Minister orders inquiry into Lipton's 'conflict of interests'

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The Independent Online

The commercial interests of Sir Stuart Lipton, the chairman of Stanhope, the property developer, are to be examined by independent auditors as part of a review of conflict of interest issues at the Commission for Architecture in the Built Environment (Cabe).

The commercial interests of Sir Stuart Lipton, the chairman of Stanhope, the property developer, are to be examined by independent auditors as part of a review of conflict of interest issues at the Commission for Architecture in the Built Environment (Cabe).

Sir Stuart chairs both Stanhope and Cabe, which is a powerful quango that reviews planning applications for large commercial property developments and its opinions carry weight with local planning authorities considering whether to grant permission for new schemes.

Confirming a report in yesterdays Independent, a statement from the office of Andrew McIntosh, the heritage minister, said: "The review will consider the following question: Is Cabe operating in accordance with Nolan principles, with specific regard to: 1. The commercial interests of the chairman and the commissioners, taking into account the terms of their appointment and any relevant changes of circumstances since appointment; 2. The procedures for management of conflicts of interest in respect of the design review process; 3. The practices adopted in respect of conflicts of interest."

A spokesman for Cabe said: "There is a real issue with Stuart [Lipton] that we need to explore. There isn't necessarily an issue in practice. The issue in theory is making sure there is clear blue water between his roles as chairman of Cabe and the chief executive [sic] of Stanhope." Asked if the government still supported Sir Stuart as chairman of Cabe a spokesman for the DCMS said: "The minister responsible for Cabe, Andrew McIntosh, is not available to comment."

The spokesman said Cabe's success since its launch was due "in no small part to the stewardship of its chairman and chief executive. Allegations that point to the potential for conflicts of interest amongst commissioners have been brought to our attention and we are investigating these with the full co-operation and wholehearted support of CABE. Any recommendations arising from the audit will be made to DCMS."

Cabe's records show that eight out of 15 Cabe commissioners have relationships and connections of various kinds with Stanhope. Commissioners are appointed by the DCMS to oversee Cabe's work.

The Independent has learnt that Cabe changed its procedures for disclosing commissioners' interests in property schemes being considered by Cabe last month.

It now circulates to commissioners a list of schemes to be considered by its design review committee. Commissioners are now required to declare any connections or commercial interests.

The list has to be returned whether a commissioner is due to attend the design review committee meeting or not.

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