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Monday, November 23, 1998 Published at 18:29 GMT

UK Politics

Tories turn up heat on Robinson

Friends of Mr Robinson have accused Tories of a smear campaign

The Conservatives have stepped up their campaign to force the resignation of Paymaster General Geoffrey Robinson.

Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Heathcoat-Amory delivered a dossier to the Department of Trade and Industry detailing 12 alleged breaches of company law between 1988 and 1992 all involving companies linked to Mr Robinson.

But the department, headed by Trade Secretary Peter Mandelson, has yet to announce whether it is to investigate the minister's business activities.

Tory allegations

One of the allegations made by the Conservatives includes a claim that Hollis Industries failed to inform the registrar of companies of Mr Robinson's resignation as director until more than six years after the event, in breach of company law.

In a letter to Mr Mandelson, Mr Heathcoat-Amory said the allegations should be investigated by an independent prosecution service as any DTI inquiry would see "one minister investigating another".

In a summary of their allegations the Tories s accuse Mr Robinson of appearing to have a "wilful disregard" for business laws and calls for him to be disqualified as a director, if any of the allegations are found to be true.

The Treasury, Mr Robinson's department, is refusing to comment, saying the allegations are a matter for the DTI.

[ image: Francis Maude: Rejected accusations of wrongdoing]
Francis Maude: Rejected accusations of wrongdoing
The latest allegations follow Mr Robinson's forced apology to the Commons, made after he failed to declare various directorships in the Register of Members' Interests, a breach of Commons' rules.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has so far resisted calls to sack Mr Robinson, saying earlier that the considered the minister's apology to MPs the end of the matter. But friends of Mr Robinson have fought back, accusing the Conservatives of a smear campaign.

They have also attempted to turn the tables on the Tories, referring to claims that Shadow Chancellor Francis Maude is likely to be investigated by the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee.

The move comes after a complaint that he allegedly proposed an amendment to financial regulations in Parliament without declaring he was a paid director of Gartmore Shared Equity Trust, which could benefit from any changes.

Mr Maude rejected the claims against him as "a pathetic little diversionary tactic" by the paymaster general's supporters.

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