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EDITIONS
Friday, 9 March, 2001, 13:33 GMT
Blair welcomes Hammond report
Former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson
Peter Mandelson reacts to the report's findings
Downing Street says the Hammond report shows the government to be whiter-than-white, but opponents insist many questions are still unanswered.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said he was pleased it had cleared Peter Mandelson of wrong-doing and added: "I hope he will be able to get on with rebuilding his life".


It's over and done with and I'm not commenting on it any more

Tony Blair
But asked why Mr Mandelson had been forced to resign as Northern Ireland secretary in January if he had done nothing wrong Mr Blair said: "It's over and done with and I'm not commenting on it any more."

Conservative leader William Hague said: "This whole bizarre chain of circumstances would never have happened at all had the prime minister not re-appointed Peter Mandelson to the cabinet just 10 months after the first occasion when he had to resign in disgrace."

Prime Minister Tony Blair
Prime Minister: Peter's "tragedy"
Mr Mandelson left the cabinet in 1998 after it emerged that he had borrowed a substantial sum from the then paymaster general, Geoffrey Robinson, to buy a house in London's Notting Hill.

Shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe said the report left "a rather nasty smell" about the government.

Cronyism

She told BBC News 24 the report showed the government was "not competent" and run on "cronyism".

And she asked: "Why was Mandelson brought back so early?"

Opposition leader William Hague
William Hague 'bizarre circumstances'
Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, whose parliamentary questions first brought Mr Mandelson's involvement to light, said: "There are a number of questions unanswered. I think that's unhelpful."

He expressed concern that the report had not examined other issues.

It should have covered access to government ministers, the activities of other MPs who made representations about the Hinduja passports, and why the applications had been dealt with so quickly.

Europe minister Keith Vaz, who was also cleared of having had an improper relationship with the Indian businessmen, said he was delighted with the report.


There are a number of questions unanswered. I think that's unhelpful

Norman Baker
"It's a thorough report and one that goes into the substance extremely well."

Asked what message he had for his critics who had made accusations against him he said: "They will have to read it and realise the things they said cannot be sustained."

Tragedy

Home Secretary Jack Straw, whose junior minister Mike O'Brien is said to have taken the disputed telephone call from Mr Mandelson which began the affair, said it was a "personal tragedy" for the former Northern Ireland secretary.

"Having worked closely with Peter over many years, I have always had the highest respect for him as a colleague and a friend," he said.

He added that the report's recommendations about the administrative processes for citizenship applications and about ministerial record-keeping would be put into effect.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Philippa Thomas
"There are no big surprises"
BBC News Online's special report on the passport for favours affair

Key stories

Inquiry report

Analysis

The players

VIDEO
See also:

09 Mar 01 | UK Politics
09 Mar 01 | UK Politics
24 Jan 01 | UK Politics
24 Jan 01 | South Asia
05 Feb 01 | UK Politics
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