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BBC political correspondent John Pienaar
"This affair has been an embarrassment to Labour"
 real 28k

Geoffrey Robinson
"We knew we had a big problem with Ford but we had no knowledge of a claim."
 real 28k

Geoffrey Robinson
"There has been no impropriety in any respect."
 real 28k

Conservative MP Angela Browning
"The devil is in the detail."
 real 28k

Wednesday, 26 January, 2000, 11:59 GMT
Robinson: 'I'm blameless'

Geoffrey Robinson's financial dealings under scrutiny

Former government minister Geoffrey Robinson has told the BBC that an inquiry into the collapse of the engineering firm he established will clear him of any wrongdoing.

TransTec is at the centre of an investigation ordered by the Department of Trade and Industry following its collapse last month amid allegations that the firm had concealed a claim from the Ford Motor Company for an outstanding 11m payment.

Mr Robinson insisted he knew "absolutely nothing" about the claim and welcomed the inquiry as he was "blameless".

"There has been no impropriety in any respect," he said.

Mr Robinson helped buy Peter Mandelson's former home
The former treasury minister has also been criticised by the company's former chief accountant Max Ayriss, who said the MP had instructed him on how to "maximise" grant claims, boosting totals by a "five-figure sum".

Mr Robinson's former TransTec colleagues have vigorously denied those charges.

Downing Street has said the company would be treated like any other that the DTI looks into.

But speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Robinson denied having any knowledge of the Ford claim, saying he had given up his directorship of the company at the time the claim was made.

"I did absolutely not know at the time, nor as far as I know did the other non-executive directors," he said.

"We knew we had a big problem with Ford but we had no knowledge of a claim."

'Incorrect allegations'

He said he was pleased the Trade Secretary Stephen Byers had ordered an inquiry into the collapse of TransTec.

"The best thing we can have is to have this properly examined," he said.

The former minister added that Mr Ayriss's allegations were incorrect and "it's as simple as that".
TransTec collapsed last month

Mr Ayriss has also said Mr Robinson obtained a 30,000 grant from the DTI to buy a factory building which he was not planning to occupy and simply wanted to let.

Mr Ayriss said that while the claim may not have been illegal, it was clearly against the "spirit" of the DTI regional grants which were intended to help new businesses set up.

Mr Robinson said the grants had undergone a thorough review by the DTI as well as by TransTec.

He said Mr Ayriss was "just plain wrong" and neither the letter or the spirit of the law had been broken.

Mr Robinson resigned from the government in December 1998 after it emerged he had given then trade secretary Peter Mandelson a secret 373,000 loan to buy a house.

He said he believed he was "allowed to lend money to whom I want, but when you're in public life these things should be declared".

The MP said he was delighted to see Mr Mandelson back in the cabinet as Northern Ireland secretary, but did not believe a return to government was "on the cards for himself" given the present situation.

Mr Robinson also confirmed he was writing his memoirs and said he was "looking forward to their publication".

Tory trade and industry spokeswoman Angela Browning said she was pleased Mr Robinson was going to co-operate with the inquiry.

But she was concerned that the inspectors should look at all aspects of TransTec's history.

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See also:
25 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
TransTec directors defend Robinson
25 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Transtec inquiry examines grants
24 Jan 00 |  Business
Robinson 'maximised' takings from DTI grants
12 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Tories urge independent Transtec inquiry
21 Oct 99 |  UK Politics
'Robinson not a Blair donor'
30 Dec 99 |  Business
TransTec calls in receivers
20 Oct 99 |  UK Politics
Downing Street denies gagging Robinson

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