LONDON: Prime Minister David Cameron Wednesday described Baroness Sayeeda Warsi as “great asset in building our reputation overseas” after she was cleared of misusing her ministerial office.
The prime minister said this in reference to the allegations levelled against Baroness Warsi over trips to Pakistan, where Pakistani community and youth leader Abid Hussain accompanied her. Sir Alex Allan, the prime minister’s Independent Advisor on Ministers’ Interests, concluded in a report that the Conservative Party Co-chairman “did not use her office for personal financial gain”.
The report, after the allegations that the Baroness Warsi, who is the first Muslim to serve in a British Cabinet, sought to gain financially when her husband’s second cousin, Abid Hussain, alongside whom she holds shares in a food company, helped organise parts of an official government visit to Pakistan in July 2010.
PM Cameron said in a statement, “I asked Sir Alex Allan to look into allegations that Baroness Warsi had breached the ministerial code. He has reported back to me and I am satisfied with the conclusion he has reached that at no point did she use her office for any personal financial gain. “He found that while there was a breach of the code it was a minor one for which Baroness Warsi has already apologised. Baroness Warsi is a great asset in building our reputation overseas and representing the British government abroad in her role as Minister without Portfolio.”
Warsi admitted that she should have reported this business link and apologised immediately to the prime minister after the allegations surfaced.However, Sir Allan concluded, “The breach of the (Ministerial) Code was a minor one”, that it was an “oversight”, and absolved her of any purposeful wrongdoing.
The report also said that no issues of national security were raised by Hussain’s involvement in the Pakistan events and his attendance at Downing Street, and that even if Hussain’s business link to Baroness Warsi had been declared, it would have not been seen as a barrier to Hussain helping to organise the visit.
During his investigation, Sir Allan interviewed Baroness Warsi, Naweed Khan, Baroness Warsi’s special adviser, Abid Hussain and spoke to Adam Thomson, British High Commissioner in Islamabad; and to a number of other officials. It was found that Abid Hussain did not receive any government funding for his travel and accommodation costs during Warsi’s public speeches and visits to Mirpur and Bhewal.
The British High Commissioner to Pakistan Adam Thomson gave evidence that the events in Pakistan could not have been as successful without the help of Abid Hussain and other members of the British Pakistani community.
The British High Commissioner also gave evidence that Baroness Warsi, in her five visits to Pakistan, was always mindful of issues concerning propriety and ethics.In her response to the report, Baroness Warsi said, “I have always maintained that I have never misused my ministerial office for personal or financial gain. The allegations on this matter were untrue and unsubstantiated and I am pleased that Sir Alex Allan’s report has confirmed that. The last month has been a difficult time for me and my family and I am pleased I can now move on from this period and get on with the job that I am privileged to do.” Baroness Warsi is still facing a separate probe by a parliamentary watchdog over her claim for an accommodation allowance in London.
The Tory co-chairman insists the payments were within both the spirit and the letter of the rules governing parliamentary allowances.The clearance chit to Warsi by Sir Alex Allan brings some relief to Warsi who has faced a barrage of right-wing and racist attacks from her opponents in the right-wing media, in the Labour party, British National Party and even within her own party from the elements opposed to modernisation of the party by David Cameron.
Warsi has also been attacked by the same elements for launching the Conservative Friends of Pakistan during Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani’s visit last month to Britain. Since then, Asian and Pakistani community have rallied to her defence and have strongly opposed Labour Party’s vendetta campaign against her.
Prime Minister Cameron’s admission that Waersi is a “great asset in building our reputation overseas” comes in appreciation of the fact that Baroness Warsi has used her profile to bring increasingly important Muslim countries closer to Britain and its due to her efforts that Britain now has representation at the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC). This will also strengthen her position within the party.