Blunkett 'to sell shares'

David Blunkett has announced that he will sell shares held in a DNA testing firm, following claims that he may have breached the ministerial code of conduct.

The Work and Pensions Secretary said that he had asked his sons to authorise the trustees to dispose of shares in the firm DNA Biosciences.

He said that he had made the decision in order to "avoid continuing misinterpretation of the position" and to "protect family and friends from further intrusion".

Prime Minister Tony Blair had earlier given his backing to Mr Blunkett over the claims. Speaking at a Downing Street briefing, Mr Blair said that he had “complete confidence” in Mr Blunkett and said that he should be allowed to “get on with his job, which is very important”.

However, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson confirmed that Mr Blair was seeking advice on whether Mr Blunkett had breached the code. It has also been reported that the Prime Minister had asked the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell, to provide advice on the matter.

The row erupted after it emerged that Mr Blunkett had joined the Board of DNA Bioscience before the General Election and following his resignation as Home Secretary, following allegations that he had fast-tracked a visa application for his former lover’s nanny.

It also emerged that Mr Blunkett purchased £15,000 worth of shares in the firm for his sons – stocks that could dramatically rise in value if the company achieves a stock market listing.

According to the official ministerial code, Mr Blunkett should have sought advice from the independent Advisory Committee on Business Appointments.

Mr Blunkett admitted that he did not seek advice from the Committee, but said that he had been told on a previous occasion that consultation of the Committee was voluntary.

The Conservatives had called for an independent inquiry into Mr Blunkett’s conduct.

In a letter to Mr Blair, Shadow Commons Leader Chris Grayling said: "Mr Blunkett does appear to be in clear breach of the Ministerial Code over his failure to consult the Advisory Committee when he took he took up his directorship. But the real question must be about his judgement in taking the appointment, buying a stake in the company and continuing to meet members of the family that own the company after his return to office.

"My challenge to the Prime Minister is does he feel that this is consistent with both the letter and the spirit of the Ministerial Code?"


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