webofevil: (all hail)
Stonewall provided a handy guide to the phrases they expected to crop up most frequently in last week's equal marriage Second Reading in the Lords (see right, click for enlargement), and sure enough Norman Tebbit managed to hit about half of them in his first couple of minutes, but there's a reason why no-one creates any bingo cards for Lord James of Blackheath's helpful contributions. No Foundation X this time, but the prolonged section where he takes a detour through Sussex had a member of staff who had just arrived in the Chamber concerned that she was somehow attending the wrong debate.

Lord James of Blackheath (Con): My Lords, I got a phone call last week from a former colleague of mine, whom I had not heard from or seen for some time, asking if I would come to his same-sex wedding. I said, “Yes, when is it?”. He said, “As soon as you lot have passed the Bill”. I said, “We might not pass it”. He said, “Well, you’ll vote for it won’t you?”. I said, “No, I won’t”. He said, “Well, you can’t come to the wedding then”. I said, “You’ve just exercised extreme prejudice against me. Why are you doing that? You’re pleading that you want this in order not to have prejudice, and now you’re prejudiced against me because I’m saying that I’m going to vote against it”. Then he said, “It’s not you we want, anyway, it’s your wife—she’ll really make the party rock. Can she come instead?”. I said, “Yes, of course she can. You had better write and ask her. She’ll agree”. They did and she is going. There's more )
webofevil: (all hail)
This is one of those occasions where I feel bound to point out beforehand that the Lords do a lot of genuinely good and useful work. Indeed, specifically, the Lords European Select Committee Sub-Committee B on the Internal Market, Energy and Transport does a lot of useful work—the following extract really isn’t representative. But something like this is probably inevitable if for some reason your select committee includes a wild card like Lord James of Blackheath.

No mysterious foundations, not this time. Just pure, unadulterated Lord James, cranked up to 11. Earlier this week the select committee was taking evidence from Karen Clements of the British Chambers of Commerce about the European single market. Bear in mind that none of the following had any relevance to anything that they otherwise talked about. Bear in mind also that Karen Clements has never encountered Lord James before.

Lord James of Blackheath: This question asks you to compare the progress of market liberalisation with the impact it is going to have on the European social model. I will have a particular question I’d like you to consider with that, and you touched on it and got very close to it in one of the first things you said.

In the post-banking crisis market, when we all settle down and we start to get back to normal borrowing again, we hope that the British banks will get back to a disciplined affair in which it is no longer possible for somebody to take a second mortgage without the knowledge of his wife in order either to pay for his mistress or a lot of white powder and, by doing so, we can arrange that in this country by insisting upon the signature of the wife to the consent of every loan against the security of the family asset.

That does not apply in Germany and it does not apply in France, where you can do what you like, and so, if you happen to be a guy with a big mistress problem and you can’t get the money out of the Lloyds Bank or the NatWest here, you’ve just to get into a German bank or a French bank and you can get it.

Karen Clements: Right.

Lord James of Blackheath: I would say that’s a sociological problem arising out of liberalisation.

Karen Clements: Well, there is a mortgage directive in the Single Market Act.

Lord James of Blackheath: I should have added, in putting the question, “so I’m told”, rather than from personal experience.

Karen Clements: Right. Okay. Yes, of course. I would say that proposal would be the logical place to start, wouldn’t it? I’m not sure what bearing that has on the European social model or the market.

Lord James of Blackheath: We need a simple standardisation of the principles of lending, and it ought to be bought into by all the banks. But could you also look beyond that because, with the comments you’ve made on e-procurement and everything else, the great danger that we go into here is the easier access to porn and to gambling across the whole of the European markets as well, and I’m quite certain at the moment that nothing like enough is being done to keep those under control.

Karen Clements: Well, I absolutely agree that should be kept under control, and I’m afraid I don’t know enough about that to help you. Sorry.

Lord James of Blackheath: Well, the point is it’s not happening at the moment, so where can it happen?

The Chairman: It’s not an SME [small or medium enterprise].

Lord James of Blackheath: All porn operations are SMEs.

The Chairman: I think we should pass, don’t you?

Lord James of Blackheath: No, it’s a big problem. I’d like to know where the thrust will come to address this, because it’ll spread like a disease through Europe.

Karen Clements: Well, as far as I’m aware… I don’t know. I haven’t looked through the Single Market Act to look at the rules that it’s proposing in order to deal with those issues, but I absolutely agree it will have to be done.

The Chairman: Thank you, Lord James. [Transcript]
webofevil: (chiraq)
Ex-haulier Alan Barr behind secret organisation Foundation X that offered Government £22billion loan

The man fronting a secret organisation that offered the Government £22billion to help it out of a hole has been revealed as an ex-haulier.

Alan Barr, 62, insists Foundation X wants to make a no-strings, interest-free loan to boost the economy. He said extra is available to build hospitals, schools and London's Crossrail and he is “quite hopeful” the PM would accept.

Barr, who lives in Cheshire in a £200,000 home with his girlfriend Jane Barry, said he spent 10 years in the Far East brokering similar deals.

He said: “I have devoted 26 years to altruistic work. I've met many heads of state.”

Barr said his girlfriend knew nothing of the offer: “I don’t want her thinking I’m going crazy, do I?” [Daily Mirror]
A less telegraphed, and therefore presumably less mystifying, article ran in the Sunday Times last week unmasking Alan Barr but, as far as the internet and most newspaper readers are concerned, that all but makes it a state secret. What isn’t clear from this Fisher-Price version is whether Barr is claiming to be Foundation X in its entirety or whether he is just the public face of it.

The smart money is still on the organisation in reality being the Office of International Treasury Control, whose language and methods it is closely aping. Lord Myners certainly thinks so:

Written Question

Asked by Lord Myners
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether ministers have any contact with the organisation calling itself the Office of International Treasury Control.

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The Treasury has had no contact with an organisation calling itself the Office of International Treasury Control. [Hansard]
Note Lord Sassoon’s careful tread: whoever the government may have met [see below], it wasn’t anyone who was using the OITC’s name—as you would hope, given its easily Googleable reputation and, specifically, the fact that the last occasion it was known to operate on British soil was its questionable offer to buy the ailing MG Rover in 2005 for $5 billion, although the only down payment it offered was a £1 postal order (it claimed it had a letter from Tony Blair authorising its massive bid, but no-one ever saw this). There is a curious detail here: the OITC submitted its bid shortly after another one was withdrawn. A consortium had hoped to revive the sports car brand but was forced to abandon its plans. That consortium was led by... Lord James of Blackheath.

There isn't any suggestion that Lord James has ever knowingly had any involvement with the OITC, but it is possible that in researching him around that time, possibly even encountering him, its agents thought that he might prove to be someone they could do business with—all the more so when, five years later, he had been ennobled and appeared to have a direct line to the heart of government...

But that's to suppose that the OITC is indeed behind this kind offer to the nation, which of course it might not be. After all, right now, according to the Sunday Times—which of course has never once been used as a conduit for dodgy intelligence or diplomatic information for disinformation purposes—the trail stops at a retired businessman in Cheshire, and there is nothing to see here. Surely that's your curiosity sated right there.

Probably too much has been made of the fact that a meeting with any government minister took place at all. Lord James claimed that he introduced Lord Strathclyde to a representative from Foundation X, very probably Alan Barr. If this did happen, there’s no reason to think Lord Strathclyde did anything other than humour one of his back-benchers and exchange requisite pleasantries, something at which he excels.

Meanwhile, Lord Sassoon’s response in the debate where Lord James dropped his bombshell was a masterly example of Lordly politesse, designed mainly to protect his back-bench colleague from the ridicule of the opposition, but it has been taken up elsewhere as some kind of acknowledgment that the Treasury got involved in the whole affair. That’s really not what he said at all:
Lord Sassoon: I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Myners. He had great trouble keeping a straight face. [This was true, but sets up Lord Myners as an irresponsible clown.] I have to say that I took extremely seriously my noble friend Lord James of Blackheath's suggestions that there were people who could help us out with our financial difficulty. [This fair drips with gravitas but doesn't actually suggest that he did anything more than nod earnestly while Lord James talked at him.] The noble Lord, Lord Myners, thinks it is all a joke. [Evil opposition! They don't care about the financial crisis! Broken Britain!] I have been in detailed discussions over the past number of weeks with the noble Lord, Lord James of Blackheath [but not anyone else], and of course we take seriously anyone who wants to invest in our economy [general, nebulous statement to contrast, once again, with frivolous opposition]. I know many people believe that there will be great opportunities in our infrastructure programme to invest in rebuilding our networks to underpin growth. [Standard boilerplate.] [Hansard]

Whatever the upshot of Lord James’s Foundation X adventure, it has already been neatly summed up for me. A couple of weeks ago I was telling a colleague’s daughter about all this. I had reached the part where Lord James is telling everyone that this mysterious organisation has offered to give Britain billions of pounds for free and they don’t want anything in return. She frowned and said, “That sounds really dodgy”. She is 11.
webofevil: (round)
Showing a reckless disregard for the future of the nation, the Treasury has apparently decided not to pursue the lavish no-strings offer of billions of pounds made by Lord James of Blackheath’s “Foundation X”. This despite the fact that the noble Lord was keen to explain that the mysterious foundation was not, in fact, the bogus Office for International Treasury Control; he knew this, he said, because he had asked someone at Foundation X if it was them and they said no.

So we may never know who these magnanimous philanthropists were, but if, say, France suddenly announces that it has mysteriously solved all its money worries and suddenly lowers its pension age to 40 or starts aggressively enforcing the notion of infinite France, we'll know there was some truth to the noble Lord’s story after all.
webofevil: (Default)
Normally when a debate has already been going on for the best part of six hours, the speakers near the bottom of the list are often moved to say something along the lines of “My Lords, everything that could possibly be said on this topic has already been said”—and then usually bang on anyway, amply demonstrating the truth of their assertion. It’s safe to say, though, that when Tory life peer Lord James stood up at 10:42 on Monday night, his contribution was not remotely to resemble anyone else’s. We join the noble Lord several minutes into his speech, after he has outlined some of the financial problems facing the country.
Lord James of Blackheath: At this point, I am going to have to make a very big apology to my noble friend Lord Sassoon [Treasury Minister], because I am about to raise a subject that I should not raise and which is going to be one which I think is now time to put on a higher awareness, and to explain to the House as a whole, as I do not think your Lordships have any knowledge of it. I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Strathclyde [Leader of the House] is not with us at the moment, because this deeply concerns him also.

For the past 20 weeks I have been engaged in a very strange dialogue with the two noble Lords, in the course of which I have been trying to bring to their attention the willing availability of a strange organisation which wishes to make a great deal of money available to assist the recovery of the economy in this country. For want of a better name, I shall call it foundation X. That is not its real name, but it will do for the moment. Foundation X was introduced to me 20 weeks ago last week by an eminent City firm, which is FSA controlled. Its chairman came to me and said, “We have this extraordinary request to assist in a major financial reconstruction. It is megabucks, but we need your help to assist us in understanding whether this business is legitimate”. I had the biggest put-down of my life from my noble friend Lord Strathclyde when I told him this story. He said, “Why you? You’re not important enough to have the answer to a question like that”. He is quite right, I am not important enough, but the answer to the next question was, “You haven’t got the experience for it”. Yes I do. I have had one of the biggest experiences in the laundering of terrorist money and funny money that anyone has had in the City. I have handled billions of pounds of terrorist money.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham [Labour]: Where did it go to?

Lord James of Blackheath: Not into my pocket. My biggest terrorist client was the IRA and I am pleased to say that I managed to write off more than £1 billion of its money. I have also had extensive connections with north African terrorists, but that was of a far nastier nature, and I do not want to talk about that because it is still a security issue. I hasten to add that it is no good getting the police in, because I shall immediately call the Bank of England as my defence witness, given that it put me in to deal with these problems.

The point is that when I was in the course of doing this strange activity, I had an interesting set of phone numbers and references that I could go to for help when I needed it. So people in the City have known that if they want to check out anything that looks at all odd, they can come to me and I can press a few phone numbers to obtain a reference. The City firm came to me and asked whether I could get a reference and a clearance on foundation X. For 20 weeks, I have been endeavouring to do that. I have come to the absolute conclusion that foundation X is completely genuine and sincere and that it directly wishes to make the United Kingdom one of the principal points that it will use to disseminate its extraordinarily great wealth into the world at this present moment, as part of an attempt to seek the recovery of the global economy.

I made the phone call to my noble friend Lord Strathclyde on a Sunday afternoon—I think he was sitting on his lawn, poor man—and he did the quickest ball pass that I have ever witnessed. If England can do anything like it at Twickenham on Saturday, we will have a chance against the All Blacks. The next think I knew, I had my noble friend Lord Sassoon on the phone. From the outset, he took the proper defensive attitude of total scepticism, and said, “This cannot possibly be right”. During the following weeks, my noble friend said, “Go and talk to the Bank of England”. So I phoned the governor and asked whether he could check this out for me. After about three days, he came back and said, “You can get lost. I’m not touching this with a bargepole; it is far too difficult. Take it back to the Treasury”. So I did. Within another day, my noble friend Lord Sassoon had come back and said, “This is rubbish. It can't possibly be right”. I said, “I am going to work more on it”. Then I brought one of the senior executives from foundation X to meet my noble friend Lord Strathclyde. I have to say that, as first dates go, it was not a great success. Neither of them ended up by inviting the other out for a coffee or drink at the end of the evening, and they did not exchange telephone numbers in order to follow up the meeting.

I found myself between a rock and a hard place that were totally paranoid about each other, because the foundation X people have an amazing obsession with their own security. They expect to be contacted only by someone equal to head of state status or someone with an international security rating equal to the top six people in the world. This is a strange situation. My noble friends Lord Sassoon and Lord Strathclyde both came up with what should have been an absolute killer argument as to why this could not be true and that we should forget it. My noble friend Lord Sassoon’s argument was that these people claimed to have evidence that last year they had lodged £5 billion with British banks. They gave transfer dates and the details of these transfers. As my noble friend Lord Sassoon, said, if that were true it would stick out like a sore thumb. You could not have £5 billion popping out of a bank account without it disrupting the balance sheet completely. But I remember that at about the same time as those transfers were being made the noble Lord, Lord Myners [former Labour Treasury Minister], was indulging in his game of rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic of the British banking community. If he had three banks at that time, which had had, say, a deficiency of £1.5 million each, then you would pretty well have absorbed the entire £5 billion, and you would not have had the sore thumb stick out at that time; you would have taken £1.5 billion into each of three banks and you would have absorbed the lot. That would be a logical explanation—I do not know.

My noble friend Lord Strathclyde came up with a very different argument. He said that this cannot be right because these people said at the meeting with him that they were still effectively on the gold standard from back in the 1920s and that their entire currency holdings throughout the world, which were very large, were backed by bullion. My noble friend Lord Strathclyde came back and said to me that he had an analyst working on it and that this had to be stuff and nonsense. He said that they had come up with a figure for the amount of bullion that would be needed to cover their currency reserves, as claimed, which would be more than the entire value of bullion that had ever been mined in the history of the world. I am sorry but my noble friend Lord Strathclyde is wrong; his analysts are wrong. He had tapped into the sources that are available and there is only one definitive source for the amount of bullion that has ever been taken from the earth’s crust. That was a National Geographic magazine article 12 years ago. Whatever figure it was that was quoted was then quoted again on six other sites on the internet—on Google. Everyone is quoting one original source; there is no other confirming authority. But if you tap into the Vatican accounts—of the Vatican bank—you come up with a claim of total bullion—

Lord De Mauley [Government Whip]: The noble Lord is into his fifteenth minute. I wonder whether he can draw his remarks to a conclusion.

Lord James of Blackheath: The total value of the Vatican bank reserves would claim to be more than the entire value of gold ever mined in the history of the world. My point on all of this is that we have not proven any of this. Foundation X is saying at this moment that it is prepared to put up the entire £5 billion for the funding of [investment in industry]; the British Government can have the entire independent management and control of it—foundation X does not want anything to do with it; there will be no interest charged; and, by the way, if the British Government would like it as well, if it will help, the foundation will be prepared to put up money for funding hospitals, schools, the building of Crossrail immediately with £17 billion transfer by Christmas, if requested, and all these other things. These things can be done, if wished, but a senior member of the Government has to accept the invitation to a phone call to the chairman of foundation X—and then we can get into business. This is too big an issue. I am just an ageing, obsessive old Peer and I am easily dispensable, but getting to the truth is not. We need to know what really is happening here. We must find out the truth of this situation. [Hansard]

EDIT: The answer appears to be in: it's the world's most ambitious 419 scam.
In late 2005 Germania Ullauri, the mayoress of the Ecuadorian municipality of Oña, travelled to Cambodia to meet representatives of the OITC to discuss an investment proposal... The OITC proposed to invest US$150 million in a hydro-electric project in the region, subject to Ullauri placing $20,000 in a bank account in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as a deposit. She paid in the money as requested in December 2005 but several months later there was no sign of the promised millions from the OITC.

In particular, I invite you to contemplate what Alex Salmond must have said to them:
Mr Alex Salmond’s response was one that can only be described as impertinent, rude, derogatory, arrogant, ignorant of Sovereign Entity protocols, lacking in consciousness, void of any professional or diplomatic attributes, very careless in the composure of the content, nonsensical, and certainly one that no one person would expect to receive from a First Minister of a Parliamentary Assembly.
webofevil: (all hail)
Lord James of Blackheath: In 2008 ... I went to work in New York. Each day from my hotel I walked up 47th Street where there is a one-legged ex-Vietnam veteran who sits on the pavement and cleans shoes for $2 a time. He has been there for quite a long time, and I got to know this friendly and talkative guy. I was getting my shoes cleaned by him one day and he said, “You’re in a nice suit but you’re going to burn in eternal hellfire”. I said, “I’m sure I am but not too soon, I hope”. He said, “No sir, you’re going to start burning in eternal hellfire nine weeks tomorrow”. “Really?” I said, “I had hoped for a bit longer than that. Why then?”. He said, “Because Lehman Brothers are going to file for bankruptcy that day. The great fiery jaws of hell are going to open up and suck all you suits down into it”. I would like to know how a one-legged Vietnam vet sitting on 47th Street knows, nine weeks to the day before the event, that Lehman Brothers is going into insolvency when the rest of the financial world appears to live in total ignorance and does nothing about it.
webofevil: (Default)
From today's debate on renewable energy.
Lord James of Blackheath: It was brilliantly presented in Budapest by a 28 year-old very attractive Hungarian physicist, who has just got the Nobel Prize. She has got four children already—one wonders what she does in her spare time.


Nov. 8th, 2007 04:36 pm
webofevil: (Default)
Lord James of Blackheath (Con): We know of one big cut made last year—22,363 nurses were culled from the National Health Service. If you want a visual image, that figure is almost exactly the same as filling Lord’s cricket ground on a major test match day with nurses only and telling them at the end of the day to go home and never come back to work again. Thank God it was not Wembley, otherwise it would be 88,000.

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