"Tony Blair has asked the Cabinet Secretary to see if David Blunkett's holding of shares in a DNA testing firm has breached the ministerial code. The prime minister's spokesman said Gus O'Donnell had been asked to rule after complaints from the Conservatives.
Mr Blunkett has accepted he should have consulted an advisory committee when he took a DNA Bioscience directorship.
The work and pensions secretary, said to have Mr Blair's "full support", has put the shares in a family trust. "
A number of commentators have suggested that Mr Blunkett should now sell the shares. They seem to have missed the point that, when an MP becomes a Minister, he is supposed to put his shareholdings into what is known as a "blind trust" (sorry, but that is what it is known as). The point about such a trust is that the Minister has no input to investment decisions in relation to that trust, including decisions to buy or sell shares. Accordingly, if Mr Blunkett has behaved correctly in relation to establishing the trust, he would not be able to sell the shares concerned. Which would leave him in the position of having a conflict of interest between his Ministerial duties and his potential enrichment as a shareholder of DNA Bioscience; furthermore, if he is unable to sell the shares, that conflict of interest could only be resolved by him ceasing to be a Minister.
Mr Blunkett has now asked his sons to authorise the trustees to dispose of the shares in question. Apparently the shares were never owned by Mr Blunkett but were registered in the ownership of Mr Blunkett's sons. This seems to me to drive a coach and horses through the rules which require Ministers on assuming office to divest control of any shares they happen to own. If a potential Minister can buy shares for his family which then retains power of buying and selling them, what's the point of blind trusts?