People & Business

Despite sporting a walking-stick and a hobble, the result of a weekend footballing injury, Howard Davies, the chairman of the Financial Services Authority (FSA), was in his best impish form at the CBI conference in Birmingham yesterday where he was addressing his former colleagues over breakfast.

In particular he could not resist a dirty trick at the expense of the CBI's president, Sir Colin Marshall. Mr Davies explained he had arrived the previous evening half-way through the traditional pre-conference dinner because his train was late, only to discover that Sir Colin was already aware of his movements. "I can't think how the chairman of British Airways got his hands on the Virgin Trains passenger list," quipped the watchdog chairman.

Speaking of the FSA, Mr Davies was also unrepentant about its decision to set up shop not in the Square Mile, but in Canary Wharf, several miles east of the City in London's Docklands. Some City folk grumbled that it was wrong for the FSA, the overall investment regulator, to be so far away from the centre of power and decision making. Not so, said Mr Davies. "London City Airport and a flight to Frankfurt are only10 minutes away."

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November. Simon Briscoe, head of research at Nikko Europe, certainly did when he thoughtfully popped out to the shops to buy his family's supply of Guy Fawkes' Night fireworks.

Unfortunately for Mr Briscoe, he had an earlier appointment on the way from work to go and hear Alastair Darling, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, defend the Government's changes to the Bank of England in front of the Treasury Select Committee.

Mr Briscoe was duly searched at the entrance to the House of Commons and had to hand over his fireworks to the police. Gunpowder doesn't seem a very advisable thing to be bringing into the House, particularly on the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot. Happily, Mr Briscoe wasn't hanged, drawn and quartered, despite his seditious criticism of the Government for giving the Bank of England its independence

Hans Tietmeyer, president of the Bundesbank and stern defender of the German mark, will be in London next month to receive a special prize, an award from the German British Forum for his contribution to the relationship between the two countries.

Bizarrely, the award specially cites Herr Tietmeyer's firmness for resisting the Bonn government's plans last May to revalue the Bundesbank's gold reserves. For those with short memories, Mr Tietmeyer's resistance looked at the time like a huge stumbling-block in the steady march towards the single currency. I presume that putting a halt to EMU is what the Forum decided was his contribution to Anglo-German amity. Perhaps they're right.

Let's all pause a moment to sympathise with the likes of Eddie George, Ken Clarke and Rudolph Agnew. British Airways announced yesterday that from 29 March next year it will be completely smoke free.

The decision will place die-hard users of the demon weed such as the above in a tricky position. When they need to fly to global conferences and the like, do they go by BA and suffer the smokers' version of "cold turkey", or do they go by an alternative airline and open themselves up to charges of unpatriotic behaviour?

A BA spokesman points out that 95 per cent of all BA's flights are already smoke free and that they have received many letters since such bans were introduced 10 years ago "from smokers, complementing us on our nice fresh cabins".

Smoking rooms, the curse of the modern office building, were considered as an alternative, he says, "but we didn't like the idea of a very few smokers sitting in a smoke-filled room at the back of a jumbo jet for 10 hours".

And if Rothmans chain-smokers like Eddie George are really worried, the spokesman says they can "store up on nicotine gum and smoking patches".

Simon Martin-Redman, formerly managing director of Ranelagh, the Westminster- based corporate affairs company which provided William Hague with offices during his leadership campaign, has joined DBI, another consultancy, as director responsible for central government.

Martin-Redman worked at Deloitte & Touche for three and a half years, and originally qualified as an accountant in the Royal Navy. He is sceptical that the proposed mega-mergers between accountancy firms will be allowed by the Government. Which would be sad, I think, since the latest name for the merger firm of Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand is "P&L".

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