Monday, July 6, 1998 Published at 13:49 GMT 14:49 UK
Lobbyist at centre of row suspended
Draper: suspended as a lobbyist; sacked as a columnist
By BBC News online's Nick Assinder.
Derek Draper, who previously worked for the Minister without Portfolio, Peter Mandelson, is accused of offering clients privileged access to ministers.
The "cash-for-access" row erupted after newspaper reports that Mr Draper - currrently on holiday in Italy - and senior Downing Street aide Roger Liddle worked together to persuade US businessmen they could arrange for them to meet ministers.
He has now been suspended pending an investigation by his company GPC Market Access and sacked as a columnist for the Daily Express.
GPC Chairman Sir Ian Wrigglseworth said the comapny had been "deeply concerned" about aspects of the allegations.
Tories attack 'grossly improper' acts
Mr Liddle has denied any wrongdoing and the newspaper insisted it did not accuse him of leaking any information.
The prime minister's official spokesman insisted Mr Liddle had been asked about the allegations, but had not been suspended and would not be.
He also said there would be no investigation into Mr Liddle's behaviour unless there was evidence of wrongdoing, which Mr Blair would take extremely seriously.
But the Tories, who were embroiled in the "cash-for-questions" scandal which helped lose them the last election, demanded an explanation from the government.
Shadow Chancellor Francis Maude said it was "grossly improper" for former aides to leak "stolen" information to their clients.
'Cronyism and insider dealing'
He said claims that Chancellor Gordon Brown's Mansion House speech had been leaked by another lobbyist amounted to "insider dealing."
"That's a very serious matter. We are just beginning to see a pattern of what New Labour and the Third Way is about.
"It's about cronyism. It's about special favours to friends. It's about politicising the higher reaches of the civil service.
"What is improper is for people with intimate government connections to trade on that, to use it to get inside information, to give preferential advantage to their own clients, by sliding them under-the-counter information, advance copies of speeches, which are stolen.
"That is grossly improper. If Mr Blair really wants to say he is about a new type of clean politics, he needs to suspend or sack Mr Liddle immediately and have a high-level inquiry into this gross impropriety," he said.
Lobbyists 'need code of conduct'
Labour MP Giles Radice, chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, said there was no evidence The Observer's story was correct.
But he called for Lord Neill's Committee on Standards in Public Life to consider a statutory code for lobbyists.
The Observer says that the advisers, who previously worked for the Prime Minister, Chancellor Gordon Brown, and Mr Mandelson, claimed to have passed confidential information on to large corporations.
Ministers not involved
The paper insists no ministers are accused of impropriety and that not all the lobbyists they approached offered privileged information or access.
It also stresses that none of the lobbyists_ clients sought inside information or acted improperly on any material handed over.
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