Blunkett resigns from the Cabinet


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May 24, 2005
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Blunkett resigns from the Cabinet

Tony Blair has paid tribute to David Blunkett, who has resigned as work and pensions secretary, describing him as a "decent and honourable man".

He said Mr Blunkett had contributed a great deal to his country, had overcome daunting personal challenges and could be proud of his record in public life.

Mr Blunkett quit after breaking the ministerial code of conduct over paid work he took while out of the Cabinet.

Michael Howard said the events showed a "haemorrhage" of Mr Blair's authority.

Mr Blunkett was previously forced to step down as home secretary in December 2004.

At the centre of the recent controversy was Mr Blunkett's two-week directorship of DNA Bioscience before May's election, while he was out of the Cabinet.

'Not sacked'
Mr Blunkett broke ministerial rules by taking that job without consulting an independent committee which advises former ministers on whether they should take up jobs.

David Blunkett chose to resign because he had reached the conclusion that the position was untenable and that he would be unable to continue in his position
Prime Minister's official spokesman

He had been due to appear before the Commons work and pensions committee on Wednesday morning.

But instead he went to Downing Street to tell Mr Blair of his decision to resign. A new work and pensions secretary is expected to be announced later on Wednesday.

The prime minister's official spokesman insisted Mr Blunkett had not been sacked but had decided to step down.

"The prime minister's full support for David remains," he said.

"David Blunkett chose to resign because he had reached the conclusion that the position was untenable and that he would be unable to continue in his position."

'Rules are for obeying'

His decision to go came as it emerged that Lord Nolan, ex-chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, had suggested Mr Blair should sack or demote Mr Blunkett.

In the interview, with the Yorkshire Post, Lord Nolan said: "I think he's more or less admitted that he should have followed the rules.

"But I think it's the fault of the government that he has been allowed to see if he can get away with it.

"Blair should insist on ministers all round obeying the rules. I think that if anyone breaks the rules, they should be disciplined. Otherwise, there's no point having the rules."

Asked if that meant the prime minister sacking or demoting Mr Blunkett, Lord Nolan replied: "That's right."

Harry Harpham, Mr Blunkett's constituency agent, said the MP "had been hounded out of office" by a combination of pressure from the Conservative party and the press.

Shadow Commons leader Chris Grayling, who has written to Tony Blair on a number of occasions about Mr Blunkett's conduct, said his resignation had been "inevitable".

"I don't believe that you can systematically ignore the ministerial code," he told BBC News 24.

'Personal tragedy'

"Joining a company for two weeks during the general election campaign and becoming a director - people don't do that sort of thing.

"Through his own actions, he created huge question marks over his judgement."

Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, said: "It is a profound personal tragedy for David. David has made a huge contribution to public life in this country ... He will be greatly missed in the government."

Helen Jackson, a former Labour MP and friend of Mr Blunkett, said she was sorry to see him go.

"The government is lighter as a result ... He was a very effective leader of Sheffield City Council. He's been a very effective minister and Secretary for State for Education, Home Secretary and now Work and Pensions," she told BBC News 24.

"The government as a whole will clearly miss him."

'Bizarre' behaviour

David Laws, the Lib Dems work and pensions spokesman, said the resignation had become "inevitable and justified".

"Some of his behaviour was frankly bizarre - to become a director of a company during a general election campaign, purchase shares in it, take those shares into government in a family trust when that particular company had an interest in the business of his department I think showed very bad judgment," he said.

The official ministerial code suggests that former ministers should seek the advice of the advisory committee on business appointments before taking up other jobs.
Mr Blunkett stepped down as home secretary last year over claims his office had fast-tracked a visa application for his lover's former nanny.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/11/02 12:27:03 GMT