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Lady Warsi apologises over Pakistan trip

Category: England

Published: 4th Jun 2012 19:45:37

Conservative Party co-chairman Lady Warsi has apologised to Prime Minister David Cameron over a ministerial trip to Pakistan with her business partner.

Lady Warsi was alleged by a Sunday newspaper to have failed to declare she and Abid Hussain, who was on the trip in 2010, had stakes in the same firm.

She has apologised for any "embarrassment to the government".

Mr Cameron said he had asked his independent adviser on ministerial interests to look into the case.

She said Mr Hussain was her husband's second cousin and this was "widely known", both to her private office and the British High Commission in Pakistan.

Lady Warsi has had a rough time in the newspapers in the last week or so.

Labour have asked the police to look into allegations relating to her allowances as a member of the House of Lords. The peer has already referred herself over this to the Lords Commissioner for Standards, Paul Kernaghan.

And now another row and a public acknowledgement that she has embarrassed the prime minister.

The response from Downing Street will prolong the affair, rather than bring it to an immediate conclusion - asking Sir Alex Allan, David Cameron's independent adviser on the Ministerial Code, to look into the case.

Note the contrast with just a few days ago, when Mr Cameron refused to refer Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to Sir Alex, over the row about News Corp's attempt to take full control of BSkyB.

Labour claim this is because the story about News Corp poses awkward direct questions for the PM too, whereas Lady Warsi's case does not.

It would also appear the first Muslim woman to sit in the cabinet lacks friends among the Conservative high command, in a way Jeremy Hunt does not.

But she said she did not realise the fact they had "a common business interest as minority shareholders in a small food company" also had to be declared.

"I sincerely regret that I did not consider the significance of this relationship with Mr Hussain when the arrangements for the visit were being made.

"In retrospect, I accept that I should have made officials aware of the business relationship between Mr Hussain and myself, and for this I am sorry.

"I regret that this failure may have caused embarrassment to the government."

Replying to Baroness Warsi, Mr Cameron said "there are clearly some lessons for future handling and I have asked Alex Allan, my adviser on ministers' interests, to consider the issues that have been raised with respect to the Ministerial Code and to provide advice to me as rapidly as possible".

The Sunday Telegraph reported she did not declare her directorship and shareholding in the spice company, Rupert's Recipes.

Labour want the police to investigate separate allegations over accommodation allowances.

Lady Warsi is already being investigated by a parliament watchdog over reports she claimed accommodation allowance while staying with a friend rent-free.

Lady Warsi has said she made an "appropriate payment" to her friend - now her special adviser - Naweed Khan, who was renting the house in which she stayed.

But the owner of the property in Acton, west London, Dr Wafik Moustafa, said he never received any money from her.

She has referred the allegations to the Lords commissioner for standards, Paul Kernaghan.

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