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Sunday, 6 May, 2001, 19:10 GMT 20:10 UK
Blair urged to explain Hinduja visit
Gopichand, Prakash and Srichand Hinduja
The Hindujas have caused controversy for Labour
A Conservative MP has called on Tony Blair to explain his relationship with the Hinduja brothers after it emerged they visited Downing Street three years ago.

A leaked letter, obtained by Chichester MP Andrew Tyrie, suggests Gopichand and Srichand Hinduja met Mr Blair in June 1998, around the time one of the brothers was seeking a UK passport.


There was nothing improper about this meeting

Downing Street spokeswoman
Details of that meeting were not included in Sir Anthony Hammond's report into the passport affair, prompting Mr Tyrie to call for an explanation.

But Downing Street said the brothers were part of a delegation sent by the Indian government to discuss bilateral relations and the meeting had nothing to do with passport applications.

The letter, addressed to the prime minister's chief of staff Jonathan Powell on 4 June, says the Hinduja brothers would meet Mr Blair later that day with an Indian government official who was carrying a letter from the Indian prime minister.

Raised questions

Mr Tyrie said previously the only known contact between Mr Blair and the brothers was at social events and that the letter raised serious questions.

"The prime minister needs to answer a number of questions: did this meeting take place? Why was it called? Was the Dome discussed? Was Sir Anthony made aware of this meeting? If not, why not? There appears to be no reference to it in his report."

He added: "The prime minister can only clear this up by being frank about his and his government's relationship with the Hindujas."

Andrew Tyrie
Mr Tyrie said the letter raised questions
Mr Tyrie said he would table a private notice question in the Commons on Tuesday asking the prime minister to give an explanation.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said the meeting had nothing to do with matters relating to Sir Anthony Hammond's inquiry.

"The Hindujas were with the Indian delegation. They were invited by the Indian government rather than by us. There was nothing improper about this meeting."

She added: "This was not about passport applications."

Opportunism

Cabinet Office minister Ian McCartney accused Mr Tyrie of "cynical opportunism" over the letter.

"This is a transparent attempt by Andrew Tyrie, a member of the Tories' campaign team, who is clearly panicking at even the mention of a general election, to use a non-story to distract members of the media from the issues that matter to the British public.

"People will not be taken in by such cynical opportunism as this."

Sir Anthony's report into the affair cleared ministers of any wrong doing and found no links between a donation given by the brothers towards the Millennium Dome and their successful applications for passports.

Peter Mandelson was forced to resign as Northern Ireland secretary after he was accused of pulling strings to help one of the brothers to obtain a passport.

Sir Anthony's report found no evidence of this.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nicholas Jones
"For the first time there is confirmation the millionaire business men have been inside Number 10"
BBC News Online's special report on the passport for favours affair

Key stories

Inquiry report

Analysis

The players

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See also:

09 Mar 01 | UK Politics
12 Mar 01 | UK Politics
09 Mar 01 | UK Politics
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