Wakeham director of bank in Wessex Water

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Indy Politics

Lord Wakeham's tangled web of directorships was under fresh scrutiny last night with the revelation that the former energy minister sat on the board of an investment bank that advised Enron on the takeover of Wessex Water.

Lord Wakeham was a director of NM Rothschild & Sons when it was the official financial adviser to the fallen energy giant in 1998, when the utility was purchased. At the same time, the multimillionaire former Tory cabinet minister was a non-executive director of Enron. He later joined the board of Wessex Water as a non-executive director.

Lord Wakeham was in Washington yesterday to meet Enron's lawyers after standing down as the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission this week. He will be questioned as part of the inquiries set up by Congress into the Enron affair.

His link to Rothschilds – which declined to comment yesterday – stretches back to his time as the Energy Secretary, when he awarded the bank a contract to advise the Government on the privatisation of British Coal. He became a director of the bank in 1995.

Lord Wakeham is also the president of a recruitment consultant, the Michael Page Group, whose clients include Andersen, the accountancy firm that compiled Enron's books and has been accused of shredding thousands of sensitive documents.

There is no suggestion that Lord Wakeham used his links with either Enron or Rothschild to influence or comment on the purchase of Wessex Water. But MPs said last night that it was extraordinary that Lord Wakeham had held directorships with both the company bidding for Wessex Water and its adviser, and then Wessex Water itself.

"People will be stunned by the way that a former minister can go so quickly into so many posts representing not just the purchaser but the adviser and later the purchased," said Matthew Taylor, the Liberal Democrats' Treasury spokesman.

"Meanwhile, this ex-minister was still in Parliament with very top contacts. The more people find out about the cosy relationship between business and politics, the less confidence voters will have in the electoral system."