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Mr. Nigel Beard (Bexleyheath and Crayford): The right hon. Gentleman has attempted to associate Robert Maxwell with new Labour or, recently, the Labour party, three times during his speech. Has he any evidence of Robert Maxwell's link in financial terms with new Labour or the Labour party, as opposed to Robert Maxwell's link to individual people in a private capacity?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: I am using the term "Labour party" in a rather general sense. Certainly, many serving Labour Ministers, including the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, received money for their private offices from the hon. Gentleman, whose wealth derives from the links and business relationships that are the subject of the report. I suggest that the hon. Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford (Mr. Beard) reads the two reports and all the appendices, and then he would discover what I am talking about.
The point that I am making is that the information in full is contained in that DTI inquiry report, which today sits in a safe at the DTI. That inquiry was launched in response to the points that I made in 1998. The information existsand if there is an innocent explanation for the relationship and the flow of payments, let us hear it. Let the Government publish the inquiry or, at least, let us know what conclusion it reached.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: It is precisely to get to the bottom of the matter that I want the Government to publish the information that they have. We know that they carried out an inquiry, because that was confirmed to me, eventually. It is a modest request from me that the information be published.
Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove): It would be of benefit to the House if Members remembered that the Prime Minister's press secretary, Mr. Alastair Campbell, was employed as political editor of The Mirror directly by Robert Maxwell and was clearly a very close associate of him. A member of the present Cabinet was also employed directly by Robert Maxwell and, if I remember rightly, a Member in the other place
Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold): As my right hon. Friend knows, I was involved in the investigation with him and I made a complaint to the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. I also made a complaint to the chairman of the Inland Revenue, asking him to investigate where the payment of £200,000 had gone. Does my right hon. Friend know whether the Committee on Standards and Privileges asked the hon. Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Robinson) to produce his tax return, which would show whether he had returned the £200,000 payment? If the hon. Gentleman did not receive the payment, would my right hon. Friend expect the Inland Revenue to investigate where it had gone?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. Issues of taxation are rather wider than the responsibilities of the Committee on Standards and Privileges, but I will touch on tax law before I conclude.
The only reason that the second inquiry took place and the cover-up failed was that an investigative journalist, Mr. Tom Bower, obtained the invoice in question. I do not know from whom he obtained it or how he obtained it, but he did and the invoice was published in a national newspaper. The newspaper and Mr. Bower were both threatened with a libel action by the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, although that was quite quickly dropped. It was clearly just bluff and bluster to try to silence the press, but the Secretary of State's libel action was undertaken at public expense. When I recently asked how much taxpayers had paid to help the Secretary of State to launch his abortive libel action, I was told that that information was not available. Perhaps another cover-up is in the making there.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): Does my right hon. Friend think it worth remarking on the fact that when the journalist, Tom Bower, published the story that he had discovered the invoice and rang up the hon. Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Robinson), who had prepared it, to tell him that, the response was not one of surprise? Insteadif I remember the words correctly that have been repeatedly quoted in the presshe said something along the lines of, "You're not supposed to have that."
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: That is how it is recorded in the book about this event. I am reluctant to go beyond what I have witnessed or found in documents. That must remain someone else's version of events, but it does fit into a pattern.
The crucial factor was the discovery and publication of the additional facts, because that allowed the inquiry to be reopened. It became clear that the 1998 inquiry, which had effectively exonerated the hon. Gentleman, was incomplete. The reports by the Committee on Standards and Privileges constantly refer to the Department of Trade and Industry report. They confirm my suspicions about the Maxwell group and show that I was not simply trawling through a host of unsubstantiated allegations about Mr. Maxwell.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) mentioned taxation. No one disputes that the £300,000 payment was made, but the hon. Member for Coventry, North-West said that it was not paid into his bank account. However, if the payment was made for management services without tax or national insurance contributions being deducted, that contravened section 311 of the Companies Acts. If the payment was designed to go into a personal service company, value added tax should have been included, and it was not. The DTI did nothing about that. The Government say that they are against tax evasion. Why then, when one of their Departments had evidence that tax was being evaded, did they not pass the matter on to the tax authorities as suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold?
Stock exchange regulations are another example. It is serious to breach them, but there is evidence in the voluminous appendices to the 3 May report that the prospectus issued to the shareholders of another Maxwell company, Central and Sheerwood plc, was misleading in a number of material respects.
I pointed that out in a letter to the DTI and asked what action it proposed to take, but it has done nothing. The Government are considering making it criminal for directors to be involved in anti-competitive behaviour, yet when they have evidence in their own report that a shareholders circular was misleading, they sit on it and do nothing. Indeed, a few days before Christmas they used a planted question to issue the statement that they did not propose to take further action. That is why I have no
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover): To get the record straight, and as the right hon. Gentleman is hanging out this so-called dirty washing, can he clarify his entry in the register? Some of his hon. Friends who are engaged in moonlighting jobs and directorships include the amounts that they receive. As he is hounding almost everyone in the Labour party, how much has he received? Why has he not put that in the register?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman must resume his seat when I am speaking. That intervention is wholly outside the scope of the report that we are debating. To the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory), I have to say that, as Mr. Speaker ruled earlier, we are in danger of straying too far into the general from the particular matter that is before the House.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: I would love to respond to the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), but you have a solemn and strict expression on your face, Mr. Deputy Speaker, so I shall return to the matter being debated.
The latest ploy by the former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is to say that the whole affair is none of his responsibilityclaiming that despite the fact that the Department of which he was Secretary of State was involved, everything was done by civil servants. Why, then, did he answer my letters on the subject? Why did he correspond with me? Why did he answer written parliamentary questions on the subject? It was his Department and he is constitutionally accountable to the House for what went on in his Department. Moreover, it was heor, to be charitable, someone who reported to himwho decided to instigate an in-house inquiry, rather than the independent external one that I had requested precisely to avoid allegations of cover-up or conflict of interest.
Those are the clear facts. The House has got the report despite the Government's best efforts to suppress the information. To this day, all that information remains secret in the Department of Trade and Industry, which could quite easily launch a new investigation under another section of the Companies Act, with publication guaranteed if it so wished, to get to the bottom of the many issues connected with company law, taxation, pension funds and stock exchange regulations that I have highlighted and to which the reports before the House allude.
We have not got to the bottom of the links between the Maxwell empire and new Labour. That is why we need a full inquiry, a proper inquiry, an independent inquiry, with the results published. If we do not get that, the House will be in the unhappy position of being able to discipline individual Members of Parliament, but not the Government. That has to change.