Block and tackle time looms for GEC staff

CITY DIARY

"You've got to get your cock on the block, laddie." This is a favourite catch phrase of George Simpson, the genial Scottish chief executive of Lucas who is tipped to succeed Lord Weinstock at the helm of GEC. It apparently means "you've got to commit yourself wholeheartedly to a particular course of action", and GEC employees should prepare themselves for it.

Clifford Chance, the nation's biggest law firm, has embraced political correctness. For the past three years it has been addressing letters to one senior (female) partner in another firm as "Dear Sirs." Yesterday this changed to "Dear Partners." Who knows, one day they might actually address her by name.

Yorkshire Water just can't seem to win any friends. Hard on the heels of the drought comes a legal action by 60 people who suffered serious bouts of sickness in June 1993.

Yorkshire Water denies a link between the illnesses, caused by the parasite cryptosporidium, and the breakdown of a water treatment works but a report from Bradford Health concludes that there was a strong link.

Neil Shaw, a solicitor at Last Cawthra Feather, the firm representing the plaintiffs, said he hoped Yorkshire Water would settle before the case came to court.

"This is an extremely nasty illness which affected some people for a week and some for many months" he added. "We believe we have a strong case and are moving quickly to beat the June deadline for court proceedings."

Yorkshire Water is also pitching for a pounds 50m contract to supply water to half a million residents of York, Ontario. Do they have hosepipe bans in Canada?

Still flushed from his knighthood in the new year's honours list, Sir Stanley Kalms of Dixons swept the board at the Retail Week awards on Wednesday night. The Curries store at Junction 9 on the M6 - Europe's biggest electrical retailer - won "Best Store Design of the Year."

The group also won "Best Customer Services Initiative", and runner-up in "Retailer of the Year." So when is Sir Stanley due to retire as chairman? "Never," said a spokesman. "He's going to go on and on."

The Government's much-derided Private Finance Initiative (PFI) hasn't been a complete disaster, it appears. Her Majesty the Queen is today opening the new Royal Armouries in Leeds, a pounds 42.5m museum built to house all the muskets and cannons which used to be held in the Tower of London.

Fully pounds 6m was private money, the first time a national museum has been built with such funding.

Lloyd's of London broker SBJ Stephenson has just written the first policy against a possible blockade of Taiwan. The broker has sold the policy to a British maker of car alarms, which imports components from the island and is worried about China's sabre-rattling.

A newsletter called Tax Shelter Report has just published a survey of Enterprise Zone Trusts (EZTs). It manages to make the East Shawhead Enterprise Park near Glasgow sound like something out of Our Friends in the North. "The grandly named Enterprise Park is in reality an area bordering a road that winds through a council estate. The buildings already built are pretected by high fences and covered in graffiti ... this is not the best of pre- lets."

"Pubs 'R Us" are property consultants who specialise in selling and valuing pubs. The firm, based in Grantham, Lincolnshire, deals in freehold and leasehold pubs from as little as pounds 12,000. Stuart Ratcliffe, director of sales at Pubs 'R Us, said he was "absolutely flabbergasted" to receive a letter from solicitors representing Toys 'R' Us (above), the American-owned chain, requesting the firm to change their trading name.

Ratcliffe said that "even though there's obviously no possible confusion between Pubs 'R Us and Toys 'R' Us because of the name and style, we have asked for clarification of their trade mark. We also wonder if they have approached Channel 4 TV about the Girlie Show's "Babes 'R Us"?

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