CITY DIARY : Mr Norris snatches a preview of the Treasury quiz masters

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The Independent Online
Peter Norris, the former chief executive of Barings who was fired after its collapse last year, made a surprise appearance at the Treasury Committee's hearing yesterday. The MPs were quizzing another fired former chief executive, Michael Lawrence, late of the London Stock Exchange, about his abrupt departure. Mr Norris, was not being questioned, but was rather sitting at the back of the room stroking his dark, bouffant hair. He was there presumably to see what it will be like when the same committee quizzes him soon on the circumstances surrounding the collapse of Barings. He is currently being investigated by the Securities and Futures Authority (SFA) about the collpase. Although Mr Norris has officially severed all connections with the merchant bank, he was accompanied yesterday by Deborah Reed, official spokeswoman from Barings, plus several other unidentified people. Yesterday the Committee gave Mr Lawrence a pretty easy ride, and Mr Norris left half way through. But Mr Norris should not think it will all be plain sailing. MPs can be merciless when they sniff a headline.

Jeff Randall, the former editor of the Sunday Times business section, is going back to the paper after a mere six months at Financial Dynamics, the City PR firm he joined with a fanfare last year. Mr Randall said yesterday that he is taking a "material" pay cut to return to writing, and that his move to become the Sunday Times' assistant editor has absolutely nothing to do with the recent ructions at Financial Dynamics. The firm has been in the spotlight following regulators' inquiries into share dealings in one of its clients, Caradon. FD has also publicly been rebuked by the Takeover Panel for improperly releasing information to an analyst about a client during a takeover bid. Mr Randall said last night he had been through far more fraught periods at the Sunday Times, such as when Tiny Rowland was suing the paper; he was absolutely sure that FD would be vindicated. He said that after a long run as a journalist he had wanted to do something else, but within four to five months had started to miss the newspaper life. Nick Miles, one of the top people at FD, said; "We're dissappointed ... the lure of Wapping is greater than the lure of Furnival Street."

The build up to the Grand Slam decider in the Five Nations rugby union championship on Saturday between England and Scotland at Murrayfield has reached fever pitch. Nowhere less so than in the board room of BICC, the cables and construction group, which has traditionally been headed by Scots. For instance, the present chairman Sir Robin Biggam, a Scot, is being succeeded by Lord Weir - a prominent Scots Tory. Alan Jones, the chief executive, would appear at first meeting to be a Sassenach, having a thoroughly English accent. His father, however, owned a vast sheep farm north of the border, in South Lanarkshire. There was double outrage in the BICC boardroom then when Mr Jones declared he would be cheering England on Saturday. We expect to see his head on a stick, whatever the result.

King Hussein of Jordan is addressing 200 British business leaders today at the London Business School on the role business can play in resolving international conflict. His Majesty will deliver the Stockton Lecture and then hold a question and answer session. According to the LBS, "the issue of international conflict is something most businesses shy away from.

"Even though international businesses often do a better job than international political bodies in bridging cultures, moving resources, and creating economic well-being, they can step very gingerly where conflict is concerned."

His Majesty will reflect on his experiences and suggest in what way, if any, business can help.