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Monday 1st May 2003

Tory Chief Executive Investigated

A senior Conservative backbencher has called on Iain Duncan Smith to sack his newly appointed Chief Executive and Chief of Staff, Barry Legg.

Update: Barry Legg resigned from his role as the Conservative Party's chief executive on 7 May.

The call from Derek Conway, the MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup, comes in the wake of the disclosures on this programme about Mr Legg's past as a politician and businessman.

In mid-February, Iain Duncan Smith sacked the moderniser Mark MacGregor and appointed Mr Legg in his place. The move caused widespread discontent in the Conservative Party and open dissent from leading modernisers.

This programme has investigated two scandals involving Mr Legg.

As a leading councillor at Westminster, he took part in a controversial decision to move homeless families into two London tower blocks known to be "riddled with asbestos". The decision was condemned in a public inquiry commissioned by the council.

As Company Secretary of a major food company, Hillsdown Holdings, Barry Legg was also party to a decision to remove an £18m surplus from a pension fund. A High Court judgement described this as "unjust" and "unlawful". The company was ordered to repay the money plus interest.

In his defence Mr Legg said that he had no recollection of the council decision. And that he had tried to argue with his company to give pensioners at least some of the surplus but had been over-ruled.

Derek Conway called on Iain Duncan Smith to dismiss him: "I think it's a wrong appointment. I think he's allowed friendship to cloud his judgement frankly. And I think that's wrong ... as long as Barry Legg is Chief Executive of the Conservative party it isn't going to go away and hide."

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