Honours inquiry detective to face MPs

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LONDON, Oct 23 (Reuters) A senior detective faces a committee of MPs today to explain his investigation into alleged political corruption that overshadowed former Prime Minister Tony Blair's last months in office.

John Yates, Assistant Commissioner of London's Metropolitan Police, has been summoned by the Public Administration Select Committee to give details of the 16-month probe into the so-called ''cash for honours'' inquiry.

Yates' team launched their investigation in March 2006 after claims that political parties had nominated people for seats in the House of Lords in return for cash.

Blair was quizzed by officers as a witness three times, the first serving prime minister to face questions in a criminal investigation. Two of his former aides, a donor, and a top Labour Party fundraiser were arrested during the inquiry.

Some analysts believe that the ongoing saga contributed to pressure from the party for Blair to step down early.

However, prosecutors announced in July this year that no one would face any charges, leading some politicians to criticise the length of the probe and its cost, estimated at about one million pounds.

''There are plenty of questions that need to be answered,'' Paul Rowen, a Liberal Democrat MP on the committee, said in a statement on his Web site.

''I want to know whether Assistant Commissioner Yates and his team got all the co-operation they were entitled to during their investigation.

''Was there obstruction from Downing Street or Mr Blair, and why at the end of the day, when it was clear that Mr Blair had driven a coach and horses through the honours regulations, were they not able to do anything about it?'' Media reports say that Blair had threatened to resign as prime minister if detectives had questioned him under caution as a suspect.

Newspapers have suggested that Yates may comment on this speculation and also whether detectives had faced any political interference.

He is also likely to be asked why officers carried out a dawn raid on the house of Ruth Turner, director of government relations in Blair's office.

Reuters AK VP0455

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