People & Business: Sir Malcolm to take the strain

GEOFFREY ROBINSON may have resigned as paymaster-general, but one of his proteges, Sir Malcolm Bates, continues to enjoy political patronage - from John Prescott of all people.

Mr Robinson was an ally of Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, but was no friend to Mr Prescott. Now Mr Prescott has appointed Sir Malcolm as non- executive chairman of London Transport .

Sir Malcolm, chairman of both Pearl Group and Premier Farnell, was called in by Mr Robinson within weeks of the New Labour general election victory to carry out a complete review of the stalled Private Finance Initiative (PFI).

Alastair Ross Goobey was removed from the PFI Panel to make room for Mr Bates, and returned to his post as chief executive of Hermes Pensions Management.

Now Mr Prescott has called in Sir Malcolm to breathe new life into the capital's staggering public transport network. The Deputy Prime Minister yesterday praised Mr Bates's "extensive management experience and involvement in the development of public-private partnerships (which) means he can help LT build an effective partnership with the private sector."

Heartening to see New Labour healing its rifts.