The peer – who acted as Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet ‘fixer’ – was this morning preparing to fly to America to appear before a Senate Committee investigating his role at Enron for which he is understood to have received £80,000 a year.
Liberal Democrat Nick Harvey says that Lord Wakeham cannot do his job of adjudicating on complaints against newspapers while American politicians are looking at his role in the collapse of the energy giant.
Harvey said: ‘Lord Wakeham must have developed a sensitivity to these issues at the PCC. I am sure he can see the advantage of stepping down voluntarily at this stage while matters are clarified.’
Meanwhile Tories and Lib Dems increased their pressure on the government over links between Enron and their accountants Andersen and Labour.
Energy minister Brian Wilson today strongly denied any suggestion that the ban on Andersen working for Whitehall – imposed by the Tories in the wake of the De Lorean car scandal – was in any way connected with the accountacy firm’s links with Labour.
Andersen worked on chancellor Gordon Brown’s windfall tax on privatised utilities before the 1997 General Election, allowed staff to work for Labour during the campaign, and employed current trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt as a senior executive in the early 1990s.
But Wilson was scathing about claims that the decision to lift the ban soon after Labour was elected was connected with this.
He said: ‘If anybody is trying to spin a conspiracy theory out of this they are barking up the wrong tree.’
He said there was ‘not a shred of evidence’ of any scandal and that if the worst allegation against Labour was that they talked to business, he could live with that.But the Liberal Democrats said more needed to be made public saying: ‘The issues of Andersen go beyond the settlement of the De Lorean case. It’s about the whole culture of support and links between big business and the Labour Party and its possible influence on government. These issues remain.
‘The government should release the full text of the advice given on settling the De Lorean case and lifting the ban on Andersen’s government work, what the officials were asked, and how and why that changed from the view taken under the Conservative government.’