People & Business: Takeaway for China expert

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The Independent Online
LOBBYISTS WITH close links to Westminster are not the flavour of the month, which makes it all the more impressive that Peter Batey, who runs his own investor relations firm in collaboration with Sir Edward Heath, collects an OBE today.

Mr Batey co-founded Batey Burn with Richard Burn in 1989, after both men had completed successive stints as Sir Edward's parliamentary private secretary. The former Tory leader is a special consultant to the firm and Ian Hay Davison, the former Lloyd's of London boss, is a non-executive director.

Sir Edward played a key role in rebuilding links with China when he was premier, and Batey Burn sells itself very much as an expert adviser in trade with that vast country. Mr Batey has lived there since 1986 and speaks fluent Mandarin, for example.

Mr Batey, born in 1958, went to Oxford with the likes of Tory leader William Hague and Guy Hands, Nomura's financial wizard - and our very own Roger Trapp.

Spookier still, Mr Burn went to the same school as the lucky Mr Trapp - Brentwood School in Essex. He also shares Mr Trapp's birthday.

Just to complete the coincidences, Mr Batey's birthday on 1 July is the same as the beginning of China's cultural revolution. And Mr Burns' birthday on 7 November is the same as Russia's October Revolution( using the Russian calendar). I'm sure this all has something to do with feng shui...

ALASTAIR LYONS, chief executive of NPI, the mutual insurer which won't be mutual for much longer, is due to give a speech later this month - on the joys of mutuality.

The dark-glass wearing Mr Lyons accepted an invitation from the Insurance Institute in February to address its annual conference on 28 October on the subject "Demutualisation: What it means to the life and pensions industry."

Then on Friday, 2 October, Mr Lyons unexpectedly ditched his attachment to mutuality and hoisted a "For Sale" sign above NPI. Half a dozen institutions have entered the auction so far. Will he take this opportunity to urge the rest of the industry to follow his lead?

"Mr Lyons will not be addressing the conference. It was felt it was inappropriate to continue with it [after the decision to sell]," an NPI spokesman tells me. Shame.

WHAT A pleasure it was to bump into Terry Pratchett, the author of the popular "Discworld" fantasy novels, at the launch of the Tomb Raider Three computer game at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington last week.

The diminutive, eccentric, plummy voiced and thoroughly amusing author was sporting his usual floppy hat as he told me that his next novel will be on the Discworld theme with "elements of Blade Runner" mixed in. We then watched entranced as a young lady dressed up as the the pneumatic Lara Croft computer character leapt down the museum steps blasting her gun at the assembled nerds.

Mr Pratchett said that he been a keen player of both Tomb Raider One and|Two, and looked forward to locking horns with the new version.

IF ANY further proof were needed that airports are rapidly turning into shopping malls with a few runways attached, BAA has hired a man who has previously headed Burton, Top Shop and Dorothy Perkins to run its duty- free operation.

Steve Longdon, 46, takes over as chief executive of the company's duty and tax-free shopping business, World Duty Free, on 16 November. He arrives from Arcadia Group, which used to be Burton. He trained with Marks & Spencer after reading geography at University College, London, and lists his interests as "fell walking, photography, reading and rugby".

He takes over BAA's 250 shops just as the European Union kicks duty-free shopping into touch next year. I'm sure there will still be plenty of shopping to supervise.

IT SEEMS that Imperial College Management School in London is intent on setting up its own "shadow" Monetary Policy Committee.

Not content with three former Bank of England officials in Professors David Miles, Stephen Hall and Keith Cuthbertson, it has just appointed its fourth, David Barr.