Pembroke: Glow of like minds

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The Independent Online
YOU COULD see the gleam in Michael Portillo's eyes yesterday as he handed out the Economy in Government awards at the Hilton Hotel. The awards, sponsored by the Adam Smith Institute and accountants Ernst & Young, are presented to members of the public who dream up wizard schemes to save the Government money.

Mr Portillo positively beamed as he cast his gaze across ideas such as privatising the public library system, de-activating cash in banks so robbers wouldn't want to steal it and the winning suggestion - merging the Customs and Excise, VAT Office and Inland Revenue into one tax 'business'.

There was one awkward moment for Ernst & Young when it had to award a prize (and pounds 250) to one of its rivals. Mark Mower, who suggested a new purchasing scheme in the social services, works for Coopers & Lybrand.

THAT Patrick Gifford. He's such a groover. As the nation sought air-conditioned bliss on the hottest night of the year on Tuesday, the new chairman of Fleming Investment Trust Management spent the evening at the Electric Ballroom watching 'art rock' group Stereolab. His daughter is in the band.

THE FERRY operator Stena Sealink is stamping on rumours that its speedy new catamaran has attracted an unflattering nickname. The Sea Lynx, which was officially launched yesterday, cuts the journey time from Fishguard to Rosslare from 3.5 hours (by ferry) to 100 minutes.

Stena strenuously denies that the craft is so quick it has become known as 'the Vomit Comet'.

'That was a name attached to the early catamarans,' sniffs a Stena man, feet firmly on dry land. 'Our craft has special stabilising equipment.'

THE SUNSHINE beckons for Errol Cossey, deputy chairman of the tour operator Owners Abroad. The last remaining member of the board that saw off the hostile takeover bid from Airtours, he has announced his retirement. Will he be holidaying with Owners?

'Oh no,' says a Cossey colleague. 'He's made a fortune and is looking for a place in France.' Desperate estate agents, form an orderly queue.

GERRY GRIMSTONE, the Schroders corporate finance man, is off to Hong Kong. He jumped ship from the Treasury privatisation unit to join the private sector and went on to work on privatisations including the water industry.

From the beginning of October he will take on the newly created role of head of corporate finance for the Asia Pacific region. He will also be in charge of new business development.

'Gerry has been to Asia half a dozen times in the past year, so he knows the region well,' says William Slee, Schroders' head of international finance.