People & Business: Flush with his success, Clarke tots up the gags

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The Independent Online
To the Office of National Statistics (ONS) in London's Pimlico, to witness Chancellor Ken Clarke unveiling a plaque commemorating the opening of its spanking new offices.

Until recently the ONS has been sharing space in the Treasury, which is becoming increasingly dowdy as it awaits refurbishment.

As our Ken undrapes the plaque, which sits on a stand in the plush new atrium, he muses: "Some of the best news I got about the Treasury building recently was that it was on fire. The worst news was that the fire brigade was putting it out."

This seems a trifle unfair, since it was the Government's own austerity drive which led to the Treasury's dilapidation in the first place.

Our Ken cannot resist a further crack. Seeing that the plaque is sitting on a temporary stand, he says: "I suppose you're going to hang this plaque in the Gents."

Unabashed, up steps the Treasury's economics head prefect, Angela Knight, to press the button on an electronic scoreboard which flashes up the ONS's latest statistics. "Perhaps this will go in the Ladies," she adds.

Reuters, the global information group, has appointed Sir John Craven, chairman of Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, as a non-executive director.

This is quite a coup for Reuters, as Sir John has very few interests outside DMG. Sir John is at pains to point out that the appointment does not presage any link-up between Reuters and Deutsche. "It's simply that Reuters were seeking to expand their board a bit," says Sir John. "I'm not replacing anyone. I'm a net addition."

Sir John also indicates he has a slightly less hectic timetable than of old, since he retired from Deutsche Bank's Vorstand, or management board, a year ago. Since then he has been travelling the globe developing DMG's international client base.

A Reuters spokesman adds that Sir John's City and international experience will be invaluable in helping to expand Reuters' coverage of the equity and fixed-income markets.

Sun Life of Canada has sent me a letter informing me of its "enhanced payouts for its 25-year endowment policies".

The insurer writes: "However, in line with other life companies, the 20-year payout has deceased [sic] reflecting lower investment returns over the last 20 years."

Blimey. Just how low do returns have to be to kill off a payout? May it rest in peace.

Once upon a time there was a hugely rich group of Swiss gnomes called Credit Suisse, and a Wall Street investment bank called First Boston. They formed an investment bank subsidiary called Credit Suisse First Boston, headed by Dr David Mulford.

Dr Mulford has played a big part in successive US administrations as a senior Treasury adviser, negotiating yen/ dollar agreements with Japan and financial assistance to Russia. Truly a grand fromage of international capitalism.

A few years ago the First Boston bit faded badly and it was renamed CS First Boston but still described as "an American investment bank".

This year Credit Suisse decided to take closer control. It dumped its corporate banking arm on to it, renamed it again - back to Credit Suisse First Boston and restyled it - as "a Swiss bank".

And yesterday, with much fanfare, CSFB announced its new chairman - Dr David Mulford, distinguished adviser to the US Treasury etc. Perhaps the bankers should leave these tiresome rebranding exercises to Richard Branson.

Buchler Phillips, the insolvency firm which wound up Robert Maxwell's private estate (or what was left of it), has hit on a wizard wheeze to attract fellow receivers to a seminar in Hong Kong. The conference for accountants, lawyers and bankers will be held the day before the Hong Kong Sevens tournament starts, on Friday 21 March.

This rugby tournament is widely thought of as one of the most enjoyable of all sports occasions, involving superb sports facilities and copious quantities of alcohol.

Two days later, senior partner Peter Phillips has to fly to New Orleans for the Insol conference, the periodic global gathering of insolvency specialists. It's dirty work, but someone's got to do it.