Robinson to leave Treasury in shuffle

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The Independent Online
THE PAYMASTER General, Geoffrey Robinson, will be moved out of his Treasury post in the forthcoming reshuffle by Tony Blair, according to Whitehall sources, in an attempt to quell the Tory pressure over his private shareholdings.

Mr Robinson was yesterday again referred to Sir Gordon Downey, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, over an alleged failure for three years to declare an interest in a machine tools company, Agie UK Ltd. It is almost certain that the charge made by David Heathcoat-Amory, a Tory Treasury spokesman, will be investigated by Sir Gordon, who last year produced a critical report on Mr Robinson's failure properly to declare a pounds 12m offshore trust fund, which led to him being censured by MPs.

The Treasury dismissed the claims yesterday as a "joke", and insisted that Mr Robinson had put all his interests on the record. But the controversy surrounding his private shareholdings is causing continuing embarrassment to the Government.

The Independent has learnt from Whitehall sources that Mr Blair intends to move Mr Robinson from the Treasury to avoid undermining the credibility of the Chancellor's March Budget, which carries proposals to close more tax loopholes. Mr Robinson has been advising Gordon Brown on tax changes, but the Tories are preparing to embarrass the Chancellor over his Paymaster General's own offshore shareholdings.

Harriet Harman, the Secretary of State for Social Security, is also expected to be moved having failed to impress with her handling of the reforms to the welfare state.