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Friday, 4 May, 2001, 10:45 GMT 11:45 UK
Profile: Geoffrey Robinson
Geoffrey Robinson
Geoffrey Robinson: Faced four inquiries since 1997
As the man who was once in charge of the nation's chequebook, it is an unfortunate irony that money has been Geoffrey Robinson's personal political minefield.

But then the former paymaster general's wealth has been a double-edged sword for Labour, the party he has followed all his life.

The oversight concerning registration, for which I apologise, is entirely my responsibility

Geoffrey Robinson statement, 1998
Senior officials have been able to enjoy lavish favours at his expense, including holidays at his homes in Tuscany and the South of France and meetings at his penthouse flat in London's Park Lane.

But many of the headlines have been less welcome - the Peter Mandelson home loan, undeclared interests in offshore trusts, the TransTec affair and an alleged financial deal with disgraced tycoon Robert Maxwell to name but a few.

Together they have tarnished the image of a Labour government Prime Minister Tony Blair wanted to be "whiter-than-white".

Born in Sheffield in 1938 into a staunch Labour family, Geoffrey Robinson showed early promise.

He won a scholarship to a London school and went on to study at Cambridge and Yale, picking up a command of French, German and Italian on the way.

Geoffrey Robinson is an excellent minister

Gordon Brown, 1998
After national service in the intelligence corps he was recruited by then prime minister Harold Wilson as a researcher at Labour headquarters.

In the days of Labour corporatism, he soon became involved in state-run industries, rising to become the financial controller of British Leyland and, at the age of 34, the chief executive of Jaguar Cars.

In 1976 he entered the Commons representing Coventry North West, where supporters describe him as a "great" MP.

His interests have also taken in ownership of the left-leaning New Statesman magazine and a place on the board of Coventry City football club.

Throughout the 1980s Mr Robinson was an asset to a Labour Party that severely lacked business backers of any profile.

It's all part of one murky big picture

Tory spokesman on DTI inquiry into TransTec, 1999
He held frontbench positions, speaking for the party on trade and industry, and science.

But almost from the moment that Mr Robinson was made paymaster general straight after the 1997 general election his financial affairs came under tough scrutiny from the Tories.

Eventually they proved his undoing as a minister when details of the home loan deal he struck with Mr Mandelson became public.

Despite being small change to a man whose personal wealth at the time was estimated at around 30m, Mr Robinson's 373,000 informal mortgage triggered both men's resignations in December 1998.

Apology statement

His complex finances have also prompted previous censure by the parliamentary watchdog and the standards and privileges committee.

In November 1998 Mr Robinson issued a 54 second apology statement to the Commons over undeclared financial interests.

In it he insisted: "No attempt was made by me at any time to use my position in this House to advance any commercial interest."

Mr Robinson's role in engineering firm TransTec, which he founded in 1981, also triggered long-running sleaze allegations.

A Department of Trade and Industry inquiry that looked into the firm's collapse eventually cleared Mr Robinson of any wrongdoing.

Fraud inquiry

Investigators decided he was never told about a crippling 11m claim against the car parts firm.

West Midlands police also looked into the possibility of fraud charges over grants TransTec claimed from the government but decided not to proceed.

The latest controversy surrounding an alleged 200,000 deal with Robert Maxwell - Mr Robinson says he never received the money - has been seized on by the Conservatives.

They hope it will prove a mortal blow to his political career and a fillip for them ahead of a general election campaign.

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See also:

04 May 01 | UK Politics
MPs censure Robinson
04 May 01 | UK Politics
Robinson expected to fight on
22 Mar 01 | UK Politics
'Bullying' claim over Robinson book
21 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Byers fights to 'defend reputation'
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
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