Milburn questioned over cash for honours

Former minister Alan Milburn has been questioned over the cash for honours scandal, but was keen to point out that he was not a suspect.

The corruption row escalated today, with chancellor Gordon Brown and deputy prime minister John Prescott’s names added to the list of major political figures linked with the police’s investigations.

And among increasing speculation that the entire 2005 cabinet – with the exception of the prime minister – had been sent a letter asking them to provide ‘witness statements’, Mr Milburn confirmed his involvement.

“Following a request from the police, I have been interviewed as a witness,” he said in a statement today.

“The police stressed I was not a suspect, and the interview did not take place under caution.”

Police launched an inquiry after it emerged four businessmen who gave Labour £4.5 million in undeclared loans were subsequently nominated by the party for a peerage.

Since then, their investigations – which relate alleged abuses of the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925 and the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 – have been extended to the Conservatives, who borrowed £16 million from 13 wealthy backers.

News of Mr Brown and Mr Prescott’s involvement was first reported last night in the Daily Telegraph.

“What the police are seeking to establish is whether Downing Street deliberately concealed details of the peerage nominations from senior members of the Labour party,” a source told the paper.

“The police are trying to prove if there was a conspiracy.”

However, the Telegraph‘s source added “there is no suspicion hanging over any of them”.

The Metropolitan police would not confirm reports that Mr Brown and Mr Prescott have been contacted, but a spokeswoman said investigations into possible breaches of the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925 were ongoing.

Three people have so far been arrested as part of the investigation – including Lord Levy, the prime minister’s chief fundraiser and personal Middle East envoy. Des Smith, a head teacher involved in the city academies programme, and tycoon Christopher Evans were also arrested.

Former Tory leader Michael Howard and Tony Blair’s director of government relations Ruth Turner have also been interviewed by police.

All parties protest their innocence.