Review of the circumstances surrounding an application for naturalisation by Mr. S. P. Hinduja
Terms of Reference: To establish what approaches were made to the Home Office in 1998 in connection with the possibility of an application for naturalisation by Mr S P Hinduja, and the full circumstances surrounding such approaches and the later grant of that application, and to report to the Prime Minister.
Chair: Sir Anthony Hammond KCB QC
Panel Members: n/a
Dates - Establishment: 24th January 2001
Report: 8th March 2001(first) and 1st March 2002 (second)
The events which caused the public concern:
Cash for passports?
The Review was set up following the resignation of Peter Mandelson MP from his post as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, which followed statements in the Press concerning his role in making enquiries in the summer of 1998 on behalf of Mr S P Hinduja, who was interested in obtaining naturalisation as a British citizen. It was suggested that Mr. Mandelson improperly lobbied for Mr. Hindujas passport in return for a donation to the Millenium Dome.
In January 2001, it was revealed that Mr. Mandelson had telephoned Home Office minister Mike O'Brien on behalf of Srichand Hinduja, who was at the time seeking British citizenship, and whose family firm was to become the main sponsor of the "Faith Zone" in the Millennium Dome. In January 2001, immigration minister Barbara Roche revealed in a written Commons reply that Keith Vaz, MP for Leicester East and at the time a Foreign Office minister, and other MPs, had also contacted the Home Office about the Hinduja brothers, saying that Vaz had made inquiries about when a decision on their application for citizenship could be expected.
On 26 January 2001, Prime Minister Tony Blair was accused of prejudicing the independent inquiry into the Hinduja passport affair, after he declared that Keith Vaz not done "anything wrong". On the same day, Vaz told reporters that they would "regret" their behaviour once the facts of the case were revealed. "Some of you are going to look very foolish when this report comes out. Some of the stuff you said about Peter, and about others and me, you'll regret very much when the facts come out," he said. When asked why the passport application of one of the Hinduja brothers had been processed more quickly than normal, being processed and sanctioned in six months when the process can take up to two years, he replied, "It is not unusual.
Summary of the report to the Prime Minister:
1. The applications for naturalisation of Mr G P Hinduja and Mr S P Hinduja were handled properly and within established criteria. Certain aspects of the latter case should have been pursued more vigorously (Chapters 4 and 5).
2. No improper pressure was brought to bear by any Minister in respect of these applications (Chapters 4 and 5).
3. The enquiries made on behalf of Mr Prakash Hinduja were handled properly by all concerned (Chapter 6).
4. Mr Keith Vaz made representations on behalf of both Mr S P and Mr G P Hinduja, but these were in the context of many other immigration and nationality cases in which he made representations. There is no evidence of any improper relationship between him and the brothers (Chapter 7).
5. Mr Mandelson or his officials made or passed on enquiries to the Home Office on behalf of Mr S P Hinduja and Mr Prakash Hinduja. It is not possible to reach firm conclusions about the exact circumstances in which the contacts took place in relation to Mr S P Hinduja, but it is likely that Mr Mandelson spoke directly to Mr O'Brien. Mr Mandelson's belief that he had not had a telephone conversation with Mr O'Brien was honestly held. Mr Mandelson did not make representations on behalf of either Mr S P or Mr Prakash Hinduja. There is no evidence of any improper relationship between him and the Hindujas or of any connection between his contacts between them over the sponsorship of the Dome and their efforts to obtain naturalisation (Chapters 5, 6 and 8).
6. There was intelligence material about the Hinduja brothers, but this was not drawn to the attention of the Home Office and it, probably, would not have affected the outcome of the naturalisation applications if it had been (Chapter 5).
7. In some respects, the processing of the naturalisation applications by the Home Office could have been improved, but systems are now in place which address these issues (Chapter 5).
8. Record keeping in the private offices involved in the matters under Review was, in some respects, unsatisfactory and there is a need to address this issue and that of the monitoring of telephone calls (Chapter 9).
The Inquiry was re-opened February 2002 after Mr. Mandelson said he had new evidence to establish that it was his private office which handled the call to the Home Office. Mr. Mandelson was again cleared of any impropriety or lies, however it was concluded on 1st March 2002 that the new evidence was not sufficient to determine whether he personally telephoned the Home Office official to lobby for a passport for Mr. Hinduja.