City's role secure after IRA bombing: 'Some temporary inconvenience but no loss of efficiency' pledge

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The Independent Online
SIR ANDREW HUGH SMITH, the chairman of the Stock Exchange, yesterday dismissed fears that the City's position as one of the world's biggest financial centres would be undermined by the IRA's bombing campaign.

As emergency and repair workers struggled to prepare the City for the start of the week, Sir Andrew said that the bombing would have little effect on the Square's Mile standing.

'All important financial centres are at threat from terrorist and other dangers,' he said. 'The City of London is determined that there will be no victory for the bombers and it will contine to operate normally. There may be some temporary inconvenience but no loss of efficiency.'

He said that most firms already had adequate disaster and contingency planning to deal with such risks.

The City's rescue efforts drew praise from several quarters, including the Prime Minister.

Referring to a telephone call from John Major, Sir Francis McWilliams, the Lord Mayor of London, said: 'The Prime Minister and I agreed that the best way to frustrate the terrorists is to have the City back at work tomorrow and we are working hard to ensure that it is.'

The same point was made by the Chancellor, Norman Lamont, who said he was confident the City would shrug off the effects of the outrage.

'I have every confidence that businesses will continue to locate here and work successfully here,' he added. 'To do otherwise would be to succumb to terrorism.'

The Stock Exchange, which says its trading and computer systems have been tested and will be working normally, has offered technical assistance, such as in dealing and communications systems, to any City firms affected by the blast.

Emergency services were yesterday still working to establish the full extent of the damage caused by Saturday's bombing.

The City estate agents Richard Ellis estimated that close to 2 million sq ft of office space had been damaged. There is a total of 52 million sq ft in the city. The company, which has had to move 150 staff from its offices on Old Broad Street, has set up a helpline (071-629 6290) to assist people seeking alternative accomodation.

The Corporation of London, responsible for looking after the Square Mile, said it had been flooded with offers of help from developers, glaziers and other construction and workers anxious to pick up business.

By early afternoon London Wall was lined with glazier vans. Michael Cassidy, head of the corporation's policy and resources committee, said the number of contractors who had turned up 'on spec' was amazing.

'In some cases the companies affected by the bomb had people on call,' he said. 'But in many cases contractors simply arrived. In that case we tried to put them in touch with anyone who was interested.'

The corporation has been running an advice line which, as well as telling companies whether their buildings are affected, offers the names of developers with spare office space to substitute for the estimated 2 million sq ft damaged by the blast or with contractors able to help with repairs.

But it admitted that relatively few calls had been from businesses wanting space, with the vast majority coming from developers with empty offices on their hands.

Companies experiencing problems with their telephones in the wake of the blast are having calls automatically transferred or forwarded free of charge by BT.

BT said that no major network problems had been caused by the disaster. Six exchanges in the immediate vicinity lost their power but were bailed out by standby generators.

Sir Andrew's comments came as it emerged that he was considering stepping down as chairman early next year once a new chief executive for the exchange has been found.

Sir Andrew was appointed chairman in November 1988, succeeding Sir Nicholas Goodison, who held the post for 12 years.

News of his intended departure has come to light at a time of a bitter controversy over the exchange's ill-fated Taurus share trading system.

However, it is understood that Sir Andrew had always intended to step down after three to five years.

(Photograph omitted)

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