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The BBC's John Andrew
"Despite today's report Mr Robinson will not face immediate punishment"
 real 56k

David Heathcoat Amory, Tory
"There has never been anyone in parliament criticised so regularly"
 real 56k

Friday, 4 May, 2001, 08:10 GMT 09:10 UK
Robinson expected to fight on
Geoffrey Robinson
Mr Robinson could face pressure to leave the Commons
Millionaire former minister Geoffrey Robinson is likely to launch a vigorous fight to salvage his political career despite a strongly critical report into his business dealings due out on Friday.

The Coventry MP's election agent has given him unqualified backing and accused opponents of pursuing a "witch hunt".

Whatever the finding is, we believe what Geoffrey tells us

Election agent
But the Conservatives say the findings of what is the fourth inquiry into the former paymaster general should spell the end of his time in parliament.

The cross-party standards and privileges committee is understood to have found Mr Robinson failed to declare a 200,000 deal with the late tycoon, Robert Maxwell.

It is thought Mr Robinson is also censured for not co-operating fully with the committee's inquiry.

But he has been strongly defended by constituency secretary and election agent Margaret Lancaster.

"He is absolutely honest, always has been absolutely honest with us and if he says that the findings are incorrect then that's what we will believe," she told the BBC.

This is a serial offender. Geoffrey Robinson is in a category of his own here

David Heathcoat-Amory
Tory frontbencher
"We can't fault him. He's a great MP.

"We haven't even seen the report yet, it's not coming out until later, and yet here they are lining up to condemn the man.

"I think there's been a witch hunt for a very long time."

The inquiry has centred on allegations that Mr Robinson asked for and received the payment from Hollis Industries, an engineering firm he bought from the disgraced publishing tycoon.

While a recent biography presented evidence that he sent Mr Maxwell a bill for the money, Mr Robinson has always denied receiving the cash.

The MP, who resigned as paymaster general in 1998, has acknowledged that a payment is recorded in the company's accounts but says the money was never handed over.

No punishment

It is understood the committee has not proved he received the payment but decided that by not declaring the deal he breached MPs' conduct rules.

No punishment is thought to have been included in the committee's interim report because Mr Robinson has been given extra time to produce more evidence.

But the Tories have wasted no time capitalising on the findings, which will emerge just days before Tony Blair is expected to call a general election.

Shadow trade secretary David Heathcoat-Amory insisted he had nothing personal against Mr Robinson and "regretted" the affair because it indirectly damaged parliament.

"But the fact is there is a Labour MP here, an ex-minster, who for the fourth time has apparently been found in breach of the rules of the House of Commons, which Labour made a great fetish about when they were in opposition.

"Therefore I don't think that if we're serious about cleaning up the Labour Party the prime minister can tolerate him as a candidate in the coming election."

'Going nuclear'

Mr Heathcoat-Amory raised the possibility Mr Robinson could be in even deeper trouble, suggesting the committee could find he had lied to parliament.

"All this was investigated before in 1998 and he categorically denied it.

"If the committee really do rule that he did recieve the money he's done the equivalent of commit perjury to the House of Commons.

"If that's the case then he obviously has to stand down as an MP, that's going nuclear."

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See also:

22 Mar 01 | UK Politics
'Bullying' claim over Robinson book
21 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Byers fights to 'defend reputation'
19 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Byers fights cover-up claims
22 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Robinson cleared over Transtec failure
26 Jan 00 | UK Politics
Robinson: 'I'm blameless'
26 Jan 00 | UK Politics
Q&A: Geoffrey Robinson and TransTec
04 May 01 | UK Politics
Profile: Geoffrey Robinson
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