Wednesday, December 23, 1998 Published at 16:29 GMT
Double resignation rocks government
Mr Mandelson: "I have paid a very big price"
The UK Government has been badly shaken by the resignation of two of its senior ministers.
Mr Robinson quit his post within hours of his Cabinet colleague, making this the first time that two ministers had resigned on the same day since 1982.
"I'm not going to allow that charge to be made against a government that I care about more than anything else in the world."
The row had gained impetus because the DTI is currently investigating alleged irregularities in Mr Robinson's business dealings.
"I didn't and I have paid a very big price for it."
But he said he could not guarantee he had not given false information on a separate mortgage form over which questions have also been raised.
"I have not checked on the form. I cannot clarify that even now," he said.
"But it's not the reason - neither that or any other factor that might be revealed - that I've decided to resign today."
The Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, would not comment on speculation that one of Mr Mandelson's political enemies inside the Labour party had leaked information about the loan to the Guardian newspaper.
"I'll leave that speculation to the press," he told the BBC.
"If all you are saying is, there's tensions between different groups in government, well yes, there may well be tensions between different groups," he said.
"That is not giving proof at all that such a serious allegation was made by an individual of one team against another."
Mr Robinson, in his resignation letter to the prime minister, said that after enduring 12 months of "a highly charged political campaign" he had decided to resign.
Mr Robinson told the BBC: "I think from the government's point of view, there comes a point [where] there's such an intensity of continuing allegation people get fed up with it."
Cabinet Office Minister Jack Cunningham said the resignations had been "honourable" but sad.
"It is a great pity, a great sadness, for me and the government that this year has ended in this tragic, sad and unacceptable way."
"If these people were on my frontbench I would have sacked them," he said.
In his response to Mr Mandelson's resignation letter, the prime minister said he expected to see his colleague back in the government soon.
Mr Robinson and Mr Mandelson's resignations now bring the number of ministers to quit the government to five.
Mr Mandelson is replaced at the DTI by Treasury Chief Secretary Stephen Byers, whose job is taken by Health Minister Alan Milburn.
Culture Secretary Chris Smith takes over responsibility for the Millennium Dome.
Were the ministers right to go? Tell us what you think.
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