Column Eight: Credit card slip

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Staff at a magistrates court could not believe it - Mr Lamont was up for trying to buy booze from a Threshers off-licence with a dodgy credit card.

But happily for the Chancellor the case concerned a close namesake - James Lamont, a 27-year-old unemployed Scot, who pleaded guilty to attempted fraud on a Threshers off-licence in Luton earlier this month. A Threshers spokesman said: 'I suppose you could call it a major coincidence.'

As the Paris and Frankfurt futures exchanges were announcing their big link-up to challenge Liffe, Europe's biggest exchange, the London- based market was quietly raining on their parade - again.

Liffe has launched several contracts that compete directly with those traded on other European exchanges, and has often ending up with the lion's share of the business - hence the move. And Liffe's new chief executive, Daniel Hodson, and business development director, Roger Barton, just happened to be in Frankfurt yesterday to publicise their launch next week of yet another contract that competes directly with one on the Frankfurt exchange, DTB.

Liffe swears it had no idea that it would be stealing the limelight from its rivals' announcement.

There is a certain symmetry to Bob Horton's appointment as president of British Executive Service Overseas, the charity that sends volunteer advisers to foreign climes. While his predecessor, Lord Boyd of Merton, is retiring after seven years because he wants to devote more time to his business interests, the ousted head of BP, who recently gained a post with British Rail, apparently has plenty of spare capacity.

Aclose shave for Shell UK, the British arm of the Anglo-Dutch oil giant, yesterday. North London-based ICD tired of waiting for payment of a pounds 14,776.25 bill for a card mailing service and lodged a petition in the High Court, claiming Shell 'is insolvent and unable to pay its debts and in the circumstances it is just and equitable that the company should be wound up'. A cheque was quickly despatched to ICD.