Rover chief's cigar gifts could be the start of a Cuban crisis

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The Independent Online
Stand by for further serious trade friction across the Atlantic. Dr Walter Hasselkus, the motorbiking chairman of Rover, was so pleased with Land Rover's improvement in the annual JD Power quality survey - the bible of the US motor industry - that he presented all its US dealers with Havana cigars. Only one slight problem. Being Cuban in origin, Havana cigars are forbidden in the US, where they still take a dim view of Fidel Castro's regime.

Under the notorious Helms-Burton Act, no one who has traded with Cuba is allowed into the US. Since Rover is not planning to re-enter the US market with its car range until 2004, Dr Hasselkus has no pressing reason to go there for a while yet. But should the US immigration authorities decide to turn nasty anyway, he would be in good company.

Among the list of those who are also persona non grata is Rupert Pennant Rea, the former deputy governor of the Bank of England. Incidentally, since you ask, Land Rover recorded the biggest improvement of any manufacturer in the survey. These things are, however, all relative. Sadly it is still languishing in the bottom quarter of the league for sports and utility vehicle makers.

Des Wilson, BAA's director of corporate and public affairs, has been conducting a little tutorial in the airport operator's staff magazine Take-Off. Under the headline, "Life under Labour: what will it mean for BAA?" Des has been answering a few questions about how the company thinks it will fare now that Tony and his team are in the cockpit.

One of the questions is: "Does the company know the new Labour transport team?". Des's reply runs thus: "Yes, we do and we are particularly pleased that John Prescott will be heading up Transport and Environment. He's a former Secretary of State for Transport who knows the issues well, and we have had a useful dialogue with him over the years."

Er, not quite. Mr Prescott has been many things in his life, including a steward in the Merchant Navy. But the nearest he ever got to a ministerial job before 2 May was shadowing successive Tory transport secretaries. BAA will no doubt be getting better acquainted with Mr Prescott in the months and years ahead.

Things are on the up for Broxburn in West Lothian. It is already home to a leading part of Scotland's indigenous sausage making industry through Hall's of Broxburn, whose black puddings were recently voted top of the pops by the BBC's Food and Drink programme. But since last year it has also played host to Glenmorangie, maker of Scotland's best selling malt whisky.

Geoffrey Maddrell, sassenach chairman of the group, was able to reassure traditionalist topers yesterday that he will not be extending last year's pounds 2.5m designer facelift of Broxburn to Tain and the 16 famous employees who "hand craft" the precious malt there.

Glenmorangie tripled its lead over Glenfiddich, Scotland's second favourite Scotch, to 3 percentage points last year, but even so the whisky may soon be eclipsed by sausages. Word has it that Hall's is among the 10 finalists for "Pork Product of the Year", an award given by the Meat and Livestock Commission and Good Housekeeping magazine. Where next for Broxburn?

To a City restaurant where the good people of the Co-op were celebrating their victory over the young break-up artist, Andrew Regan. Their choice of location was appropriate, they felt. The party was held in the Bleeding Heart, a well-hidden eaterie with a rather gruesome history. It was in the yard outside the restaurant where, according to legend, the still- beating heart of a young woman was found, ripped from her breast by her jilted lover.

Involuntary heart operations were thin on the ground the other night but I was curious to know just whose bleeding heart they had in mind when the Co-op executives made the booking. "Whose do you think? Andrew Regan's," they crowed. Though, of course, ripping the heart out, was exactly what he was trying to do to the Co-op.

Out in cyberspace, there is more evidence that Gordon Brown took the Bank of England by total surprise this week. Even by yesterday afternoon, 24 hours after Flash Gordon announced that he was taking banking supervision out of the Old Lady's hands, the Bank's Internet site was carrying no information about the changes. Perhaps the Bank's computer expert was too dismayed contemplating a future working for the SIB.

What a contrast with the Treasury's own web site. The boffins over in SW1 had archived all previous announcements and documents under the heading "previous administration" by 9am on 2 May. Since the new dawn, the Treasury has even been able to broadcast its news by e-mail, just in case anybody had somehow missed it elsewhere.