City wants Archer report published: DTI says there is no gagging order on shares-deal file. James Cusick reports

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The Independent Online
LEADING City institutions called on the Government to set a precedent and publish the Department of Trade and Industry's confidential report into Lord Archer's role in the purchase of 50,000 shares in Anglia television.

The DTI said last night that there was no legal gagging order preventing individuals publicly revealing what they had told DTI inspectors. The DTI also said that if publication 'consent' from all parties was agreed, the report could be published.

Political pressure on the DTI has increased following confirmation the Tory peer and wealthy author was involved in a private deal with an Iraqi businessman. Profit of pounds 80,000 was made from the shares, purchased four days before a takeover announcement sent Anglia's share price soaring. Lord Archer's wife, Mary, is a non-executive director of Anglia.

The DTI ruling last night 'surprised' Charles Stanley, the brokers who purchased the shares. The firm's managing director, David Howard, said: 'We understood individuals seen were served notice not to reveal anything. However, we would have no objection to publication.'

Added pressure from financial institutions is based on growing worry that the Archer affair is damaging the City's reputation. One analyst said: 'We need to assure our clients that we operate on a level-playing field.'

The DTI report took five months to complete. On 28 July, the President of the Board of Trade, Michael Heseltine, cleared Lord Archer of any illegal share dealing. Those involved in the case - including Lord and Lady Archer, Broosk Saib, the businessman in whose name the shares were registered, brokers at Charles Stanley, and the boards of both Anglia Television and MAI, who mounted the takeover - have claimed that public explanation of their part in the affair was restricted by a DTI gagging order governing reports into insider share dealing.

Last night a spokesman for the DTI told the Independent that there was 'nothing to prevent any individual interviewed by the DTI from revealing what they told the inspectors'. The spokesman added: 'There is no gagging order . . . Individuals who gave evidence are free to say what they want.'

No insider dealing report has ever been published. If enough evidence exists for a successful prosecution to go ahead, then it is ordered. If not, the case is dismissed, and the report remains unpublished. However, the DTI spokesman said: 'If everyone interviewed, and those mentioned in the interviews, gave their consent for the report to be published, the law as it stands would allow the DTI to publish the report.'

Robin Cook, Labour's trade and industry spokesman, has called for an independent evaluation of the DTI report by the Crown Prosecution Service. City sources indicated they would like to see the matter aired even more publicly. '50,000 shares were sold. If money is made by someone, money is lost elsewhere. Someone out there will be damn miffed.'

Neither Lord nor Lady Archer was available for comment.

Leading article, page 9

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