Robinson 'gave to second blind trust'

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Geoffrey Robinson may have given money to a second blind trust which funded Tony Blair's office, it emerged yesterday.

Geoffrey Robinson may have given money to a second blind trust which funded Tony Blair's office, it emerged yesterday.

The millionaire former Treasury minister is believed to have made donations to the Industrial Research Trust (IRT), which helped to fund the Leader of the Opposition's office while John Smith held the post. Mr Blair in effect inherited the fund when he became Labour leader in July 1994 after Mr Smith's death.

The trust continued to pay towards Mr Blair's private office costs until the end of 1995 when Lord Levy, a millionaire Labour fundraiser, set up a separate blind trust called the Labour Leader's Office Fund.

On Thursday, the trustees of Lord Levy's new Blair fund broke their normal strict rules of secrecy by issuing a statement denying that Mr Robinson gave money to their trust. However, this denial did not cover the 18-month period in which Mr Blair was Labour leader and benefited from the IRT trust.

Mr Robinson is believed to have contributed significant amounts to the IRT. But it was not clear last night whether his gifts were made while Mr Blair or Mr Smith was party leader. Tory officials claimed that Mr Blair would still have been a beneficiary of Mr Robinson's money if it had been donated under the Smith leadership. A Tory spokesman said: "We will keep up the pressure on Mr Blair on this issue." On Monday, Tory MPs are expected to table questions in the House of Commons to the Prime Minister about the original IRT fund.

The Tory move will fuel anxiety in senior Labour circles that Mr Robinson may make damaging revelations about his funding of the party in his memoirs, The Unconventional Minister, due to be published in the new year.

Earlier this week, his friends suggested he was under pressure from Downing Street to drop plans to disclose his donations to Labour.

Mr Robinson resigned as paymaster-general last December on the same day as Peter Mandelson quit the Cabinet over his £373,000 personal loan from the millionaire.

Downing Street said last night: "We are confident after speaking to Geoffrey Robinson that he did not contribute to Tony Blair's office as Leader of the Opposition through any blind fund. The only money that could have found its way into the Prime Minister's office that was originally Geoffrey's would have been through the general contribution he made to the Labour Party." But No 10 said it was unable to check IRT records because this fund was set up for Mr Smith.

From 1996, the IRT is believed to have been transferred to Gordon Brown, then shadow Chancellor.

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