of behaving properly as a minister."

The Labour Party has denied newspaper reports that election donations made to Mr Vaz are missing and that the he is considering quitting as a minister.

Mr Vaz has refused to discuss his relationship with the Hinduja brothers - who face corruption charges in their native India - until the official inquiry by Sir Anthony Hammond QC into how they were granted British nationality is completed.

Srichand Hinduja: His passport application lies at the heart of the saga
Peter Mandelson, forced to resign over the Hinduja passport affair, returned from the US to his Notting Hill home on Sunday afternoon.

The former Northern Ireland secretary has pledged not to damage the government or Labour Party as he tries to clear his name, and made no comment as he entered his house.

But in an interview with The Independent on Sunday, he said: "I know I didn't lie and I have got to establish that.

"Nothing I will do will ever be designed to harm the government or the party - I think everyone knows that."


I am not going to stand by and have my career destroyed

Peter Mandelson
Mr Mandelson told the paper he had written thousands of words in his defence which he intends to present to Sir Anthony Hammond QC, who is holding an inquiry into the affair.

"I am not going to stand by and have my career destroyed - and that is what will happen if the truth doesn't come out."

But Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, whose parliamentary question led to Mr Mandelson's resignation, has accused him of being vengeful.

"He's determined, it seems to me, to wreak his revenge and cause problems for the government in the run up to the election," said Mr Baker.

"He's trying to say, I think: 'If you are going to sack me, I'm going to try to bring you down'."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Foreign Secretary Robin Cook
"Unjustified hounding"
Shadow Foreign Secretary Francis Maude
"Keith Vaz is becoming an embarrassment even to this government"

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See also:

04 Feb 01 | UK Politics
28 Jan 01 | UK Politics
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