MP Ed Balls has refuted allegations that he was aware of any alleged illegal behaviour by the disgraced former Co-op Bank chairman Paul Flowers.
The suspended Methodist minister, who chaired the bank from 2010 until June this year, is under investigation by police after being filmed allegedly buying and using illegal drugs, including crystal meth.
Morley and Outwood MP Mr Balls has come under criticism because his office received a £50,000 donation from the Co-op Group when Mr Flowers was on the board and would have authorised the money.
Conservative MPs have also claimed that Mr Balls and Labour leader Ed Miliband knew about some of the allegations at the time of his appointment under the previous Labour government.
Yesterday shadow chancellor Mr Balls, who was education secretary at the time of Mr Flowers’ appointment, told the Express the money went toward staffing costs and was publicly declared at the time.
He said: “I was proud to receive that support and am proud to be a Co-op party MP.
“Any allegations that Ed Miliband and I knew about Mr Flowers’ past are untrue and lies. The first I was aware of any of this was this week.
“I have never had a conversation with Mr Flowers. He has been at a couple of dinners I have been to, but I have never spoken to him or had contact via email or telephone.
“For the last three years he has been chair of the Co-op under a Conservative government. There are questions for all of us.”
Prime Minister David Cameron has launched an inquiry into his appointment as chairman of the bank.
It also emerged this week that Mr Flowers resigned as a Bradford councillor in 2011 after inappropriate adult material was found on his computer. And in 1981 he was convicted of gross indecency after he was caught by police performing a sex act in a public toilet.
Mr Flowers has apologised for doing things that were “stupid and wrong” in relation to the drugs claims – but is yet to comment further on any of the allegations.