Labour steps up Warsi pursuit over expenses claims

Baroness Warsi denies any wrongdoing
Baroness Warsi denies any wrongdoing
Alex Stevenson By

Conservative party chairman Sayeeda Warsi has been reported to the police by a Labour MP as the row over her expenses claims intensifies.

Karl Turner has asked City of London police to investigate a newspaper report that she claimed expenses of up to £165.50 a night for a six-week period in 2008 - when she was allegedly staying rent-free in a house belonging to Wafik Moustafa.

Dr Moustafa told last week that the first he had heard of the expenses claims was when the story broke in the papers. "She is trying to save her skin by any means," he commented.

Mr Turner, the MP for Kingston upon Hull East, said last night: "It appears that Baroness Warsi may have claimed for expenses which she did not in fact incur, and that a criminal offence may therefore have been committed.

"There are serious questions to answer which is why I have written to the police to ask that an inquiry be undertaken."

Baroness Warsi faced further negative press attention in yesterday's newspapers. The Sunday Telegraph reported she had failed to register a controlling stake in a spice manufacturing firm, Rupert's Recipes, with the House of Lords.

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Michael Dugher asked: "If this is the case, has she breached the rules that state that peers should declare their business interests, particularly if they are the principal shareholders in a company?"

Mr Dugher is also asking questions about Baroness Warsi's trips abroad, including two paid for by the Saudi Arabian government.

It is her trip to Pakistan, where she met with leading politicians, which appears the most dangerous for the Tory party chairman, however, as she was accompanied by her private business partner Abid Hussain.

The episode has echoes of former defence secretary Liam Fox having been accompanied on trips abroad by his best man, the lobbyist Adam Werritty.

Mr Dugher asked: "Why was it deemed necessary that Mr Hussain accompany the minister on what was supposed to be official business?

"Was Mr Hussain subjected to security vetting before accompanying Baroness Warsi to Pakistan?

"Also, was Mr Hussain's presence cleared by either the Cabinet Office or No 10?"

Pressure faced by Baroness Warsi is not being looked on favourably in Pakistan, where the News newspaper wrote that she faced a "racist witchhunt" by the "UK's racist media".

It pointed out she is the first Muslim in a British Cabinet and is fluent in Urdu, Punjabi and Gujarati, and can also read and write Arabic.

"Mainstream commentators agree that attacks on Warsi are part of an elaborate, sexist and racist plot which is aimed at ousting the daughter of Pakistani immigrants from her position of influence," the News reported.

"But anti-racism and anti-Islamophobia campaigners are rallying to her defence, pointing out that while many senior politicians, including white female politicians, are given an easy ride, Warsi is being subjected to undue criticism." 


Load in comments
Politics @ Lunch

Friday lunchtime. Your Inbox. It's a date.