Socialist Worker

Foxes in charge of chicken shed

Issue No. 1801

LORD GUS MacDonald, the Cabinet Office minister, has become chair of the Better Regulation Taskforce. Its job is to decide which laws big companies ignore so they can be formally scrapped.

Judging by the people he has appointed, it will be a bonfire of the regulations. There is a seat on the taskforce for David Arculus. He is chair of Severn Trent Water, one of Labour's '£5,000 or more' donors.

Severn Trent has received more fines from the Environment Agency than any other privatised water company. Another seat has gone to the City. Barbara Thomas is on the board of Friends Provident, which has been prominent in the pensions mis-selling scandal. MacDonald has also found a seat for the supermarkets.

Kevin Hawkins is head of Safeway's communications and a director of the British Retail Consortium.

The Retail Consortium opposed the minimum wage for retail staff and tried to limit the Food Standards Agency's work. And how many seats did Gus find for trade unionists? None.

Desert debtor

BARCLAYS Capital and three other big investment banks lent the government of Saudi Arabia some £615 million to build military bases. But it seems the Saudis are not as keen on repaying the money as they were on borrowing it.

A repayment of £1 million is overdue and has apparently 'gone astray'. The banks are worried. They don't mind the beheading of adulterers, but they don't like bad debts.

A letter from an executive at Barclays Capital to the Saudi ambassador in London warns, 'I am concerned the press may become aware of some aspects of the transaction which may have a detrimental effect on the impeccable standing of the kingdom in financial circles.'

NHS waiting lists are so long that lots of employers save coughing up for sick pay by buying private treatment for their staff. But it is coming to something when the health service does the same. Health trusts insist that it makes sense to pay for private treatment for their staff.

The government has just launched a scheme to sell occupational healthcare to the private sector. So the NHS is selling services to the private sector and simultaneously buying them from the private sector for its own workers.

ITV 1 is apparently spending some £1 million on a new logo. This will no doubt be welcome news to all the small football clubs going to the wall because of the collapse of ITV Digital.

It will also be interesting to the staff at the ITV Digital HQ. They opened their redundancy letters to find cheques for much less than they expected.

£100,000 if you leave Lords when you're 70

MEMBERS OF the House of Lords aged between 70 and 80 are to be offered up to £100,000 to leave the house early. Peers cannot retire, so bowing out means they lose their right to expenses and allowances-worth up to £31,000 a year.

All of this is on top of the cash they get from other positions. A new register of peers' business interests shows that ten peers have some 117 directorships between them. Labour planning minister Lord Falconer of Thoroton recently suggested building prefabs to house public sector workers.

His declared interests included 'homes in London and Nottingham, joint ownership (with wife) of two flats in London, and co-ownership of house inhabited by father'.

Lord Brown of Madingley, group chief executive of BP, has £8 million worth of shares in his own company and two non-executive directorships in Intel Corporation and Goldman Sachs. He is also on the chairman's council of DaimlerChrysler, and holds positions on the International Advisory Board, AIG Inc, and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, now languishing in jail, declared significant shareholdings in an art dealership, a golf centre, Majorca property development, and a One Stop Car Shop. At least 14 peers tried to cash in on their positions by working for lobby firms.

Corporate codswallop

A RECENT poll of companies in the US, UK, France, Germany and South Africa produced a list of the most socially responsible firms. Top of the poll was the Ford Motor Company. It spent years denying a link between burning fossil fuels and climate change-not to mention its mass redundancies and plant closures when the market turns down.

BP came second. The oil giant stands accused of involvement in human rights abuses and environmental destruction in Colombia. Third place went to GlaxoSmithKline, the company most associated with profiting from the high price of AIDS drugs in South Africa.

The 'greenwashing' pollsters conducted their 'research' among company insiders. But they seem to have overlooked American Electric Power, which should surely qualify for an award.

The firm, which has a revenue of some £42 billion, was facing legal action from residents in the small village of Cheshire in the US state of Ohio. They claimed that the local AEP power plant was polluting their village with gases and blue clouds of smoke. AEP responded by buying the village lock, stock and barrel for around £14 million and closing it down.

Some residents are concerned about two local schools with some 800 pupils which lie just outside the town limits.

Things they say

'HE IS the type of person who falls asleep after watching the 9.30 domestic news. In the morning he only reads a few lines about the Middle East and the world.'
CROWN PRINCE ABDULLAH of Saudi Arabia on his meeting with George Bush

'IT IS appalling the lack of sympathy for what the bereaved and injured are going through.'
TONY THOMPSON, a superintendent for 30 years with British Transport Police, on Jarvis's attempts to blame sabotage for the Potters Bar disaster

'I HAVE good reasons for knowing that these [Al Qaida] forces were in that particular position for a number of days.'
Defence secretary GEOFF HOON denying reports that coalition forces killed members of a local wedding party

'THERE WAS no one in a white dress.'
US army spokesman MAJOR BRYAN HILFERTY explaining why it couldn't have been a wedding party

'IT'S impossible. They all look the same and they all carry guns.'
ROYAL MARINE explaining problems with British military intelligence

'I HAVE absolute and total confidence in him and have no intention of relieving him early.'
SIR MICHAEL BOYCE, chief of joint operations in Afghanistan, on Brigadier Roger Lane, commander of operations in Afghanistan

'HE IS doing a tremendous job in very difficult circumstances. He has my complete confidence.'
GEOFF HOON on Brigadier Roger Lane on Sunday 19 May, the day before it was announced that Lane was being moved

'BRIGADIER Lane is a man out of his depth who should be sacked.'

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Article information

Inside the System
Sat 25 May 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1801
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