Call for anti-sleaze rule rejected

The Prime Minister has rejected an anti-sleaze demand that companies employing MPs should not be allowed to bid for public contracts. The Independent has learned that at least three former ministers are linked to companies associated with bids for the pounds 1.6bn sale of Ministry of Defence married quarters.

The deal prompted the Tory MP Richard Shepherd to urge John Major to act, to counter any perception of sleaze. The Prime Minister declined.

While there is no suggestion of any impropriety in the latest cases, and the present parliamentary and Whitehall rules on MPs' conduct and Government commercial contracts make no reference to the issue, Lord Nolan has recently been asked by the Opposition spokesman Derek Foster to investigate the involvement of Tory interests in companies bidding for contracts.

Witnesses at a recent hearing of the Commons Select Committee on Defence revealed that Electra Fleming - currently under attack for the terms of its purchase of Her Majesty's Stationery Office - was one of the backers for the lease-back deal, led by the Japanese bank Nomura, for 2,370 MoD homes. The committee was told the agreement had Mr Major's personal approval.

Electra Fleming was part of an unsuccessful consortium which bid for the MoD estates. Having succeeded, the Japanese company Nomura laid off some of its liability with the US-based finance company Black Rock, which in turn laid off pounds 6.3m of liability with Electra Fleming.

Tom King, former Secretary of State for Defence, is on the board of Electra Investment Trust plc, and the former government Chief Whip Tim Renton is a consultant to Robert Fleming Holdings - the parent companies which each own a half stake in Electra Fleming.

A spokesman for the investment bankers Merrill Lynch Europe Ltd told The Independent that it was in an unsuccessful consortium bidding for the estates. Sir Archibald Hamilton, another former defence minister, is a parliamentary consultant with Merrill Lynch.

A senior member of the defence committee, the Liberal Democrat Menzies Campbell, told The Independent last night: "The committee would have had to peruse the register of companies in microscopic detail to establish whether there was any connection between a serving MP and any of these bids."

A similar complaint was made by Mr Shepherd last October in a letter to the Prime Minister, when he said: "A reading of the Register of Members' Interests would not necessarily indicate that a member might be in such a position."

Mr Major recently replied: "A blanket ban on firms employing MPs might well result in the rejection of suppliers able to offer good value for money."

But in a Commons debate last Tuesday, Mr Shepherd complained of the "curse of commercial confidentiality" - and cited the sale of MoD housing as an example of unnecessary secrecy. "I understand that members of the Select Committee on Defence were given information that was not available to other members of the House ... However, the information was available to members if they had commercial associations with commercial companies that wished to make a bid," he said. "That is wildly inappropriate."

Mr Renton told The Independent that as a consultant to Robert Fleming, he was not involved in bids made by Electra Fleming. Sir Archibald was not available and Mr King did not return The Independent's call.

A Commons motion tabled by the Labour frontbencher Brian Wilson says that the pounds 54m sale of HMSO to Electra Fleming was "hopelessly tainted and against the public interest". Robert Fleming had given pounds 527,000 to the Tory party, while Electra Investment Trust, with Mr King and the Tory peer Lord Vinson as board members, "has chipped in at least pounds 40,000".

BBC poll row

The BBC was forced to close the first round of polling for its annual Today Programme Personality of the Year award yesterday after discovering an "organised attempt" by Labour staff to distort the voting in favour of the party leader, Tony Blair.

Page 3

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little