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EDITIONS
Monday, 5 March, 2001, 10:45 GMT
Hinduja inquiry still hearing evidence
Peter Mandelson
Peter Mandelson resigned from office in January
The report into Peter Mandelson's role in the Hinduja passport affair is still being finalised but there is mounting press speculation that the former Northern Ireland secretary will be cleared of serious wrongdoing.

Mr Mandelson was forced to resign after changing the details of his story over whether he approached the Home Office regarding one of the Asian billionaire businessmen's passport application.


Mr Mandelson ... has been spinning very effectively in exile

Norman Baker
Downing Street says Sir Anthony Hammond QC is still seeing people and has not yet completed his report, which is expected to be published later this week, though not on Wednesday when Gordon Brown will deliver his Budget.

It's thought Sir Anthony is still listening to responses from individuals involved in the report, though Downing Street refused to confirm this.

And Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, whose parliamentary questions started the chain of events that led to Mr Mandelson's second resignation from the cabinet, has already cast doubt on the validity of the report.

Mr Baker said that unless Sir Anthony had been in contact with the Hindujas then the report would fall short of its objectives.

And Mr Baker suggested that Mr Mandelson had been spinning his version of events around the media.

He said: "Mr Mandelson I have to congratulate, he has been spinning very effectively in exile and he has managed to turn this issue into whether or not he's been treated properly."

That was not the issue, Mr Baker said and called into question the whole issue of the government's links to the billionaire Hindujas.

Srichand Hinduja
Srichand Hinduja gave 1m to the Dome
There is speculation that the report, which was ordered by Tony Blair, may be published as early as Thursday or Friday.

According to newspaper reports, leaked extracts of the draft Hammond report suggest that Mr Mandelson did not mislead ministers over his involvement in the passport affair.

Sir Anthony is reported as saying in the draft report that he had "no reason to doubt Mr Mandelson's honesty".

Downing Street says the prime minister has not yet seen the final report.

Mr Mandelson resigned from the cabinet in January after admitting making misleading statements over his involvement in Srichand Hinduja's passport application.

Dome donation

Mr Hinduja gave a 1m donation to the Millennium Dome while Mr Mandelson was in charge of the project.


There was no deal, there was no condition, there was no link with the contribution or any other contribution

Srichand Hinduja

However Mr Hinduja told the BBC's Panorama programme on Sunday that there was no link between the donation to the Dome and the passport application.

He said: "There was no deal, there was no condition, there was no link with the contribution or any other contribution."

Mr Mandelson had initially said he had no direct involvement in the passport application.

Phone call

But Mr Blair's official spokesman Alastair Campbell later said Mr Mandelson had called Home Office Minister Mike O'Brien to ask if new laws would allow the application to be reconsidered.

Mr Mandelson said there was "no question" of him forgetting the call - he simply had not been asked about it.

The Sunday Telegraph said Sir Anthony has not established whether it took place but concluded: "On balance, I am prepared to accept that there was probably a phone call."

Since his resignation Mr Mandelson has said he had discovered that a secretary claimed she had phoned the Home Office.

The QC is also expected to brand Europe Minister Keith Vaz "unwise" for writing to Mr Blair and Mr Straw supporting the passport application.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Norman Smith
"I don't think Sir Anthony is going to produce a smoking gun"
Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat MP
"Mr Mandelson has been spinning very effectively in exile"
BBC News Online's special report on the passport for favours affair

Key stories

Inquiry report

Analysis

The players

VIDEO
See also:

08 Feb 01 | UK Politics
05 Feb 01 | UK Politics
04 Feb 01 | UK Politics
09 Feb 01 | UK Politics
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