Cable and Fiennes at CIA Dinner

CIA dinner.jpgThe Chemical Industries Association (CIA) Dinner was a grand affair as always, with 980 guests in London‘s Grosvenor House Hotel for a black tie dinner on Thursday 18 November.


There were two splendid speakers, Dr Vince Cable, UK Secretary of State for Business, and Sir Ranulph Fiennes the explorer – but good as they were, two speakers at a dinner is one too many, and it was a long old evening sitting at the table.


My heart sank when I saw the programme and realised we would be sitting down for three hours. As it turned out, everything ran late, and we didn’t get up from the tables until 11.15 pm, at which time everyone was running for the doors.


The whole point of producing a glossy programme, showing who’s sitting on whose table, is so that everyone can get round to talk to each other, but there was no time for that.


Vince was on good form. He talked about his time working for Shell, where as chief economist he had the thankless task of trying to predict the chemical cycle. He said that Shell was a very good company and he was proud to have worked for it, because it made massive investments and thought long term. That experience had taught him to be sceptical of critics of the chemical industry, he added.


He said that most chemical business was global, and that the UK government was clear that it needed a trade liberalising agenda. His defence of the science budget, his support of apprenticeships, and his praise for the chemical industry for being export-oriented – “90% of chemicals exported, unmatched in UK industry” – all went down well with his audience.


I was on a non-betting table, but Richard L told me afterwards that he had won the jackpot on his table for getting the length of the Fiennes speech bang on at 35 minutes.


(Photo CIA)


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