David Blunkett was today forced to declare "I have done nothing wrong" after renewed allegations he improperly intervened to fast-track a permanent British residency visa for his then lover's Filipino nanny.

Letters from Home Office officials appeared to show that Leoncia Casalme, who worked for Kimberly Quinn, Mr Blunkett's former lover, was granted residency in Britain early but the home secretary said there was no proof of the misconduct charges.

"I wouldn't be standing here this morning if I thought there was any doubt whatsoever about what I've done, my integrity and my openness," he said in a public statement.

The Daily Mail, which was widely understood in Fleet Street yesterday to have made a financial deal with Ms Casalme, today reported that her application was unexpectedly cleared within 19 days of the nanny being told it might take a year.

Mr Blunkett has admitted checking the application was in order but he has vigorously denied abusing his position to fast-track it. He said the letters, which he did not dispute were genuine, simply showed that the Home Office was moving through fast-tracking a number of applications to clear a backlog.

A later statement from the Home Office said it made efforts to process existing applicants in advance of the introduction of charging for most immigration applications in August 2003.

"The Home Office made efforts to process existing applications as quickly as possible," the statement said. "It was not unusual for straightforward cases to be dealt with within a few weeks."

Mr Blunkett's Tory shadow, David Davis, earlier told GMTV that the paper trail of the visa application needed to be followed very carefully.

"This handling in 19 days occurred at a time when the immigration department was in chaos," he said.

"So it's extraordinary that it's happened and implies that somebody must have intervened, somebody senior, if not the minister, some senior civil servant."

Mark Oaten, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said the letters showed "something very unusual" had taken place with Ms Casalme's visa application.

"It is important that the inquiry looks at the role of the civil service to establish exactly what occurred in this case," he said.

Keith Best, the chief executive of the Immigration Advisory Service, today said the letters appeared to raise some interesting questions.

Mr Best told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think that that letter [the first] at that time when they were under pressure is a fair estimation that they are not going to get around to dealing with it for some time.

"It is quite unusual for people to be granted indefinite leave to remain effectively outside the rules, because the rules are very clear, they state that you have to have been in continuous employment through work permits for a period of four years."

The latest twist came after Mr Blunkett last night admitted he had been wrong to give a rail warrant intended for MPs' spouses to his married lover. His spokesman said he would repay the £180 cost of the train ticket to Doncaster, insisting he had made a "genuine mistake".

The concession appeared designed to head off a second inquiry by the parliamentary commissioner for standards, Sir Philip Mawer, into Mr Blunkett's conduct during his affair with Mrs Quinn.

Sir Philip has been asked to look into several other allegations not covered by the Budd inquiry, which will focus solely on the visa application.



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