Column Eight: Scandal takes a back seat

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The Independent Online
Times change as crisis replaces scandal. Rows of empty chairs greeted yesterday's launch of the Pension Law Review Committee's consultation document on occupational pension schemes. Owing its very existence to the Maxwell pension hoo-ha, the committee would have pulled in a full house in calmer times.

Professor Roy Goode, who heads the committee, noted the small audience but gamely maintained: 'This is a subject of considerable topical interest - even if slightly overshadowed by recent events.'

One committee member underwent a grilling on the state of the economy. Not surprising, since the man in question was Alastair Ross Goobey, chief equities strategist at James Capel and former economic adviser to Chancellors Lawson and Lamont.

Mr Ross Goobey had, in any case, already nailed his colours to the mast in a note published by James Capel. '. . . Much as it hurts me to say so, the Chancellor may have to reconsider his position,' he wrote.

'I believe he has done as much as any mortal could to adhere to the policy he inherited and prosecuted with conviction,' the note continues. 'Of course I am biased . . .'

Department of Employment officials enjoyed a waggish little joke at the expense of Treasury colleagues yesterday, humour undimmed even though they were announcing the highest jobless total in five years. Their 11am press briefing began: 'We want to assure you that these figures won't change between now and 11.30.'

Sadly for all voyeurs the Minister for Fun, David Mellor, failed to take the stand in the High Court to face cross-examination by George Carman QC on his friendship with Mona Bauwens. Instead he was tramping the corridors of a more mundane location - the Central Statistical Office. Our spy reports that he was 'wandering around on his own and looking very lost'. He must have been wondering where his cohorts of Chelsea fans had gone.