Labour to launch offensive against Tory 'nepotism'

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The Independent Online
LABOUR leaders are planning to go on the offensive over alleged 'party political nepotism' with the appointment of Tory supporters to quangos at every level of government across Britain.

The appointment of Diane Yeo, wife of Tim Yeo, the former environment minister, as a charity commissioner is one of the posts to be highlighted in the campaign.

Other forms of patronage in Labour's sights are Tory supporters, including wives of former ministers, who have been appointed to National Heath Service management boards of self-governing trust hospitals. They include Lord Hayhoe, the former health minister.

Ministers insist that private expertise is sharpening public- sector performance, but Labour leaders believe it leads to a conflict of interests and are directing their attack at 'waste, incompetence and corruption' in public service.

Labour is threatening a clear-out of some Tory appointees if it is returned to power at the next election. The campaign is being spearheaded by Peter Kilfoyle, a senior Labour whip. 'An incoming Labour government is going to have to face a myriad of quangos staffed by Conservative supporters and very often members, and they will act as a filter for anything that an incoming Labour government wants to do,' he said.

'These are people who help the Government implement its policies across a wide range of areas, from grant- maintained schools to NHS hospitals. We need to know who they are. There are grave questions about whether the public interest is being served.'

While there was no suggestion of corruption against any of those appointed by the Government, Mr Kilfoyle said that there were clear conflicts of interest, which gave rise to concern about 'sleaze' in public service.

Mr Kilfoyle said there was a conflict of interests over the Overseas Projects Board, appointed by Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, which was staffed by the heads of leading British companies, some of which had donated funds to the Conservative Party and which had sent trade missions abroad with ministers.

He also saw a conflict of interests in the membership of the committee on toxity, mutagenicity, and carcinogenicity of chemicals in food, consumer products and the environment, appointed by Virignia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for Health. A total of 9 of the 14 members of the committee have declared interests in a wide range of companies, many involving multiple consultancies to drug companies, including SmithKline Beecham, Sterling Winthrop, Wyeth, Ciba-Geigy, and Hoffman-LaRoche.

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