Parliament & Politics: standards: Robinson accused over Maxwell links

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GEOFFREY ROBINSON broke House of Commons rules by lobbying for the late Robert Maxwell, according to a new official complaint against the Paymaster General.

The Conservatives havecomplained to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Sir Gordon Downey. But it is possible that the complaint will never be investigated. A House of Commons rule change to be announced today will place a six-year time limit on complaints against MPs.

The Paymaster General has been subjected to complaints about his businesses, but has so far only been mildly rebuked for failing to register his interest in an offshore trust, and was found to have committed minor offences in not registering two other directorships.

David Heathcoat-Amory, the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has sent Sir Gordon pages from a 10-page memo sent to Mr Maxwell on House of Commons notepaper by Mr Robinson in 1990. In it, he said he had obtained support from the government's Overseas Development Administration for a bid by one of Mr Maxwell's companies, Multiphase Systems, to expand his business to India.

Mr Heathcoat-Amory told Sir Gordon that under 1990 rules MPs were required to register the names of clients for whom they were providing personal services relating to their membership of the House of Commons. Mr Robinson had not done so, he said.

Mr Heathcoat-Amory also complained that Mr Robinson failed to register his ownership of an American engineering firm, Roll Center Incorporated, which was later sold to another of his companies, Transfer Technology Group plc, for pounds 100,000.

Mr Robinson also failed to mention that he was a director of a trustee company for pensions payable to some of Mr Maxwell's pensioners, he added.

In a report marking the end of Sir Gordon's three years as commissioner, he will recommend a six-year time limit on complaints. However, it was not clear last night when the change would be implemented.

The new rule would prevent more complaints being made about Mr Robinson's association with Robert Maxwell, who took pounds 450m from Mirror Group Newspapers' pension fund before he drowned in November 1991.

"This is entirely wrong and it appears to put Geoffrey Robinson in a new and privileged position. It seems to be tailor-made to cover up Geoffrey Robinson's connection with Robert Maxwell," Mr Heathcoat-Amory said.

A friend of Mr Robinson said the Conservatives were trying to blacken his name by proving his connections with Maxwell. "This is guilt by association and it's pathetic," he said.