Top Tory backers in shares investigation

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Two of the Conservative Party's top business benefactors are involved in an investigation by the Department of Trade and Industry into allegations of insider share trading, writes Paul Routledge.

Lord Harris of Peckham, the south London carpet millionaire and the Tories' deputy treasurer responsible for creating their election war chest, and the Yorkshire furniture magnate Sir Graham Kirkham, have both been named in the course of a DTI inquiry.

Neither is suspected of wrongdoing, but they are likely to be interviewed by civil servants looking into "unusual" dealings in shares of Cantors, a Sheffield-based furnishings company taken over last year by a private firm owned by Lord Harris.

A spokesman for the furnishings company, renamed H & C, last night promised "every assistance" to the DTI investigators. The Department declined to confirm or deny that an inquiry is taking place.