Bunhill: Walker to apply a little peer pressure

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The Independent Online
WHEN Bill Clinton reaches the Oval Office in 10 days, he will have all manner of heavyweight problems to contend with: Somalia; Bosnia; Iraq; the Middle East peace talks, and Lord Walker.

The same Lord Walker who, despite being a 'wet', acted as Mrs Thatcher's emissary to Wales, with distinction. Today, he sits on the boards of British Gas and Tate & Lyle, and co- ordinates government aid to the coalfields.

Now he has the most powerful man in the West in his sights. On the election trail, Mr Clinton promised to get tough with foreign companies doing business in the US - companies that last year avoided paying tax to the tune of dollars 45bn. 'Elect Clinton and put the money to work to rebuild America,' was the message.

Tate & Lyle, which is big in America, turned to its best- connected director. 'They sought my advice as to what to do,' said Lord Walker. A US tax consultant prepared a memo which was promptly sent to the Treasury - to the right person, naturally. 'I am sure the British Government will be using the proper diplomatic channels to do something,' Lord Walker said, confidently.

If Mr Clinton cared to get on the phone, Lord Walker could put him right. 'There is a great deal of difference between a party out of power for years and years saying it will do something and actually getting into government and finding out what it entails. When you arrive as a Cabinet minister, the civil servants give you a brief about your speeches and the problems that will arise. I'm sure the same is true of the US.'

Mr Clinton, he warned, should realise 'there is a mass of international investment in the world. A lot of big US companies are multinationals who would be concerned if hostilities broke out among Western nations as to how to treat them for tax.'

As to his own role, 'the point is, the British Government must be well-briefed.' It will be.