Fresh claims put pressure on Robinson

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The Independent Online
THE TORY party renewed its call for Geoffrey Robinson, the Paymaster- General, to resign yesterday when it presented the Department of Trade and Industry with fresh allegations that he breached company law.

DTI inspectors were handed a dossier detailing 12 alleged breaches by Mr Robinson when he was a director of Hollis Industries, a Robert Maxwell engineering company.

Mr Robinson, who apologised to the House of Commons last week for failing to declare directorships, stands accused of approving false accounts and failing to keep proper records. The Commons Standards and Privileges Committee found him guilty earlier this year of failing to declare three directorships in the Register of MPs' interests.

All the allegations in the 100-page dossier cover the years between 1988 and 1992, well before Mr Robinson became a minister, but the Tories claim that they make him unfit to serve as a director of any company.

The dossier centres on claims that Hollis Industries' accounts falsely showed a payment of pounds 200,000 to Mr Robinson and the company broke the law by failing to file public accounts. Another of Mr Robinson's firms, Sarclad International, is also alleged to have failed to file accounts on time.

The minister is accused of failing to disclose to the Registrar of Companies both his appointment and his resignation as a director of Hollis Industries. He claimed his letter of resignation had been "lost in the post".

Two other companies connected with Mr Robinson, Agie UK Ltd and Lock International, allegedly failed to disclose their owners and directors in annual returns.

David Heathcoat-Amory, the Tory Treasury spokesman, said that the alleged breaches should be investigated by an independent inquiry rather than Peter Mandelson, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

"The DTI is already considering an allegation that Geoffrey Robinson approved false accounts when he was a director of Hollis Industries plc," he said. "I have now given the DTI evidence that Mr Robinson may have breached company law in no fewer than 12 additional and separate cases.

"Since the DTI inquiry would involve one minister investigating another, I am suggesting that the matter is referred to an independent prosecution service."

Mr Robinson's 55-second apology to the House of Commons last week came after an embarrassing string of allegations over his business affairs. The Government points out that the most serious claims were dismissed by the Commons committee and that the Prime Minister has given him his personal backing.

The DTI said yesterday that it could neither confirm or deny whether it was investigating Mr Robinson. A spokesman for the Treasury, Mr Robinson's department, refused to comment on the matter. "It is a matter for the DTI," he said.

John Redwood, the Tory trade and industry spokesman, joined his party leader, William Hague, yesterday in calling for Mr Robinson to resign. "How many more mistakes is this man going to be allowed to make?" he asked.

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