HL Deb 01 February 2001 vol 621 cc797-9

3.25 p.m.

Lord Roberts of Conwy asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will publish the terms of reference for Sir Anthony Hammond QC's inquiry in connection with matters relating to Mr Peter Mandelson's resignation.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, the terms of reference for Sir Anthony Hammond QC's review, announced by the Prime Minister on Wednesday, 24th January, are: To establish what approaches were made to the Home Office in 1998 in connection with the possibility of an application for naturalisation by Mr S.P. Hinduja, and the full circumstances surrounding such approaches and the later grant of that application; and to report to the Prime Minister".

Lord Roberts of Conwy

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that detailed reply relating to this sorry affair. Can he confirm that the inquiry will be able to look into the question of how the Home Office appears to have succumbed to extraneous ministerial pressures brought to bear when the issue arose over whether passports should have been granted to the Hinduja brothers?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, it would be wrong for me either to describe or circumscribe in any way the extent of the inquiry being carried out by Sir Anthony Hammond. I believe that it would also be wrong to pre-empt the outcome of that review. No doubt the review will be as extensive as the noble Lord wishes.

Lord Renton

My Lords, will Sir Anthony's findings be published?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, the report will be published and I have been advised that copies will be placed in the Printed Paper Office and, of course, in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament.

Lord Davies of Coity

My Lords, can my noble friend confirm whether the previous administration, which was in power for 18 years, set up an inquiry to consider the behaviour of Neil Hamilton, Jonathan Aitken and Jeffrey Archer? If they did so, did they publish the terms of reference?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I am not aware that that was done. Perhaps different rules then applied.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, will the evidence be taken on oath and will it be subject to cross-examination?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I do not think that this is a judicial inquiry or investigation and I am not aware that evidence will be taken in the manner suggested by the noble Lord.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, I am sure that Sir Anthony Hammond's long experience as the in-house legal adviser at the Home Office for most of his career will enable him to probe this matter very deeply. However, if his report exonerates Mr Mandelson, will be once again be reinstated? Mr Mandelson was a most respected Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, it is undoubtedly the case that Peter Mandelson was a widely respected Member of Her Majesty's Government. He did an excellent job in his ministerial postings. As regards the position of Sir Anthony Hammond, I believe that he is an official whose standing is above and beyond dispute.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, if Mr Mandelson is found to be lily-white and guilt free, why is he not being asked back into the Government? Alternatively, what was the reason for his resignation? If the Minister does not know the answer, perhaps he would like to ask his neighbour sitting to his right.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, that is an entirely hypothetical question. Those matters are, of course, properly ones for the Prime Minister.