DTI to take no action over Robinson's firm

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The Independent Online
AN OFFICIAL inquiry into the business affairs of the former paymaster general Geoffrey Robinson has been wound up, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Stephen Byers, announced last night.

Mr Byers said that no further action would be taken.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) investigation into Hollis Industries contributed to the resignation of Peter Mandelson from the department last year. It emerged Mr Mandelson, Mr Byers' predecessor, had an outstanding loan of pounds 373,000 from Mr Robinson which he had not declared.

He maintained he had told his most senior civil servant about the loan after investigations into a variety of minor business infringements by the engineering company werelaunched in September 1998.

Mr Mandelson's failure to register the loan was widely regarded as serious because his department was involved in investigating a political colleague to whom he owed money.

The inquiry helped to speed Mr Robinson's resignation, which followed a series of Commons rebukes for failures to declare his interests.

Last night Mr Byers said thorough inquiries into Hollis had been carried out in line with normal procedures. "Solicitors acting for the honourable member for Coventry North West have been informed the department does not propose to take any further action," he said in a written answer to Ian Pearson, Labour MP for Dudley South.

The DTI disclosed it was investigating Hollis, a former Robert Maxwell company of which Mr Robinson was chairman, after complaints by the Conservatives.

Aides to Mr Mandelson later disclosed that he told his permanent secretary, Michael Scholar, about the loan soon after the inquiry began in September 1998.

His decision to take no part in the inquiry was not disclosed until December last year, in a letter sent the day before his loan became public.