Inside the system
Balfour Beatty's damning record
BALFOUR BEATTY is one of the government's favourite construction firms. It was due this week to bid to run part of London Underground under the government's privatisation plans. New Labour minister Nick Raynsford has also put together a consortium, which includes Balfour Beatty, to bid for reconstruction work in Turkey following last year's earthquake.
The government wants to give the firm �200 million to underwrite its bid to build the Ilisu dam in south eastern Turkey. It will drive over 20,000 Kurdish people from their homes, flood the ancient city of Hasankeyf, and create tensions between Turkey, Syria and Iraq over access to precious water reserves. FBI agents raided an offshoot of the firm in Massachusetts last month. They were investigating the misappropriation of hundreds of thousands of dollars in a deal with US rail company Amtrack. Balfour Beatty's dodgy history includes:
- Involvement in the "trade for aid" scandal surrounding the Pergau dam in Malaysia in the 1980s.
- Building the Heathrow tunnel-which collapsed.
- Its parent company, BICC, being banned from bidding for public contracts in Singapore in 1996 because of corrupt practices.
Balfour Beatty is also in court in Lesotho, southern Africa, facing charges of bribing a government official with �1 million. Balfour Beatty is now the largest construction contractor on the railways. Labour-run Coventry council has just awarded it a �15 million contract to revamp the city's Priory Place.
Queen of cash
THE ROYALS will continue to get almost �10 million a year-despite government promises to rein such payments in. Under a new deal with the Treasury the queen will still get �7.9 million a year. The queen mother will get �643,000 a year and the Duke of Edinburgh �359,000. This does not include the costs of official engagements and the upkeep of palaces, which is funded directly by the taxpayer.
THE police must be terribly overworked. Some of them have started taking their work home with them. Nigel Dean, a sergeant in Leicestershire Police's tactical firearms unit, was jailed last week for three years and nine months. An investigation uncovered an arsenal in his loft including rifles, pistols and "dum-dum" bullets.
Double your money
TWO COMPANIES involved in the PFI deal to rebuild Fazakerley prison in Liverpool have almost doubled the profit they expected to make from the contract. Construction company Carillion and security firm Group 4 had been guaranteed �17.5 million on the deal. They now expect to make �30.6 million-a 75 percent increase-according to a National Audit Office report.
The government has awarded Carillion a �330 million contract to design, build and operate the new GCHQ spy centre in Cheltenham. One of its partners in the scheme is Group 4.
Who's the thief?
SCROOGE OF the week award goes to the council owned bus company in Bournemouth. Last November a thief stole �52 from the bus Christopher Fisher was driving. The company then docked the whole lot from his pay. An employment tribunal last week decided that the money was wrongly deducted. The name of the company? Yellow Buses.
Ken turns again
LONDON mayor Ken Livingstone made banning lobbyists a key manifesto pledge in his recent election campaign. Now the Greater London Assembly's standards committee, which Ken Livingstone sits on, has agreed to allow lobbyists of all forms to have access to GLA members and staff. The main beneficiaries will be professional business lobbyists.
Birdwood's Nazi life
THE DEATH of Nazi activist Lady Birdwood cheered up everyone at Inside the System last week. She campaigned against immigration in the 1960s and joined a string of far right outfits.
In the early 1970s she tried to set up a private postal service to break a national strike. She then hooked up with the Nazi National Front at the height of its influence. Birdwood stood as a Nazi British National Party candidate in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, in 1992.
As a Daily Telegraph obituary said, she "did not accept conventional accounts of the Holocaust". She was a Holocaust denier who tried to make out that the Nazis did not murder six million Jews. In 1994 she sent a letter to every MP claiming that Jewish people drank the blood of non-Jewish children.
Apparently her failure to ignite a race war and drive black people out of Britain left her deeply embittered. According to the Telegraph obituary, "She lived in London, in Earl's Court and then Acton. Their multicultural populations were a constant trial to her." Shame.
Things they say
"A THUG might think twice if he thought he might get picked up by the police, taken to a cashpoint and asked to pay an on the spot fine of �100. If the police want that power-and I believe they will-they'll get it."
- TONY BLAIR on Friday of last week
"THE prime minister was using a metaphor when he spoke about hooligans being frogmarched to cashpoints."
- Home Office minister CHARLES CLARKE on Monday
"IT'S NOT as simple as leading someone to a cash machine. There's also the question of police officers walking round with pockets stuffed with money. Do they need to return to the station after each fine? Financial probity is a big problem."
- ASSOCIATION OF CHIEF POLICE OFFICERS
"NEW LABOUR is all about running Britain like some medieval monarchy, determined at all costs to hang on to power, surrounded by courtiers, some of whom won their position by flattery."
- TONY BENN MP
"ACTUALLY I-this may sound a little West Texan to you but I like it. When I'm talking about, when I'm talking about myself and when he's talking about myself, all of us are talking about me."
- US presidential candidate GEORGE W BUSH
"I THINK anybody who doesn't think I'm smart enough to handle the job is underestimating."
- GEORGE W BUSH
"RUNNER number seven in the 3.15pm at Pontefract is Blair, trained by W Haigh."
- RACING NEWS on Monday (the horse was a failure and unplaced)