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Monday, 4 February, 2002, 15:10 GMT
Mandelson inquiry reopened
Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson
Tony Blair has ordered the new inquiry
Prime Minister Tony Blair has reopened the inquiry into the Hinduja passport affair that forced Peter Mandelson's resignation.


It appears Mr Mandelson is going to have more comebacks than Mike Tyson, but without the latter's charm

Peter Kilfoyle, Labour MP
Downing Street said former Treasury solicitor Sir Anthony Hammond was examining new documents presented by Mr Mandelson and would release his findings "shortly".

The original Hammond inquiry cleared the former Northern Ireland secretary of impropriety but said it was "likely" Mr Mandelson had telephoned a Home Office minister about the Hinduja brothers' passport applications.

Now Mr Mandelson's decision to provide new evidence to reopen the inquiry is being seen as a possible attempt to return to frontline politics.

New papers

Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat MP who first raised the Hinduja affair in Parliament, described the prime minister's decision to re-open the inquiry as "very odd".

"If you lose a football match you don't ask for a replay on the basis that you don't like the result," Mr Baker told BBC Radio 4's The World at One.

He said Mr Mandelson should be happy with the result of the original Hammond enquiry, as he had came out of it "quite well".

"Clearly he wants to be back in the front line of politics. He can not accept that he is out of the mainstream of events," Mr Baker said.

'Odd' decision

Former Labour defence minister Peter Kilfoyle agreed that the re-opening of the Hinduja investigation was a blatant attempt to re-start Mr Mandelson's career in frontline politics.

"It appears Mr Mandelson is going to have more comebacks than Mike Tyson, but without the latter's charm," Mr Kilfoyle told The World at One.


It's common sense that if new documents emerge which one party believes could have affected the outcome of the inquiry for that to be considered by the person who conducted the original inquiry

The prime minister's speokesman
He said Mr Mandelson's return to the "inner circles" of government would be "unpalatable" to many people in the Labour movement and in public life in general.

But he added: "I think the prime minister feels very bereft of support in his battle over the pulbic services and he does place disproportionate faith in Peter Mandelson.

"I can only conclude that this is part of the preparations to clear his (Mandelson's) return to a job very close to the prime minister."

Let down

The BBC's Political Editor Andrew Marr said Mr Mandelson had felt personally let down by the prime minister's decision to not to stand by him over the Hinduja affair.

"I think this is about trying to get the prime minister to effectively admit that was wrong," Mr Marr told the World at One.

Mr Mandelson resigned from the cabinet for the second time in January last year before the Hammond inquiry was set up.

The affair centred around the passport applications of millionnaire brothers Srichand and Gopichand Hinduja, who donated money for the Millennium Dome.

Tony Blair's spokesman said: "It's common sense that if new documents emerge which one party believes could have affected the outcome of the inquiry, for that to be considered by the person who conducted the original inquiry.

"It is for Sir Anthony Hammond to decide whether they affect the outcome or not."

The spokesman said the prime minister would have had to approve the new inquiry but he would not say what kind of documents were involved, nor what they contained.

Sir Anthony began looking at the new papers at the start of this year.

Do you think Peter Mandelson could return to government?

See also:

09 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Passport inquiry clears Mandelson
30 Jan 01 | South Asia
Hindujas seek to leave India
13 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Mandelson gives passport evidence
25 Jan 01 | South Asia
Hinduja 'did not seek favours'
01 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Hindujas gave job to Tory minister
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