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The BBC's Mark Mardell
"The three month delay is more like a stay of execution than an appeals procedure"
 real 56k

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, 13:37 GMT 14:37 UK
MPs censure Robinson
Geoffrey Robinson
The former paymaster general Geoffrey Robinson has been criticised by MPs for misleading them over a deal he forged with Robert Maxwell.

The Labour MP also failed to provide "full answers" and withheld information from an earlier inquiry into the 200,000 payment he allegedly received from a company controlled by the disgraced tycoon.


I am determined to prove I did not receive the payment

Geoffrey Robinson
The cross-party standards and privileges committee report - which also found Mr Robinson had failed to register a financial interest - is a serious blow to the MP for Coventry North West.

In a statement Mr Robinson said he accepted the committee's findings but insisted he had not received the 200,000 and claimed he had not intended to keep information from the MPs.

Any punishment by the committee will be delayed three months, giving Mr Robinson time to produce paperwork to prove his version of events.

Unconvincing

Independent MP Martin Bell, who is on the committee, said: "Mr Robinson says he forgot about the payment, he forgot about the invoice - we find that unconvincing which is why the report is as hard on him as it is."

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


I think it's up to the Labour Party now to take action immediately

David Heathcoat-Amory
Tory frontbencher
While a recent biography presented evidence that he sent Mr Maxwell a bill for the money, Mr Robinson has always denied receiving the cash.

It is the fourth parliamentary investigation of its type against Mr Robinson since 1997 and is sure to provide the Conservatives with ammunition for the imminent general election campaign.

They are already demanding he scraps his intention to seek re-election.

However, Labour say there is no question of any action being taken against Mr Robinson until all inquiries have been completed.

In his statement Mr Robinson said: "This whole issue originated from the claim that I received 200,000 as chairman of Hollis Industries.

"My position has been absolutely clear throughout: neither I, nor any company associated with me either directly or indirectly received this money."


We can't fault him. He's a great MP

Election agent
He said his engineering firm TransTec, and not him personally, was owed 200,000 for management services to Lock, one of Maxwell's companies.

"The money was owed and the company was asked to pay it, but I completely deny that either I or any company associated with me either directly or indirectly, received it."

However, he did accept he should have registered it as an interest and accepted the committee's findings on that issue.

He said the only way to prove to whom the 200,000 was paid was by finding the cheque itself - for which he would mount "the most comprehensive search possible".

Serial offender

David Heathcoat-Amory, the shadow trade and industry secretary who lodged the most recent complaint against Mr Robinson, said he had been found to have "effectively lied" to the earlier inquiry.

"If they are serious about clearing up sleaze in the Labour Party, and they campaigned about this before the last election, then I think they ought to take action against a serial offender.

"It really ought to be four strikes and you're out, otherwise I think the whole Labour Party stance on sleaze is simply a joke."

Malcolm Bruce, chairman of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party: "This report leaves many unanswered questions about Geoffrey Robinson's business dealings."

He added: "Whether Mr Robinson continues as a member of parliament is clearly a question for him and for his constituents to decide."

A Labour Party spokesman said: "The standards and privileges committee has said unanimously that Geoffrey Robinson should be allowed more time to present his case."

"We believe he should be given the opportunity to do so before people jump to any final judgment."

Before the committee's verdict was published on Friday, Mr Robinson was given full backing by his constituency party.

Election agent Margaret Lancaster told BBC News: "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."

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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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