Bunhill: Letter from MP reveals a talent for clairvoyance

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The Independent Online
JEREMY HANLEY, the accident-prone Tory party chairman, appears to be taking an active interest in the trials and tribulations of Gerald James, the former chairman of Astra Holdings, the defence company.

Mr James, who was criticised last year in a DTI report, is facing possible disqualification as a director as well as an investigation from the Joint Disciplinary Scheme (JDS), a committee attached to the Institute of Chartered Accountants.

Mr James says he first heard of the JDS investigation on 8 June this year, when he received a letter - not from Michael Chance, the executive counsel of the JDS, but from a Mr Hanley, his constituency MP.

Mr Hanley had clearly been angered by some of Mr James's observations in earlier correspondence between the two men. In one reply, Mr Hanley wrote: 'I do not believe any comments from me will achieve anything other than further abuse from you.'

Mr James had been questioning why Mr Hanley had hosted a variety of dinners for, among others, Lord Weinstock and Sir Denis Thatcher, at public expense during his stay at the Ministry of Defence. Mr Hanley's letter, which says that he held the dinners in accordance with his duties as a minister, concluded with the following comment: 'I await the Institute of Chartered Accountants' deliberations with interest.'

Mr James was formally told of the JDS investigation in a letter from Mr Chance dated 27 July, some six weeks after Mr Hanley's forewarning. Mr Hanley, it appears, wrote to the JDS on 19 May and 'specifically' asked whether Mr James was one of the people involved in the JDS investigation. But Mr Chance says in a letter to Mr James that he does not know when and from what source Mr Hanley learnt of the JDS investigation.

No doubt Mr Hanley, who is still smarting from his gaffe over boxing hooligans, was just trying to check up on any 'exuberance' during Mr James's management of the affairs of Astra.

(Photograph omitted)