Cook presses for Archer report to be published

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LABOUR renewed its pressure on Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, last night to publish the inspectors' report on the Anglia TV share-dealing conducted by Lord Archer.

Robin Cook, Labour's trade and industry spokesman, wrote to Mr Heseltine asking him to confirm that there would be no legal obstacle to publication if Lord Archer agreed to it.

Mr Cook specifically challenged the claim in a letter to him from Neil Hamilton, the corporate affairs minister, last week that it would be both unusual and illegal for the Department of Trade and Industry to publish the report. He said the refusal to do so 'only increases interest in what it is they have got to hide'.

Mr Cook said in his letter last night that this was not his reading of section 179 of the Financial Services Act. He wrote: 'As far as I can discover from the relevant section it would be entirely legal of you to release the Inspectors' Report if Lord Archer and others named in the Report were to give their consent to its release.'

Last night, Mr Cook said he was sure Mr Heseltine would welcome the opportunity to prove that the report did not justify further action against Lord Archer. He said: 'Lord Archer has gone on record claiming that the inspectors' report exonerated him. If so, he has no reason to withhold his consent from publication of a report that clears him.'

His move follows reports that Lady Archer attended a board meeting on January 12 when Anglia's forthcoming takeover by MAI was discussed - the day before Lord Archer placed the first of two orders to purchase shares on behalf of his Iraqi Kurdish friend Broosk Saib. Lady Archer has maintained she behaved properly while Lord Archer has apologised for the embarrassment caused to his wife and made it clear he had not benefited from inside knowledge.

Although the department has not said whether the report explicitly exonerated Lord Archer, it has stated that the decision not to take further action was consistent with that report. Mr Hamilton revealed for the first time last week that the decision was taken after advice from an independent outside counsel.