Column Eight: Render unto Stanley

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The Independent Online
Stanley Leisure is a casino operator that enjoys a little irony. One of the group's dens of iniquity is housed in a converted church in Edinburgh.

Not that there has been much conversion (of flock or temple). The planning authorities allowed few changes to the listed building, and among the protected cornices and archways is a plaque which reads 'Sir Walter Scott prayed here.'

A tricky inscription, and no mistake. One slip of the chisel and it could have been 'Sir Walter Scott played here.'

Maybe he did . . . and lost it all on the black.

Like many senior civil servants, Chris Kelly, the stratospheric Under-Secretary at the Treasury responsible for the next round of public spending, was looking a touch lugubrious after receiving notification of his 4 per cent pay rise. Indeed, colleagues are no longer certain of the wisdom of dubbing him BFG - the 'Big Friendly Giant'.

Doubtless, ministers of the departments whose budgets he is striving to emasculate will think of a more fruity interpretation once he has wreaked his revenge.

Having predicted 50,000 job losses in the City a few years ago, Stephen Lewis is now attempting to staunch the bleeding. He is joining two old muckers from UBS Philips & Drew to set up the London Bond Broking Company, an agency broker which will nibble at the heels of the big firms. The Birmingham brokers, Albert E Sharp, have taken a 55 per cent stake. The rest is owned by the three founders.

Subscribers to Mr Lewis's colourful economics newsletter, the Fifth Horseman, need not despair. It goes with him. And a co-founder, Robin Baldwin, will see his zany market comments reappearing on Reuters. The page code is Woof.

Willis Corroon, the insurance broker, yesterday announced it was launching a new policy to protect pensioners from fraud committed by pension fund trustees.

You will recall that this is something of a sensitive issue at the moment. Clearly the brokers see it as a lucrative market. But the opportunities for nefarious fundraising will not be lost on even the most mediocre criminal mind.

The policies, which can be purchased by trustees on behalf of fund beneficiaries, will pay out for losses sustained from dishonest acts committed by trustees or employees.

Ever quick to recognise a damn fool scheme when it sees one, the market edged the shares 2p lower to 202p.

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