Tory losses at Lloyd's revealed: Fears that some MPs could be made bankrupt - Potential cash calls kept secret from Parliament - Major's majority under threat

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The Independent Online
LEADING Tory MPs who have refused to disclose details of their Lloyd's insurance activities face estimated losses ranging from about pounds 100,000 to pounds 1.5m, prompting fears of possible bankruptcies that could endanger John Major's majority in Parliament.

Details of the individual likely losses, which were kept secret from Parliament last week by order of the Speaker, Betty Boothroyd, have been made available to the Independent on Sunday.

The revelations are certain to intensify the row over whether MPs may be bailed out of their financial difficulties while other 'distressed Names' are left to their own devices. A storm is also gathering over the refusal of some Conservative MPs to disclose which syndicates they belong to. Any MP judged bankrupt has to resign his seat, and almost no Tory-held constituency is safe in the present political climate.

The MPs failed to disclose the identities of their Lloyd's syndicates in Parliament's latest register of interests. Their names were disclosed in an Early Day Motion tabled in Parliament last week by Peter Hain, Labour MP for Neath.

But details of their possible losses, assessed by an expert former underwriter, were excluded at the last minute.

A copy of the original Early Day Motion circulating at Westminster spells out the risks facing Tory MPs. It claims:

Sir Edward Heath, the former prime minister and MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup (majority 15,699) is at risk for an estimated pounds 700,000.

Sir Richard Body, MP for Holland with Boston (majority 13,831) and a leading Euro- rebel, faces losses estimated at pounds 660,000. Sir Richard yesterday denounced Labour's figures as 'wildly inaccurate'. He refused to give a figure for his own losses, but said they were a small fraction of the underwriter's calculation.

David Tredinnick, the Etonian MP for Bosworth Leicestershire (majority 19,094), is said to be facing a probable loss of pounds 1.5m.

Fellow old Etonian Jerry Wiggin, MP for Weston super Mare (majority 5,342) faces losses that could amount to more than pounds 890,000.

Hartley Booth, successor to Lady Thatcher in Finchley, north London (majority: 6,388), is also named as a serious loser likely to have to find pounds 720,000.

David Ashby, MP for Leicestershire North West (majority 979) is calculated to be at risk for pounds 280,000.

Winston Churchill, MP for Manchester Davyhulme (majority 4,426), faces losses estimated at pounds 490,000. Last night the MP said he quit Lloyd's last year, and 'hadn't a clue' what his ultimate losses might be. 'What I have been warned I have to pay later this year isn't even a fraction of that. I know Peter Hain has got a long nose, but quite franky it's none of his business,' he added. 'Bandying around such figures is quite meaningless.'

Michael Colvin, MP for Romsey and Waterside (majority 15,304), faces losses estimated at pounds 130,000.

Ralph Howell, MP for Norfolk North (majority 12,445), estimated losses pounds 320,000.

David Hunt, Secretary of State for Employment and MP for Wirral West (majority 11,064), estimated losses of pounds 100,000.

Roger Knapman, MP for Stroud, Gloucestershire, (majority 13,405) faces estimated losses of pounds 310,000. He said: 'I am not telling anybody what my business interests are. I'm still a member of Lloyd's, and couldn't be if I didn't qualify under their annual means tests. That is as much as I am prepared to say.'

Richard Needham, Minister of State for Trade and Industry and MP for North Wiltshire (majority 16,388); losses estimated at pounds 100,000.

Philip Oppenheim, MP for Amber Valley, Derbyshire (majority 615), faces losses estimated at pounds 150,000.

Sir Anthony Steen, MP for South Hams, Devon (majority 13,711), estimated pounds 290,000 losses.

Attempts were made to reach all the named MPs yesterday. Some would not comment. Others could not be reached. These calculations are based on the known losses to date and potential losses of the MPs' individual syndicates, published in Lloyd's Blue Books and independent Chatset League tables, using the average premium per member of each syndicate in the absence of a disclosed figure. The final, true figures could be lower. Some City analysts doubt the figures, suggesting the losses will be little more than a third of Labour's estimates.

The figures were compiled by a former Lloyd's underwriter with access to official sources, who asked not to be named.

Rescue scheme, Business

(Photographs omitted)

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