The Archer Affair: Tory MP accused over Ashcroft bananagate

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The Independent Online
A TORY MP with close links to controversial Conservative Party treasurer Michael Ashcroft is expected to face fresh allegations this week that he lobbied for the millionaire's Belize interests, writes Jo Dillon.

The Commons anti-sleaze watchdog Elizabeth Filkin is to be asked to investigate claims that the long-serving backbencher Bowen Wells argued on behalf of the Caribbean banana industry at a time when he was a non-executive director of the Belize-based BHI Corporation.

The Labour MP Alan Whitehead is to submit a detailed complaint to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards tomorrow claiming the MP went out of his way to address a committee he was not a member of, influencing its final decision, as well as failing to declare his interest in BHI.

A previous complaint earned Mr Wells a rebuke for failing to declare publicly his payments from Mr Ashcroft when he spoke in Commons debates. No disciplinary action was taken against the MP, who listed his post with the corporation - the holding company for Belize bank - in the Register of Members' Interests.

The new complaint centres on a meeting of the European Standing Committee A in March last year, when he was a non-executive director of BHI.

Mr Wells urged a minister to help change EU policy on bananas so privileged market access of traditional suppliers, such as Belize, could be protected, Mr Whitehead will say, as well as supporting rules under which Belize receives double the price for bananas paid to Latin American producers, and a bigger quota.

Mr Wells, who was unavailable for comment last night, resigned his directorship in July 1998 to avoid "any appearance of conflict".