DTI report on Archer will not be published: Heseltine cites 'legal barriers'

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The Independent Online
MICHAEL HESELTINE, the President of the Board of Trade, yesterday ruled out any prospect that he would bow to pressure and publish the report into Lord Archer's share dealing in Anglia Television.

In a written reply to Robin Cook, Labour's trade and industry spokesman, Mr Heseltine contradicted recent claims made by civil servants in his own department, that the DTI inspectors' report could be published if Lord Archer, and others named in the report, gave their consent. He said it was 'not correct' that there would be 'no legal barrier to publication' if consent was given.

Mr Heseltine's response is a blow to opposition politicians who have been seeking an independent evaluation of the report's findings. Mr Cook has said an evaluation by the Crown Prosecution Service would be preferable to allowing 'one Tory politician to stand in judgement of another Tory politician'.

Recent guidance given by DTI civil servants indicated that parts of the Financial Services Act could be interpreted in a way that allowed 'publication by consent'.

However Mr Heseltine informed Mr Cook that the report into Lord Archer had been compiled on the understanding that it would not be published. He added that the Act 'provides no power for the Secretary of State to publish' and that Parliament had not intended such reports to be published.

The DTI ordered the investigation into Lord Archer in January of this year. The five- month-long inquiry, costing an estimated pounds 100,000, began after the DTI received material from the London Stock Exchange after the pounds 292m take-over of Anglia by the media group MAI.

Lord Archer, through the stockbrokers Charles Stanley, ordered 50,000 shares in Anglia four days before the take- over announcement sent Anglia share prices soaring. Lord Archer's wife is a director of Anglia. The shares he ordered were registered in the name of Broosk Saib, one of his business associates. The profit from the deal, an pounds 80,000 cheque made out to Mr Saib, was sent to Lord Archer's London penthouse.

In July the DTI announced it had concluded its investigation and would not be taking action against the Tory peer.

Last month Lord Archer, in a public apology to his wife, said he had made a 'grave error' in allowing his name to be associated with the share deal. Inquiries by the Stock Exchange and Anglia said they had been satified that Lady Archer upheld her duties as a director.