IF Peter Mandelson accepted the hospitality of the “king of aluminium”, Oleg Deripaska, while he was European Union Trade Commissioner, and if Mr Deripaska's company Rusal subsequently benefitted from the reduction of import duties on the metal - that is a matter for the European Commission in Brussels to look into. Similarly, if Lord Mandelson enjoyed generous hospitality from Nat Rothschild, the billionaire hedge fund manager, who had extensive holdings in Mittal Steel, while Mittal were bidding for Arcelor, the European steel giant - that, again, is the business of the European Commission. But some UK newspapers seem to have decided that it is their business to investigate Lord Mandelson's alleged relations with big business while he was working in Brussels. Naturally, TV follows up such allegations and on BBC1's Sunday AM he had to defend himself vigorously against what he called “muckraking”, claiming that he had “a very clear view of my public role and the responsibilities I have in that public role and how I spend my private time.” As Business Secretary in the British government Lord Mandelson needs to have the closest possible relations with the business community as a whole and as individuals. However, he must always remember that the ministerial code says that ministers must ensure that no conflict arises or appears to arise between their public duties and private interests. He has form in this area and in his own and the government's interests he should be extremely careful in future.


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