Briton spurns job in Brussels as investigator

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The Independent Online
THE PLANNED sleaze inquiry in Brussels was dealt a new blow yesterday when Sir Gordon Downey, former parliamentary commissioner for standards in Britain, refused a job as an investigator.

Sir Gordon was canvassed for one of five positions on the committee to look into charges of nepotism, abuse of power and mismanagement in the European Commission. He could not accept because of the short notice, and because other commitments meant he could not begin the work immediately.

Earlier attempts by British MEPs to nominate Lord Nolan also failed when he said he did not have the time needed to devote to the inquiry.

Sir Gordon's refusal coincided with criticism of the proposed panel from the second largest group in the parliament, the European People's Party, whose chief whip warned of a "whitewash" and said he would have preferred a greater "northern" regional balance.

That was code for suggesting those from Spain, France and Belgium might accept laxer standards because of the culture of their national administrations.

In another development, the European Commission's press service denied authorship of a memorandum calling for a more manipulative style of news management to counteract negative publicity.

The document suggestedusing "potential allies" in the media rather than giving equal access to all journalists. The spokesperson for Jacques Santer, European Commission president, denied having seen the paper.

Sources suspect the office of the French commissioner Edith Cresson.