Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

HLS and the FT

From Mr George Parker

Sir: Stephen Glover's attack (Media studies, 14 July) on the Financial Times and its coverage of the plight of Huntingdon Life Sciences, the animal-testing group, confirms the suspicion that he does not regard reading newspapers to be part of his job.

He says the FT `lacks scoops' and has remained `almost shtoom' over the targeting of HLS by animal-rights activists. In fact the FT has led the news coverage of the plight of HLS, both in terms of volume and in covering the big stories about City institutions abandoning the company.

It was the FT which first revealed that the City was dumping HLS (front page, 14 February 2000). Indeed, the biggest story of the saga - HLS securing the loan which saved it from bankruptcy - was one of many FT scoops, and led the BBC bulletins the next day. These stories were not hard for Mr Glover to find - there were 15 separate articles about HLS on the front pages of either the first or the second sections of our paper.

The prominence we gave the story had to do not with the size of the company which has a negligible market value - but the huge significance of the story to our readers. Apart from the leader Mr Glover mentioned, the FT has carried four features and leader-page articles criticising the government and the City for leaving HLS to its fate.

I could have let this misrepresentation of our coverage pass, if it had not been for his insinuation that we bottled out because of fears that the FT might become a target. That is a slur on our team of reporters, whose coverage of this story was both fearless and impartial. Some of them were subjected to verbal and physical intimidation in their efforts to tell the story from both sides.

George Parker

UK News Editor,

Financial Times,

London SE1

From Mr Peter Spira

Sir: Stephen Glover's article has indeed been a breath of fresh air, touching as it does on one of the most crucial issues in British politics today. This is, of course, the question of freedom versus terrorism; his comments on the threats to Huntingdon Life Sciences should be sounding widespread alarm bells across the country.

It just so happens that he is writing about it in the context of an article on the Financial Times, but, as he says, its implications are far broader than that, and present a deadly threat to the democratic governance of the UK. There is, however, one problem that he does not address, and that is the situation in which threatened managements find themselves in this age of litigation.

As put to me recently by the former chairman of one of our largest and most successful department stores, what happens if the management ignore the terrorists' threats and then some of their customers are killed or injured by a terrorist outrage in their store? Certainly, legal actions for vast damages, and possibly criminal charges for negligence against the management, too, for having failed to act on previous warnings.

Thus, in practice, only the government can act as protectors of our freedom in this area, and so they are indeed to be congratulated on producing support for Huntingdon Life Sciences from the Bank of England. But they are going to have to do far more than that.

A simple suggestion is that threats of any such terrorist activity should carry a mandatory prison sentence of ten years, not subject to remission, and any actual such terrorist activity, 20 years. Draconian threats to our frail democracy and diminishing liberties call for draconian measures.

Peter Spira

London W8

Conning the elderly

From Marian Werner

Sir: What Rachel Johnson failed to point out (`How to lose a pound a minute', 21 July) is that the small print on the letters from Dublin is so small that someone with poor eyesight may even fail to notice that there is any. A friend of mine, suffering from macular degeneration, saw only that she had won a prize and should ring the number given in large print to find out what it was. …

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