Family link to takeover battle looks tenuous

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Michael Howard has been linked by numerous newspapers in recent days with the Fayed and Lonrho takeover battle for Harrods, via his second cousin, Harry Landy.

At first sight the link seems plausible. Mr Landy is a director of London City and Westcliff Properties, a subsidiary of Tiny Rowland's Lonrho, long and bitter rival of the Fayeds for the control of Harrods. He had been associated with one of the most spectacular collapses in British banking history, and involved in one of the longest fraud trials. To complete the connection, Mr Howard, now Home Secretary, was Under-Secretary at the Department of Trade and Industry in 1987 when the inquiry into the Harrods takeover was set up. But on closer examination, the significance of the relationship becomes more tenuous.

First, the personal relationship is not as close as the kinship suggests: Mr Landy is now 83, a full 30 years the senior of the politician, and is a contemporary, and cousin, of Mr Howard's elderly mother. Although a compatriot of Mr Howard's, he left South Wales before Mr Howard was born.

Second, close colleagues of Paul Channon, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in 1987, said he had made a point of taking the decision himself to set up the Harrods inquiry.

The link was first raised, and discounted, five years ago, in a much calmer political climate.

A Commons motion tabled in 1989 by Dale Campbell- Savours, Labour MP for Workington, noted 'with concern the close family links' between Mr Howard and Mr Landy.

The motion noted that six other members of the Landy family were also shareholders in Lonrho.

Mr Campbell-Savours's motion then observed 'that in 1979 Harry Landy was the principal defendant in an Old Bailey fraud trial described as the largest and longest fraud case ever brought in the City of London, and that he was convicted and sentenced but that the conviction was later quashed on technical and legal grounds'.

The motion concluded by expressing the belief 'that while there is, at present, no evidence' that Mr Howard 'has at any time been improperly influenced by the Landy family, his and his parents' close family links with the Landys and in turn their close links with Tiny Rowland and Lonrho, provides legitimate cause for public concern'.

Francis Maude, the DTI minister at the time, told Mr Campbell-Savours that no ministers had met Mr Landy to discuss the case for an inquiry into the affairs of the Fayeds.