Police question ministers in honours row

Two government ministers are among those questioned by police investigating the cash for honours row, reports suggest.

Science minister Lord Sainsbury and trade minister Ian McCartney, a former Labour chairman, have reportedly been quizzed by Scotland Yard officers investigating claims that peerages were offered to wealthy backers in return for loans.

The news comes after Lord Levy, Tony Blair’s personal fundraiser who was arrested and bailed as part of the same investigation on Wednesday, accused the police of creating a “media circus”.

Both Labour and the Conservatives have vehemently denied any wrongdoing, and a spokesman for Lord Sainsbury, one of Labour’s biggest benefactors, insisted he had not been under caution during the interview.

In April, the peer was cleared of breaching the ministerial code after failing to declare a £2 million loan made to Labour around the time of the last election. He blamed a mix-up between this loan and a £2 million donation made at the same time.

While his aides have refused to comment on Lord Sainsbury’s dealings with police, they insisted he “has done nothing wrong”.

Aides of Mr McCartney, who was chairman of the Labour party between 2003 and 2005, also told the BBC that he had not been questioned under caution, nor in a police station, and was cooperating fully with the police inquiry.

Lord Levy, who has brought millions of pounds into the Labour party, was arrested and bailed on Wednesday on suspicion of offences under the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925 and the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

In a statement released after a second day of questioning last night, he repeated his insistence that he had done nothing wrong, saying his arrest was “unnecessary, disproportionate and, as has been described by others, entirely theatrical”.

“The only result has been a media circus, which has distracted from the issues under consideration. We hope the police will concentrate on the investigation and bring it to a swift conclusion,” a spokesman said.

“Although any allegations remain unclear, Lord Levy wants everyone to understand that he has not been involved in any wrongdoing or assisted anyone else in the wrongdoing. We want to emphasise again that Lord Levy has not been charged with any offence and is confident he never will be.”

Yesterday, Scotland Yard assistant commissioner John Yates met with the public administration committee to update them on the investigations into the honours row, where he said he was “very cross” at suggestions that Lord Levy’s arrest was theatrical.