Birmingham Post – 29 June 2001
A junior Minister at the heart of the Hinduja passport affair which cost Peter Mandelson his Cabinet job, was sacked for 'telling the truth', it was claimed by a Tory in the Commons yesterday.
Mike O'Brien, MP for Warwickshire North and an Immigration Minister until the post-election Government re-shuffle, allegedly received a telephone call from Mr Mandelson, then Northern Ireland Secretary. This was later considered crucial in the Hinduja affair.
When Sir Anthony Hammond conducted an inquiry into the matter he said he was unable to establish whether the call actually took place.
Mr O'Brien lost his Home Office job in the latest reshuffle and returned to the backbenches.
Tory Julian Lewis (New Forest E), during exchanges on coming parliamentary business, yesterday asked Commons Leader Robin Cook:
“May we have a statement next week from the Minister from the Cabinet Office about the code of ministerial conduct and in particular, which of its provisions allow for the sacking of a competent junior Home Office Minister simply because he insisted on telling the truth about a telephone call from one of the Prime Minister's Cabinet cronies.”
Mr Cook, in a reply which appeared to allude to his transition from Foreign Secretary to Leader of the House, said:
“I think it would be inappropriate of me to enter into commentary on why particular decisions were made during the last reshuffle – otherwise I might detain the House much longer than it would actually have anticipated.”
Mr Cook added:
“In the case to which you refer, he did an excellent job at the Home Office. The suggestion you make is wide of the mark.”