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CHERIE CHARITY IS FACING SHUTDOWN; Probe after good causes lose out.

Byline: By Roger Maynard

A CHARITY faces shutdown over claims it paid guest speaker Cherie Blair more from a fund-raising dinner than went to good causes.

The Prime Minister's wife spoke at a Melbourne dinner in aid of the Children's Cancer Institute Australia in February.

But only pounds 6680 from the dinner went to help the charity's work and pounds 74,396 on expenses, including Cherie's fee.

The dinner was part of a five-city tour from which Mrs Blair reportedly made pounds 100,000.

And at the time, she was slammed for cashing in on her position as the PM's wife.

Now it has emerged the charity breached the state of Victoria's strict rules that at least 60 per cent of funds raised at events must go to the work of the charity.

Bosses of the CCIA have been given until Thursday to explain the situation or risk being struck off the charity register There is no suggestion that Mrs Blair knew how the money would be split.

Yesterday, the CCIA confirmed they had been ordered to "show cause" why it was in the public interest for them to remain registered fund-raisers. They said they were taking the matter seriously and were preparing a detailed response.

Promoter Max Markson, who organised Mrs Blair's speaking tour, claimed all the arrangements has been totally transparent and he had nothing to hide.

He claimed that almost pounds 200,000 raised by the tour went to help charity.

A Downing Street spokesman declined to comment.

But in Australia, shadow leader of the house Chris Grayling said: "The fact that Mrs Blair's commercial activities have left her exposed to an Australian government inquiry absolutely confirms my view that she has got to stop making money in this way.

"We simply cannot have the office of British Prime Minister sullied like this.

"Nor is it right that any charity should be put in such an invidious position.

"Money raised at a charitable event should be for charity - it's as simple as that."

Mrs Blair was understood to have received free flights, a courtesy car and accommodation on the tour as well as a substantial fee.

She was billed as "the most powerful woman in Britain" in publicity literature for the tour

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SPEAKER: Cherie Blair
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 26, 2005
Words:380
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