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The BBC's Guto Harri
"This enquiry ended up blaming nobody"
 real 28k

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson
"I do not desire a return to government"
 real 28k

Jonathan Caplan QC
"The prime minister was presented with a version of events which on closer examination were not correct"
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The novelist Robert Harris
"I think Mr Blair will rue the day he ditched Peter Mandelson"
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Friday, 9 March, 2001, 23:02 GMT
Mandelson cleared but questions go on
Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson
Prime Minister Tony Blair has said he is pleased that the official inquiry into the Hinduja passport application has cleared the ministers involved, saying he now wants to draw a line under the affair.

The report by Sir Anthony Hammond QC said the Hinduja brothers' donation to the Dome did not buy them special treatment in their attempts to secure British citizenship.


Sir Anthony's report establishes that I did not lie, did not deceive and did not set out to mislead

Peter Mandelson

It concluded that Peter Mandelson's belief that he had not made a telephone call on their behalf was "honestly held".

It also decided that Europe Minister Keith Vaz did not have an improper relationship with the businessmen, who are facing fraud charges in India.

Mr Mandelson, who resigned as Northern Ireland secretary after being accused of lying about his conversation with Home Office minister Mike O'Brien, said he was relieved that Sir Anthony had "restored his reputation".

Peter Mandelson
Mr Mandelson addressing journalists on Friday
Tony Blair said he had been convinced all along that Mr Mandelson would be cleared of impropriety.

He said the affair was now "over and done with" and refused to elaborate on why his close friend was forced from office.

Both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats said the long-awaited report had left many questions unanswered.

Tory 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."

Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker told BBC2's Newsnight that he wanted Tony Blair to tighten the ministerial code of conduct in the wake of the passport application row.

Delight

Speaking in his Hartlepool constituency Mr Mandelson said: "Sir Anthony's report establishes that I did not lie, did not deceive and did not set out to mislead."

Hammond's findings
Hinduja passport application "properly" handled
No improper pressure by any minister
Enquiries on behalf of Prakash Hinduja properly handled
No evidence of improper relationship between Keith Vaz and the Hindujas
Report accepts Mr Mandelson's belief that he had not approached Mr O'Brien was "honestly held"
The phonecall probably did take place
Intelligence material about the Hindujas was not drawn to the attention of the Home Office
He added: "For reasons I am sure you will understand I do not desire to return to government. There are more ways to serve New Labour and to fulfil our ambitions for the country and that is what I intend to do."

Sir Anthony spent more than a month looking into the passport applications of the three wealthy Hinduja brothers, Gopichand, Srichand and Prakash.

Srichand Hinduja first came into contact with Mr Mandelson when he was Cabinet Office minister in charge of the Millennium Dome.

He offered to underwrite the faith zone for 1m when the Dome was desperately short of sponsors. He later applied for British citizenship.

Disputed call

Both he and Gopichand approached Mr Mandelson about their applications, which led to Mr Mandelson making the disputed call to Mr O'Brien.

Srichand Hinduja
Srichand Hinduja: gave 1m to the Dome
Mr Vaz became embroiled in the passports saga after he was alleged to have written to both Tony Blair and Mr Mandelson about the passport application of the Indian billionaires in 1997.

Mr Vaz said on Friday that he was "delighted" with the report's conclusions but refused to answer reporters' questions when he appeared outside his Leicester East constituency office.

"It's a thorough report and one that goes into the substance extremely well," he said.


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

Tony Blair
A statement from the Hindujas said they felt vindicated that they had not had an improper relationship with either minister and that their passport applications had not been affected by donations to the Dome.

"We note with satisfaction that the Hammond report confirms what we have maintained throughout," it said.

When Mr Mandelson stepped down as Northern Ireland secretary it was his second resignation from the government.

Previously he had quit as trade secretary 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.

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See also:

09 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Q&A: Hammond and Mandelson
24 Jan 01 | South Asia
Mandelson resigns over Hinduja affair
05 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Downing Street moves to bolster Vaz
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