The Tories are demanding the Cabinet Office state whether or not Culture Minister Tessa Jowell has breached the ministerial code of conduct over her husband’s dealings with Italian prime minister Sergio Berlusconi.
Tory Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Theresa May, has written to Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell demanding he make a ruling on the matter.
Jowell denies any wrongdoing and her husband, international lawyer David Mills denies taking a £344,000 bribe from Berlusconi, although he signed a confession to the Italian police.
The Tories are demanding a probe into Jowell’s role in the wake of yesterday’s Sunday Times newspaper claim that it had identified a link between a loan secured on a house jointly-owned by the couple and money which Italian prosecutors allege was a bribe, paid to Mills to give false evidence in court for Berlusconi.
Jowell co-signed a mortgage on the £700,000 home in Kentish Town, north London.
She insists the deal did not mean a conflict of interest.
In a statement, Jowell said: ‘I signed a charge over our jointly-owned home to support a loan made to my husband alone by his bank.
‘I am satisfied that no conflict of interest arose out of this transaction in relation to my ministerial duties.
‘As is standard practice in relation to legal proceedings, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further.’
Mills admits writing a letter to his accountants where he appears to be describing a payment but strongly denies it was a bribe, insisting he was inventing a scenario to get tax advice.
May said: ‘All I’m asking is, has the ministerial code been adhered to, particularly obviously in relation to any requirement to notify in relation to financial transactions.’
Disgraced former home secretary David Blunkett yesterday defended Jowell saying he did not believe there was any evidence ‘whatsoever that Tessa Jowell’s public role as a minister, past or present, has anything whatsoever to do with her husband’s affairs’.