Column Eight: Pregnancy in time saves jobs

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Bilston & Battersea Enamels, the USM-quoted gift manufacturer, has found a novel way to trim its workforce without compulsory redundancies. There seems to be an outbreak of pregnancies among the 120-strong workforce at the West Midlands company. More than 20 staff have left, said the finance director, Christopher Sylvester, helping B&B to avoid the job cuts it would otherwise have to make. 'We stopped counting after the number of leavers reached 17,' he said.

Giving evidence to the Commons committee investigating the Maxwell pensions fiasco yesterday, Lord Williams of Elvel, deputy Labour leader in the House of Lords, said an amendment similar to his proposal in 1986 for the Financial Services Bill would have helped to stop abuses. Sadly, Lord Williams' foresight did not enable him to prevent Maxwell's theft while he was a director of London & Bishopsgate, one of Captain Bob's firms that managed the pension money.

Can there ever have been a time when contempt among business for a Tory government has been so ill-concealed? Take the directors of McKechnie, the plastics and metals group. Asked at the company's annual results meeting for an opinion on the Government's economic policy, the top table spluttered. 'What policy?', asked the finance director, while the chairman, Vanni Treaves, inquired if the questioner meant 'this week's policy or last week's?'

William Poeton, deputy chairman of the Small Business Bureau, is all set to make a stirring conference speech today on ways to get the British economy moving again. Many worthy ideas will be addressed, like amending the insolvency laws and creating a bank giving low-cost loans to small firms. Another plank to his campaign list is a call for John Major to keep on civil servants by increasing their retirement age to 65. Funny, most people think they are part of the problem.

Raspberry of the week to Paribas, adviser on the complex deal to extricate Quadrant from its involvement with shipping and its former chairman, Robbie Brothers. Helpfully, the merchant bank's Michael Hickey was included at the end of the press release explaining the deal, with a telephone number for further information. Mr Hickey was not available when the Independent rang, and imagine our surprise when an underling said: 'In any case, it's our policy not to speak to the press.'

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