Talks over a bottle of bubbly

7th November 1997 at 00:00
In the autumn of 1995 Nord Anglia Education PLC, a national lecturing agency, was keen to supply contract labour to further education.

Kevin McNeany, the chairman of that company, met Mr Ward at the CEF office to discuss the issue. What he did not know was that there had been a pre-arranged pre-meeting at the CEF which was attended by a representative of ELS, Maureen Thomas. Ms Thomas remained during the ensuing discussions with Mr McNeany, without his knowing she was from ELS. He says Mr Ward had introduced her as one of his assistants.

Mr Ward denied saying Ms Thomas was his assistant. He said the meeting was one where he laid out both to ELS and Nord Anglia, the criteria for CEF endorsement.

After the meeting Mr McNeany wrote to Mr Ward giving his record of the meeting. "As is necessarily the case when such a conversation takes place late in the working day - and over a glass of champagne - our discussion was somewhat rambling and might benefit from a continuation with a more tightly focused agenda. "

He said he had forgotten to ask if the meeting would be followed by a more rigorous vetting. It was crucial, he wrote, that the same vetting procedure was used on themselves as was used on ELS.

Mr Ward sent a copy of that letter to Mr Lennox. It was short. "Dear Geoff, I am enclosing a copy of a letter I have recently received from Nord Anglia Chair, Kevin McNeany. I probably won't bother to answer this until he reminds me. Cheers!"

In September 1995 Mr Ward wrote to Mr Lennox about Nord Anglia. "It really does seem that this organisation is making no headway. Nonetheless I would like to write a bulletin for the sector pointing out that ELS remains the only "approved organisation" and I look forward to hearing from yourself andor Tim with some salient points for me to use in the bulletin."

Geoff Lennox wrote to Mr Ward in July 1995 about a group called Pertemps Group PLC which was offering an alternative service to ELS. Mr Lennox replied: "This looks altogether more serious competition to the Nord Anglia approach and I would (be) extremely grateful if through your good offices you could seek a meeting with this organisation and determine precisely how real a threat they are to ELS.

"Competition is nothing that we had not expected but it would be extremely helpful if you could provide us with specific details of what they have to offer. I know that you have your normal ways of inviting such organisations to provide details to the CEF . . . I will be grateful to hear anything you can find out about this organisation."

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