The Ecclestone Affair: questions raised over Blair's version of events

When he was prime minister, Tony Blair rejected claims that he "deliberately misled" Parliament over sleaze allegations.

Previously secret documents appear to show Mr Blair personally intervened to secure Formula One's exemption from a tobacco advertising ban hours after meeting the sport's boss, Bernie Ecclestone.

Commons Speaker Michael Martin pledged to look into MPs' complaints that the documents, released under the Freedom of Information Act, showed the then prime minister lied about his involvement.

The Government has always maintained that the meeting did not influence the final decision - even though Mr Ecclestone was a major party donor at the time. A spokesman for Mr Blair insisted: "There is nothing new here. All these issues were known and debated at the time, and the documents released are entirely consistent with Tony Blair's answers at the time."

The so-called Ecclestone Affair was New Labour's first sleaze scandal, breaking shortly after Mr Blair swept into Downing Street in 1997. The Prime Minister appeared on the BBC's On The Record programme to insist that he was a "pretty straight kind of guy" in a bid to draw a line under the controversy.

And claims that Mr Blair had "railroaded" the move past ministers were also strongly denied.
However, the briefing notes prepared by officials - and obtained by the Sunday Telegraph under freedom of information laws - raise questions about Mr Blair's account.

Blair denies misleading MPs (Press Association, 13 October 2008)