Tony Blair and his closest aides face fresh questioning in the
cash-for-honours affair after prosecutors instructed detectives to
return to the case, even though they formally ended their investigation
last month. The development will increase pressure on the Prime
Minister, Downing Street staff and Lord Levy, Mr Blair's chief
sign that the Crown Prosecution Service is taking the case extremely
seriously, police have been told to find key pieces of evidence to
strengthen the case. The move will unnerve Downing Street staff, who
have been privately expressing confidence that nobody will be charged
in the affair.
Mr Blair, who has spoken to the police already, may face a further
interview with detectives, but this time under caution, when he leaves
office next month. Lord Levy and Ruth Turner, a key Downing Street
aide, are among those who may also be questioned again.
A spokeswoman for the CPS, which has received hundreds of pages of
evidence, confirmed: “We have asked the police to conduct some further
Angus MacNeil, the Scottish Nationalist MP whose complaint to the
police led to the launch of the inquiry, said the news increased the
prospect of another police interview for Tony Blair.
“This is clearly going to reverberate around the dying days of the
Blair Government, and once Blair has retired it might be more
interesting still,” he said.
Several key lenders at the centre of the cash for honours affair
have been asked by Labour to roll over their loans to save the party
from being forced into receivership. Sir David Garrard, who was due to
be repaid £2.3m last month, and Dr Chai Patel who was owed £1.5m in
August, have decided not to call in the loans. Both men are understood
to have given the party more time to repay. In 2008 the party will have
to make millions of pounds more in loan repayments, including £1m to
Barry Townsley, who was proposed for a peerage by Tony Blair.
Opposition politicians said the party would have been told to stop
trading if it were a company. Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, a Liberal
Democrat treasury spokesman, said: “If this was a commercial company
the auditors would be warning the directors they should call in the
Senior Labour figures fear that the party's auditors, who are now
examining the accounts, will not be able to sign the party off as a
going concern because Labour does not have enough money to pay back its
debts. The party was due to pay back almost £10m in loans this year.
Members of the party's governing body, the National Executive
Committee, will become personally liable for the party's debt if the
auditors refuse to say that the party is a going concern.