Labour offensive on insider dealing: Policy proposals follow disquiet over inquiry into Archer shares deal. James Cusick and Nicholas Timmins report

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The Independent Online
LAWS governing the prosecution of individuals suspected of insider dealing would be toughened up under a Labour government. Later this month, the party is expected to issue the first of a series of policy proposals on insider dealing aimed at removing what many of Labour's finance experts regard as 'unreasonable restrictions' preventing prosecutions.

Indications are that an American-style system, with a lower burden of proof, would result in a greater number of successful British prosecutions which, under current criminal law, demand proof 'beyond reasonable doubt'. Assessment of prosecutions is also likely to be removed from politicians with independent assessment given greater prominence.

The policy initiative will be seen as a political accompaniment to calls from Robin Cook, Labour's trade and industry spokesman, and Alistair Darling, one of the party's Treasury spokesmen, for an independent assessment of the Department of Trade and Industry's report into Lord Archer's ordering of 50,000 shares in Anglia Television, which resulted in a quick pounds 80,000 profit. Lord Archer's wife, Mary, is a director of Anglia.

The department held a five- month inquiry into the share deal.

The identities of the two principal inspectors were given in a newspaper report yesterday. They are: Hugh Aldous, managing partner in the accounting firm Robson Rhodes, and Roger Kaye QC, a leading litigation specialist. The offices of both men would not confirm or deny the appointments.

Most of the inspectors' findings have emerged through leaks from the DTI and the Stock Exchange.

The DTI inspectors will have examined the same documents shown to the Independent, which have Lord Archer's name and address on the share purchases. The inspectors were told by the brokers that Lord Archer ordered the shares, but had them registered under the name of Broosk Saib, a Kurdish business associate.

The inspectors know the cheque was sent to Lord Archer's London address and that it was subsequently paid into Mr Saib's bank account. The inspectors also know that three large sums of money left Mr Saib's account during February and March this year.

After the lengthy investigation, Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, said in July that no action would be taken against Lord Archer.

Barbara Mills QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, has since said that the inspectors' report, together with independent legal advice, was considered by Mr Heseltine before he decided no further action would be taken.

Lord Archer is not expected to attend this year's party conference, Jeremy Hanley, the party's chairman, disclosed yesterday.

His absence would have been unthinkable earlier this year when the former deputy chairman was still being tipped as a possible chairman of the party.

Lord Archer, whose parties at the annual Tory gathering have become legendary, is still abroad promoting his latest collection of short stories, but Mr Hanley yesterday said he was not expected to be in Bournemouth.

'I don't think he is actually coming for the simple reason that the House of Lords are well in session. They have got a running three-line whip and he is a hard- working peer,' Mr Hanley said on BBC1's Breakfast with Frost.

The Criminal Justice Bill is expected to be in the Lords during the party conference. But Lord Archer's office yesterday would not comment on whether he would go to Bournemouth.

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