Halifax goes to ground to replace felled trees

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Halifax Building Society is so embarrassed about the 30,000-odd trees that had to be cut down to provide the paper for its record-breaking conversion mailshot that it is paying for 30,000 saplings to be planted in the UK.

The Halifax Woodland Initiatives kicks off today and involves members of two UK environmental charities, the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV) and Groundwork.

The Halifax mailshot is Royal Mail's largest single job and will use more than 32 million items in 8 million envelopes, requiring 329,000 mailbags and more than 70,000 staff.

Gren Folwell, Halifax deputy chief executive, says: "I am acutely aware of the amount of paper that will be used during the conversion process and that is why I am thrilled to be involved in the first of a series of Halifax woodland initiatives."

Allied Domecq is helping to get the Vietnamese wine industry back on its feet and has just sold 3,000 cases of the first wine made in the country since the French colonial days.

The British company was granted a licence for a joint venture with a winery in Ninh Thuan province two years ago and brought in British and Australian wine experts to advise on making the new plonk.

The province is at the heart of the country's grape-growing area, which already produces around 35,000 tons of grapes a year. A London-based spokesman for Allied Domecq says they have used the Cardinal grape to produce three new wines, all light and semi-sweet and designed to appeal to the Vietnamese palate.

"The first is a sparkling wine, the second a white fruity still wine, rather like Chablis, and the third is a red, which tastes a bit like Beaujolais Nouveau," says the spokesman.

Sadly, he does not think the wines will be available in the UK and he does not know what the wines are called. If they ever do market the stuff over here, one of my colleagues has suggested a possible name: Ho Chi Vin.

John Magill, the partner from accountants Deloitte & Touche who has been investigating the "homes for votes" scandal at Dame Shirley Porter's Westminster City Council, has been promoted.

Deloitte has made him head of its forensic department. For those of you fortunate enough not to have come into contact with such a thing, forensic accountants are used by audit firms to burrow into companies where naughtiness has been discovered. They are widely used to investigate company crashes and corporate fraud and their evidence is often used in court.

Mr Magill will continue his work at Westminster, where he was appointed Auditor to the Council in order to investigate the sale of three cemeteries for 15p and allegations of gerrymandering.

The Westminster probe, it looks at the moment, will run and run.

Sheila Masters, a partner with KPMG who makes Nicola Horlick look shy and retiring, is determined to win the election for vice-president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants this year.

La Masters, who is also a member of the Court of the Bank of England, has tried and failed to be elected to this post a number of times before. She is often described by colleagues as "the woman who runs the country" because of her many high-powered roles.

The only obstacle she faces this year is fellow candidate Graham Ward, the affable, rugby-playing former boxing blue and partner of Price Waterhouse. Mr Ward has also racked up an impressive number of titles, including head of the London Society of Chartered Accountants. In his manifesto Mr Ward sums his philosophy up with the slogan "Team", or "Together Every chartered accountant Achieves More".

Votes from the 89 council members of the ICA have to be in by 3 February, with the result announced two days later. Personally I'm backing Ms Masters, if only to pep up what is otherwise a notoriously dull organisation.

An ICA insider tells me: "The boys are absolutely terrified of her."