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Tuesday, 29 January, 2002, 22:31 GMT
Enron claims and counter-claims
Attention in the British political row over collapsed energy giant Enron is increasingly focusing on links the firm's accountants, Andersen, held with Labour.

In the mid-1980s, the Conservative government started suing Andersen, then called Arthur Andersen, for its role in the De Lorean car company scandal.

The Tories say Labour had close links with Andersen in opposition and settled the court case for 21m instead of the 200m originally sought.

Downing Street dismisses that claim, saying the case was on the brink of being settled when the Tories left office in May 1997.

This is number 10's version of the sequence of events, given to reporters on Tuesday afternoon, followed by the Conservatives' claims.


Early 1997 - The then Conservative attorney general asks Crown lawyers for a review of all aspects of the case.

26 March 1997 - The lawyers' report is completed and is submitted to ministers early in April.

This document is not reviewed by ministers until the end of April, by which time the general election campaign is underway and no decision is taken.

The report recommended that the ban (introduced after the De Lorean affair) on Andersen competing for government contracts be lifted to offset the legal costs of the lawsuit in the United States and prevent legal action in this country.

June 1997 - The lawyers' report is submitted to the new Labour government.

Meanwhile, lawyers on both sides in the case agree to a mediation process under Lord Griffiths, a former law lord.

Later in 1997 -

Both sides in the case appear before Lord Griffiths in hearings that lasted one week and the peer advises a settlement of 21m.

November 1997 - Attorney General John Morris announces the settlement after crown lawyers recommend it is the best that could be reached.


The Conservatives are challenging an briefing Downing Street gave to reporters earlier on Tuesday.

The party released the following statement.

"After consultation with those in the previous government, we believe the Downing Street lobby this morning issued deliberately misleading information.

"According to those in government at the time, the De Lorean Court case was nowhere as near a settlement as suggested. Certainly not on the terms agree by the Labour Government.

"Reports are commissioned all the time: ministers make decisions.

"The fact remains that after 12 years of legal battle this Government caved in six months. This redoubles the need for an inquiry."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Robinson
"Mr Hodge has shon a ligt into the murky world of politicians and business"
Conservative Vice Chairman Tim Collins
"I've already expressed regret that we took money from Enron"
Lord MacGregor, Cttee on Standards in Public Life
"The Andersen tentacles seem to run deep with this government"

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See also:

29 Jan 02 | UK Politics
28 Jan 02 | UK Politics
14 Jan 02 | Business
28 Jan 02 | UK Politics
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