Robinson failed to disclose seven more directorships

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The Independent Online
GEOFFREY ROBINSON has broken House of Commons rules by failing to list seven directorships in the register of members' interests, The Independent has learnt. The Paymaster-General has already received an official rebuke for not registering four other directorships and an interest in an offshore trust.

The revelation has prompted a formal complaint from the Conservatives, who called yesterday for Tony Blair to sack the Treasury minister.

There were suggestions last night that support for Mr Robinson within the Government was waning because of a series of embarrassing disclosures about his business interests. Cabinet sources said Mr Blair had intended to remove him from the Treasury in his July reshuffle, and that Mr Robinson retained his post only after a last-minute plea by Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, his closest political ally.

Yesterday the former bishop of Durham, Dr David Jenkins, urged the Prime Minister to consider sacking Mr Robinson or at least ordering a full investigation into his activities.

Mr Robinson has already been criticised three times by the Commons committee that oversees the conduct of MPs, and earlier this month was forced to make a formal apology to the House for failing to declare two directorships.

The new complaint concerns seven engineering companies bought by Mr Robinson's firm, TransTec PLC, in 1992 and 1993. The MP, then an opposition backbencher, sat on the boards of the newly bought companies until December 1993. He never listed them in the register of members' interests.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, a member of the Tory shadow Treasury team and of the Public Accounts Committee, has written to the parliamentary watchdog, Sir Gordon Downey, about the omission. Sir Gordon retires this week and the complaint will probably be dealt with by his successor, Elizabeth Filkin. "Clearly, by looking at this matter and the other complaints you have already investigated, it can be seen that Mr Robinson has made little or no effort to understand the rules and implement them properly," Mr Clifton-Brown said in his letter.

He told The Independent the time had come for Mr Robinson to resign. "A Treasury minister with this kind of circumstantial evidence against him should seriously consider his position," he said.

The seven directorships were of Fenworth Ltd, Fenworth (Woodchester) Ltd, Laserpeak Developments, Forceleague Ltd, MH Marine, Earby Light Engineers Ltd and

Matrix Grinding Technologies. Matrix Grinding acquired the right to manufacture and sell grinding machines from the receiver of Matrix Churchill Ltd, which had collapsed after becoming embroiled in the arms-to-Iraq scandal.

Although none of the directorships was remunerated, a parliamentary rule change in June 1993 required MPs to list such posts when they were with a subsidiary of another firm by which they were paid.

Mr Robinson registered his directorship of TransTec PLC, formerly Transfer Technology Group PLC, but never mentioned the companies it had bought on the register. The first public register of interests after the rule- change came out in January 1994, just after Mr Robinson resigned leaving other TransTec directors on the companies' boards. However, an examination of interim registers from the intervening six months shows the MP did not list the interests.

The Tories also demanded an investigation yesterday into the reason Mr Robinson, when chairman of Hollis Industries, a company controlled by Robert Maxwell, sold two subsidiary firms for pounds 2.98m in 1991 to another company he and Maxwell ran. The two engineering companies - Lock International and PSS Group - were said to have been resold in hours for more than pounds 1m profit to another company controlled by Mr Robinson and Mr Maxwell.

Friends of Mr Robinson sayhe has been the victim of a smear campaign. "The Tories are accusing Geoffrey Robinson of making too much money," a senior Treasury source said . "It is ridiculous and they will not stop him from continuing his excellent job as Paymaster-General."

Since becoming a minister in May last year, he has been plagued by press revelations about his business interests.

First there were complaints about Mr Robinson's connection with the pounds 12m Guernsey-based Orion Trust. Although Sir Gordon found the minister had broken no rules in not registering his interest in the trust, he said Mr Robinson had made a "mistake" and it would have been "better" had he done so.

Then in July this year the minister was rebuked for not fully registering two directorships, in the engineering company Swiss EDM/Agie UK and in TransTec. However, the Standards and Privileges Committee, which considers the commissioner's findings, did not impose any punishment.

This month Mr Robinson was asked to apologise for not registering an interest in an administrative company, Stenbell, but was cleared of wrongdoing for not registeringinterests in some Italian property companies. He also registered an interest in an American company, Roll Center, which he owned between 1988 and 1992.

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