- The Washington Times - Friday, January 19, 2007

LONDON (AP) — An aide to Prime Minister Tony Blair was arrested yesterday in the investigation into whether political honors, such as seats in the House of Lords and knighthoods, were traded for cash.

Ruth Turner, Mr. Blair’s director of government relations, was questioned on suspicion of being involved in the sale of honors — illegal under British law — and perverting the course of justice, police said.

Miss Turner, 36, is the first member of Mr. Blair’s Downing Street staff to be arrested and the fourth person to be detained by police in their investigation. All four are on bail while inquiries continue, police said.

“I absolutely refute any allegations of wrongdoing of any nature whatsoever,” Miss Turner said in a statement released by Mr. Blair’s office.

Mr. Blair was interviewed by detectives last month, becoming the first serving prime minister interviewed in a criminal inquiry. However, he was not interviewed “under caution,” meaning it is unlikely he is a suspect.

In a statement, police said Miss Turner, who has worked at Mr. Blair’s office since 2004, was arrested at home.

Mr. Blair expressed confidence in the aide, who has not been charged. “Ruth is a person of the highest integrity for whom I have great regard,” he said.

A police spokesman declined to confirm whether computers or documents had been seized from Downing Street.

Police are investigating claims that honors were given to people who loaned money to Mr. Blair’s Labor Party. Police have also interviewed Conservative Party officials.

Mr. Blair has acknowledged some supporters who offered loans were later nominated for honors, but has insisted that he did nothing wrong.

He told police the backers were nominated for House of Lords seats under criteria allowing party leaders to put forward a small number of candidates in reward for their service to a political party — rather than the general public, his spokesman said.

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