MP faces bankruptcy dilemma

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The Independent Online
PAUL MARLAND, Conservative MP for Gloucester West, has suffered losses of pounds 480,000 at Lloyd's of London, making him one of the worst hit of the 51 Conservative MPs who are members of the insurance market.

Mr Marland has applied to the Lloyd's Members Hardship Committee to negotiate a settlement. However, he has not ruled out personal bankruptcy as an alternative to paying off his debts. Making Mr Marland bankrupt would automatically trigger a by-election.

With a majority of only 15, Lloyd's losses have been a worry for the Government since the last election. Mr Marland had a majority of 4,958 at the general election.

Successful applicants to the hardship committee, run by Mary Archer, Lord Archer's wife, are allowed to keep a house (valued at up to pounds 150,000 in London) and net income of pounds 17,500 per year for a married couple. Mr Marland said yesterday that it would be 'logical to assume' his only significant asset is his farm in Gloucestershire, which he may have to sell as part of any settlement. He refused to comment on the extent of his losses.

Although Mr Marland has approached the hardship committee he has yet to reach a settlement. Negotiations typically take six months to conclude. Lloyds has threatened to sue names who refuse to negotiate a settlement.

Mr Marland yesterday attacked the committee as 'just a way of getting money from spouses as well as names. Probably bankruptcy is better,' he said.

His application requires him to declare all his assets, including his wife's. As well as Ford Hill Farm in Cheltenham, he owns a flat in Alderney Street, close to Westminster. 'Lloyds are not only the thieves of yesterday but they are now trying to steal from family members and their inheritances today,' he said.

Mr Marland has been a fierce critic of Lloyd's in the House of Commons, claiming the market is poorly regulated and riddled with fraudulent practices.

He is part of the legal action against Lloyd's agents which is going through the courts. A total of 3,095 names on Gooda Walker syndicates are suing their underwriter for pounds 629m in damages, run up, they allege, as a result of negligent underwriting.

Mr Marland, who is the chairman of the Conservative backbench committee on agriculture, is on some of Lloyd's worst- hit syndicates. They include syndicate 298's 1989 year of account, which has run up a 730 per cent loss on names' investments and Syndicate 290's 1989 year, which has run up a 386 per cent loss.

The Commons is expected to drop the requirement on MPs to declare the syndicate to which they belong if they are members of Lloyd's, writes Colin Brown. About 12 Tory MPs refused to declare their syndicates and a large number of others did so under protest. The retreat is likely to be recommended to the House by the Committee on Members' Interests, chaired by Sir Geoffrey Johnson- Smith, a senior Tory backbencher, following protests by Tory MPs led by Sir Edward Heath.

MPs would still be required to state they are members of Lloyd's but the committee's report to the Commons is expected to say that disclosing syndicates is intrusive.

Lloyd's victory, page 29

Gooda Walker trial, page 31