`Fat cats' take breakfast to improve their image

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Indy Politics
The first meeting of the lobby group for the "fat cats" of privatised industries takes place this morning over breakfast at London's most expensive hotel, the Lanesborough, next to Hyde Park.

Over 50 chief executives and chairmen of privatised are expected to attend the gathering organised by Sir Colin Marshall, of British Airways, and John Neill, of Unipart. They say the meeting has been planned in order to give a better image to the privatised industries following years of bad publicity.

In a letter inviting the executives to the meeting, the two wrote: "Despite its evident success, with clear benefits to the British economy as well as to consumers and employees, privatisation has attracted widespread criticism because of dangerously flawed perceptions. We think the time has come to redress the balance of public opinion."

The executives of the electricity, water and gas companies have all been invited, along with BT and other privatised companies such as Railtrack.

When news of the proposed meeting leaked out, it was suggested that the lobby group would campaign against Labour's windfall tax for privatised companies. However, in a second letter sent last week, Mr Neill stresses that this is not the case. He wrote: "Both Sir Colin's office and mine have made it quite clear that the subject [of a windfall tax] was most definitely not on the agenda of the meeting. We have no intention that the efforts to improve the public image of privatised companies should include lobbying against plans for the windfall tax."

A spokesman for BA said yesterday that the intention of the meeting was to improve the overall standing of the privatised industries and "their contribution to UK plc".

They are an important part of BA's customer base and they have a vital role in teaching the world about privatisation, he said.

The lobbying group as yet has no name and no decision has yet been taken over how often it will meet.