The Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, has confirmed that he met with the controversial Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska in 2004, two years earlier than his former European Union officials.

Officials had said that the Cabinet minister, then the European Trade Commissioner, had met Mr Deripaska on a social basis in 2006 and 2007.

In a letter to The Times, Lord Mandelson, the first gay man in the Cabinet since 2001, said that the statement released by his former officials while he was in hospital may have given the false impression that he had not met the tycoon before 2006.

Controversy has surrounded a summer party on board Mr Deripaska’s yacht attended by Lord Mandelson and the Conservative Shadow Chancellor George Osborne. Mr Osborne denied claims that he attempted to solicit a £50,000 donation to the Conservative party.

The full text of the letter:-

Sir,

During the course of this week a number of journalists have asked me about meetings with Oleg Deripaska.

During the weekend when I moved from Brussels to London and prior to me being admitted to hospital for an urgent medical procedure, a statement was released to the press which said I had had meetings with Mr Deripaska in 2006 and 2007. Some people formed the reasonable view, therefore, that my first meeting with him was in 2006. This is not the case: to the best of my recollection we first met in 2004 and I met him several times subsequently.

The Director-General for Trade in the European Commission, David O’Sullivan, has confirmed in a letter to The Sunday Times on October 16 that I made no personal intervention to support the commercial interests of Mr Deripaska. Mr O’Sullivan explained in his letter that in respect to both the nine-year debate in the EU over tariffs on raw aluminium and to anti-dumping duties on Russian aluminium the decisions were made “after the usual consultation procedures had taken place, including with industry and all 27 European member states, and were based on sound facts”.

Perhaps I should add that naturally I met a great number of business people round the world as EC Trade Commissioner. I think this adds to what I bring to my job now. I should point out that in managing my department’s business as Secretary of State I will, of course, in line with the Ministerial Code, ensure that no conflict of interest, or perception of such, arises from any of my past or indeed future contacts. In this I will be taking advice from my permanent secretary at all times. As Business Secretary I will continue to act with the public interest in mind, as the public has every right to expect.

Lord Mandelson
London SW1