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by RAY FLEMING
THE Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell, has cleared Tessa Jowell of breaching the ministerial code of conduct over the sums of money that her husband brought into their house from questionable sources. The clearance relies on Ms Jowell's statement that she knew nothing about the 400'000 pounds her husband had received as a gift and therefore could not have declared it to the permanent secretary of her department or in any other way; when she learnt of it four years after it had been used to pay off a mortgage in their joint names, it had been reclassified as “earnings”, tax had been paid on it, and there was therefore no obligation for her to report it. Naturally, those of us to whom the sudden availability of 400'000 pounds would be an event of a lifetime will find it difficult to understand how it apparently counted for so little in the Jowell household. But the ministerial code of conduct cannot regulate what husbands and wives should discuss together and Sir Gus clearly interpreted his terms of reference correctly. Still many people will feel unease at the revelations of the apparently lucrative involvement of David Mills, Ms Jowell's lawyer husband, with the Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Of course, Mr Berlusconi is also a close friend of Mr and Mrs Blair so that probably makes it alright. In his handling of this case Mr Blair has shown that he has learnt from the mistakes he made over the financial and other accusations against David Blunkett. He did not prejudge the inquiry conducted by the Cabinet Secretary and avoided unnecessary expressions of “total confidence” in Ms Jowell. He will hope that the matter is at an end, although there can be no guarantee of that, especially with an Italian election pending. Ms Jowell is an important minister with responsibilities ranging from the renewal of the BBC's Charter to the 2012 London Olympics. Furthermore she is one of the diminishing number of Blair loyalists in the Cabinet. He would be reluctant to lose her.