Michael Howard QC, MP, the former Tory home secretary, has popped up as a non-executive director of Impac, an American-owned management consultancy.

Mr Howard, once tipped for the Tory leadership, tells me he has no plans to give up politics, and will have no difficulty combining his new role with that of shadow foreign secretary.

"They approached me some months ago," says Mr Howard. "Impac is one of the world's leading management productivity enhancement companies and I'm glad to be able to help."

His appointment to the main board was agreed last month and announced yesterday. Mr Howard is coy about how many days a week he will have to devote to his new job: "It's impossible to estimate that commitment."

One of his first engagements will be to address Impac's leadership conference for senior executives from Eastern Europe and the Middle East, taking place in London on 22-27 February.

It's all a long way from promising to lock up more young offenders. Has he experienced any culture shock in his new role? "Not at all," he says. Sounds like those Eastern Europeans better behave themselves.

Is there no loyalty in journalism any more? Poor old Tim Smith, the ex-MP who was paid pounds 18,000 to ask questions in the Commons, has got a roasting from Accountancy Age, the bean counters' mag for which Mr Smith wrote for well over a decade.

The Age, for which I once wrote myself, says today that "an overwhelming 78 per cent of finance directors have condemned the English Institute of Chartered Accountants for its lenient treatment of ex-MP and Chartered Accountant, Tim Smith, following his involvement in the `cash for questions' affair".

Last week the Institute found Mr Smith guilty of misconduct but let him off with a reprimand and a pounds 1,000 fine plus pounds 2,150 costs. Over half the 200 FDs polled by the Age wanted Mr Smith expelled from the ICA, and another quarter wanted the fine to be higher.

Come to think of it, shouldn't we be condemning the Age for providing Mr Smith with a platform for his views all those years?

Sir Ernest Harrison is bowing out from Vodafone, the company he floated off from his Racal group, and passing the baton on to Lord MacLaurin, the former chairman of Tesco.

It will be interesting to see how much time Lord MacLaurin will be able to devote to being chairman of Vodafone now that he is also the supremo of English and Welsh cricket. Considering the resurgent form of our young cricketers, I would have thought he would find it hard to concentrate on the more mundane world of mobile phones.

Lord MacLaurin said yesterday: "I intend to devote a substantial amount of my time to the company and look forward to playing an active role in the continuing success of the Vodafone Group." Let's hope the shareholders don't bowl him any googlies.

Ofwat has appointed five senior industrialists to give the regulator "strategic advice on aspects of the next Periodic Review of water prices".

The "Wise Men of Water" are Jeffrey Herbert, chairman and chief executive of Charter, the engineering group; Roger Sainsbury, vice-president of the Institution of Civil Engineers and previously of Mowlem; Cob Stenham, deputy chairman of TeleWest Communications, the cable TV group; Allen Sykes, a former managing director of Consolidated Goldfields and now chairman of TEG Environmental; and Sir Alan Thomas, chairman of Firth Holdings and previously head of the MoD's Defence Sales Organisation.

Ian Byatt, the water regulator, says he is delighted to have these chaps to ensure that the next price review provides a "tough but commercial framework". Sounds very New Labour: Tough on water, tough on the causes of water, or something like that.

Remember Robert Maxwell? When the tycoon fell off his yacht nearly seven years ago the US third of his business empire, Maxwell Communications Corporation, was put into administration under the accountants Price Waterhouse. Yesterday, the UK courts added a couple of administrators from Grant Thornton to the MCC team, to prevent any possible conflict of interest; this year PW plans to merge with Coopers & Lybrand - which audited more than 400 of Cap'n Bob's companies, including MCC. The PW administrators will now work alongside the Grant Thornton men. I'm sure they'll all enjoy each other's company.

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