Baroness Warsi, the Conservative Party chairman, faces fresh questions over her business partner.
|ACTIVIST: Baroness Warsi's business partner Abid Hussain at a Hizb ut Tahrir rally in 1995|
By Jason Lewis, Investigations Editor9:00PM BST 09 Jun 2012
The peer is under investigation over her undeclared links to Abid Hussain, a relative by marriage with whom she is involved in a catering business.
However, there were calls last week for the inquiry, ordered by David Cameron, the Prime Minister, to be widened after Mr Hussain admitted that he had been involved in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a radical Islamist party that the Conservatives had pledged to ban.
In his first public statement, Mr Hussain said that he had attended its meetings, although he said he had never been a “member”, and had not told Lady Warsi about his involvement.
She has previously said she was unaware of his activities.
There were also questions over one of the trips to Pakistan by Lady Warsi on which she was accompanied by Mr Hussain.
However, The Sunday Telegraph has established that the office is operated from the premises of an opposition party, whose British arm organised a protest against US policy when President Barack Obama visited Britain.
Last night, Michael Dugher, Labour’s shadow cabinet office minister, said Lady Warsi appeared to be mixing party and government business.
The current investigation into Lady Warsi is being carried out by Sir Alex Allan, the Prime Minister’s adviser on the ministerial code, into the disclosure that company documents showed she was the majority shareholder in Rupert’s Recipes, a spice company whose other shareholder was Mr Hussain.
She had not registered the holding with the House of Lords, whose rules say peers should declare any majority shareholdings.
“These further revelations about the conduct of Baroness Warsi are extremely worrying,” Mr Dugher said.
“Yet again, there seems to be a blurring of the lines between what constitutes proper official business and what is, in fact, party political activity with private associates.
"Labour will be asking urgent questions next week in Parliament, including of the Foreign Office.
"What the baroness was doing with someone who has admitted his involvement with the extremist Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir also calls into question her judgment.”
Hizb ut-Tahrir has been accused of promoting racism and anti-Semitism, praising suicide bombers and urging Muslims to kill Jews.
Before coming to power, Mr Cameron pledged to ban it but the plan was shelved after a Coalition review.
The nature of Mr Hussain’s involvement in the radical party has already prompted questions over the extent of security vetting.
He has twice accompanied Lady Warsi on trips to Pakistan, and has also been pictured in the House of Lords at a reception for her.
In the early 1990s, sources say, Mr Hussain joined Hizb ut-Tahrir and was nicknamed “Strapper” by other students because of his bulky frame.
He lived for a time in one of its London houses, studying the radical form of Islam taught by its then leader Omar Bakri Mohammed, who is now banned from Britain.
In 1995, Mr Hussain attended a party rally filmed in a BBC a documentary and was seen laughing and joking with others.
Mr Hussain issued a statement through a lawyer last night which said he “has never been a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir”.
“In his mid-20s, which is to say more than 20 years ago, Mr Hussain attended Hizb ut-Tahrir meetings,” the statement said. “However, he often debated against their views and never became a member.”
A former Hizb ut-Tahrir activist, Ghaffar Hussain, who now works for the Quilliam Foundation, the anti-radicalisation organisation, said: “He [Mr Hussain ]acted as a key recruiter and propagandist for the groups in the late 90s.
“Hizb ut-Tahrir have a very idiosyncratic definition of the term 'member’. Only the very senior and public activists call themselves 'member’.
“This gives the junior activists and those who don’t want to be public about their involvement plausible deniability by claiming that they are not officially 'members’.”
Mr Hussain’s brother is still a high-profile figure in Hizb ut-Tahrir, and is referred to as “Professor” Muhammad Nawaz Khan in videos and photographs on its website.
Mr Hussain said last night he had not spoken to his brother in a decade.
Mr Hussain’s presence on Lady Warsi’s trip in February last year to Lahore was disclosed by the Conservative chairman last week. He was present when she opened the “Office for Overseas Pakistanis and British Nationals”.
The Foreign Office described the organisation last week as a “private initiative” and as a “charity” that “helps British nationals overseas”.
However, The Sunday Telegraph has established that the organisation is run by a political party, the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), headed by a former Pakistan prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, and his brother, Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of the Punjab.
It is unclear whether Baroness Warsi knew the organisation appears to be political, rather than charitable. During the Lahore event, attended by Mr Sharif, Mr Hussain and Baroness Warsi were pictured with Anjum Chaudhary, the president of PML-N’s UK Youth Wing.
Mr Chaudhary organised a protest outside Parliament in May last year against President Obama’s state visit.
In the UK, the office, based in the party’s headquarters, in Romford, east London, is headed by the PML-N’s UK president, Zubair Gull, and shares several members of staff.
Abid Hussain appears to be involved in the organisation, appearing in a number of photographs on its website.
A Conservative Party spokesman said: “Sir Alex Allan is looking at Baroness Warsi’s business relationships and will provide advice on how they should be handled in future.