`New Statesman' wage bill queried

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Geoffrey Robinson, the Paymaster General, was yesterday called on to make a Commons statement on his links with the New Statesman magazine.

John Redwood, the Conservative spokesman on trade and industry, said he had gone through the company's accounts and was baffled by the fact that the magazine's salaries were paid by a Robinson trust to the New Statesman, which passed the money to a former Robinson company, Stenbell, which in turn paid the salaries.

"The obvious thing to do," Mr Redwood said, "would be for Geoffrey Robinson to give the New Statesman the money, and for them to pay the wages."

Mr Redwood said he wanted to know whether Mr Robinson was maintaining influence, through his trust payments, over the editor of the New Statesman. "It would be a matter of considerable public interest," he said, "and in the light of what the accounts tell us, we should be told more in Parliament about the relationship."

Ian Hargreaves, the magazine's editor, told The Independent last night: "I certainly do not feel myself subject to undue influence of any kind, and I do not note from what Mr Redwood says that he has any evidence of such influence."

He added that the relationship between Stenbell and the magazine had been set up when Mr Robinson took it over, after it had gone to the wall, and the arrangements had persisted. "I know it would be nice for people to be able to conclude that it was all deeply evil," he said, "but Mr Redwood is grasping at sinister straws to create a scandal."

- Anthony Bevins