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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 November, 2004, 08:32 GMT
Blairs defend private flat rental
Tony and Cherie Blair with baby Leo
The Blairs with baby Leo. the first born to a serving PM in 150 years
Downing Street has defended Tony and Cherie Blair against claims that two flats they own are let to a defence firm working on government contracts.

The Mail on Sunday reported that the flats in Bristol had been rented out to executives from the French-owned defence giant Thales.

They were at the centre of the so-called "Cheriegate" affair in 2002.

However the Blairs said the properties were held for them by a 'blind trust'.

Thales has made donations to the Labour Party and is currently involved in a series of major government defence projects, including two new aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy.

The Mail on Sunday claimed the couple could be earning 60,000 a year from the flats which are in an upmarket development called The Panoramic.

'Blind trust'

However Downing Street said that the Blairs were not involved in letting the flats, which are managed by the Manchester Trust, a blind trust set up to separate Mr Blair from decisions about how his assets are invested.

"The Blairs play no part whatsoever in the choosing of tenants of the Bristol flats. It is all handled by the Manchester Trust. Nor have they ever had any contact with the tenants," a spokeswoman said.

"The idea that there is any conflict of interest arising from it is therefore absurd."

In 2002, it was revealed that Mrs Blair had bought the flats with the help of convicted conman Peter Foster.

The couple's eldest son Euan is at university in Bristol and the flats were seen as possible student accommodation for him.





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