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Information Circular —
December 2006
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Items listed in chronological sequence




29 Dec 2006 – Another New Year from Ron Sims

Greetings to all for 2007 having just endured my 84th Christmas quietly at home. Keeping reasonably well but rather mobility much restricted these days. Otherwise mustn't grumble. Iris is my treasure and the future without her would be unthinkable. We are now great grandparents - Sarah, Hilary's daughter, has had twin boys Samuel and Luke and all the rest of the family are prospering and keeping well. We hope that the same applies to all the Walkers. Thanks again for your good wishes which are much appreciated by one of the true oldies. Yours ever, Ron

Hello Ron, Many thanks for your note, and good to hear that you and Iris are doing well, apart from the restricted mobility. Time flies — I remember when your children were teenagers, let alone your being great grandparents. I have only managed grandparentage so far — mustn't rush things. All the best to you both for 2007. Reg

We have had greetings from far and wide, all much appreciated, but for reasons of space we are only publishing those from Senior Oldies (ie those over 80). One day those Junior Oldies will reach the age of privilege and have their messages printed. Meanwhile we acknowledge, with thanks, Seasons Greetings from (in no particular order, and E&OE): Ernie Downs. Barry Palmer, Christine Hawthorn, John Flynn, Andy Taylor, Al Hynes, Brian Puplett, Mike Betts, Peter McAuley, Cathy Mason, Chris Penn, Dave Martin, Phillip Brooks, Maureen and Bill Wickham, Alex Smith, Alex McLeod, Ivor Hosgood, Jayne Wilkinson, John Galley, Pat Kennedy, Ron Lyons, Brian Cockram, Roy Plackett and George Billson. We have also had cards from Vi Wilson, Margaret Crawley, Dan Paul, Peter Taylor and others whose names have been suppressed on the grounds that their reputations might be sullied. (You know who you are, Macdonald).

29 Dec 2006 – From Mary Robinson

Dear Reg, Lovely to hear from you and thanks for the good wishes, more than I can say for that unmentionable Test series that appears not to be going anywhere, but perhaps the Gods will be on our side on Tuesday when rain is forecast. Hope it will be like it is here at the moment pouring down — it is a sight not often seen in this part of the world. Tried to send a New Year's greeting but keeps being rejected. Anyway, Happy New Year to one and all, Luv Mary

Hello Mary, Very good to hear from our most far-flung correspondent, and your good wishes for 2007 heartily reciprocated. I saw Diane Johnson recently, and she said that she had been in touch with you. Alan Cole has just left for Sydney, with the intention of watching whatever passes for English cricket at the moment. At least the rain will make him feel at home. Never mind, we have Showjumping to fall back upon! At least Norwich won against QPR yesterday. Best wishes, Reg

29 Dec 2006 – From George Billson

Dear Reg, Hello again. I've just read Rod Janes letter to you and was very pleased to see there is someone else in London still surviving from the olden days. Rod may remember me, or at least my name from Hansard days. I met up with Gordon Parfitt, Dave Forbes, John Eveson, Ron Reddick and all the other old Press guys at the Freemasons Arms  in Long Acre for the Christmas get together in December and it was good to see them all. After all I have been retired for over 17 years now and it is good to be recognised underneath all the grey hair and wrinkles. It would be good to hear from any other members of the Presses who are willing to share their memories of that wonderful institution HMSO! To all you HMSOldies out their, best wishes for a Healthy and very good 2007. George

Hello George, Very good to hear from you. I will pass on your message to Rod. I see from my old Staff List that you joined HMSO in 1954, so you are certainly in Division One of the Oldies. Good to see that the Works Christmas Dinner is still going: I see John Eveson occasionally, and Dave Forbes about once a year. If you have any photos of the event I am sure that they would be of interest. Best wishes for 2007. Reg

20 Dec 2006 – The Cost of Government Stationery Supplies

Dear Reg, Now that it has become a hot topic on HMSOldies, I offer you below yet another letter that The Guardian  dared not publish:

"Dear Editor,

Regarding the prices paid by Government for office supplies (The Guardian, 14 December), does anyone remember Her Majesty's Stationery Office (HMSO)? In 1786, ‘The Article of Stationary (sic) being an object of considerable Expenditure, My Lords (of the Treasury) have had under their attentive Consideration an Arrangement for supplying the same in the most economical & convenient manner’. The fruit of that consideration was HMSO, which continued to meet all demands placed on it in this and other regards until privatised by an act of political vandalism in 1996. Looks like in only 11 years that the wheel has come full circle.

Yours sincerely, Gordon G Robbie"

This missive was written and sent the morning that the offending article appeared in the Guardian. Cheers. Gordon

Hello Gordon, Well done! I'm afraid I didn't send the letter I mentally prepared for The Guardian. Had I done so, it would certainly have joined yours on the 'spike.' Doesn't make us wrong, though! This is the one reliable source of material by GOSOs (Grumpy Old Stationery Officers): HMSOldies. All the best for Christmas, and may all your letters get published in 2007. Reg

17 December 2006 – From Rod Janes

I've just stumbled on your very interesting site. I was an apprentice engineer starting on 12 August 1957 at Drury Lane Press, coming out of my time six years later at St Stephen's and finishing at Hansard Press. Harry Kent was my first Overseer and the engineers I was apprenticed to were, George Munnery, George Baker, Ray Jackson and Jimmy Mitchell, and when he came out of the army, Alf Spearing. A great bunch of blokes.

I knew Devon Williams for some time at St Stephens and got on well with him. Sadly, after some years, the next time I saw Devon was around the table in the conference room at Hansard Press during the redundancy negotiations.

I was pleased to see the photograph of a very young Terry Robinson, Linotype Operator in your archive — I've just received a Christmas card from him. Regards to anyone who remembers me. Sincerely, Rod Janes.

Hello Rod, Good to hear from you. I didn't work in the Presses myself, but in the 1970s I was involved in some work with SSPP — Dave Forbes, Eric Hendry, Andy Fisher, Cyril Pendergast and others. I still see Gerry Aldus, Bill Scott, John Galley occasionally, in Norwich and John Eveson in London, where he is still working in the Press. Devon Williams is with TSO in Norwich. My old staff list includes a couple of names from the 1950s you may remember. You mentioned Gd IV Overseer HCJ Kent, who was born in 1903 and joined HMSO in 1930. JA Cosby was Gd III Engineer and N Stuart Gd II at around the same time. Best wishes. Reg

Bring Back HMSO!

It is well known that the Stationery Office was established in 1786. The Official History, compiled by Hugh Barty-King in 1986, also records that, following the discovery of various abuses of the system (private sales of official stationery, individuals seeking of favours from contractors, misappropriation of papers etc) the following action was taken:

‘The Select Committee on Printing and Stationery of 1822 recommended a Treasury review of the Stationery Office establishment . . . the Committee felt the principle of a centralised purchase and supply organisation was the right one, and were opposed to any reversion to the old system of Departments buying their own stationery. Indeed it expressed its disapproval of those public offices which still insisted on doing this. The Lords of the Treasury agreed. They considered it fitting that the stationery used in Public Departments should be all of one pattern and to that end there should only be one source of supply. So they instructed the Comptroller to write to the several Public Departments to communicate to them the desire of My Lords that in future all supplies of Stationery, Printing and Binding may be procured from the Stationery office only, and that no private Tradesmen whatever may be employed for any article which can be procured through that department. The 38 years in which customers paid for the stationery and printing of their own choice had come to an end.’

In his foreword to The First Hundred Years of HMSO  dated 1984, Controller William Sharp said that ‘HMSO now employs a staff of some 3600, who earn a 16% return on net assets on an annual turnover of £280 million.’

HMSO was privatised in 1996.

On Thursday 14 December 2006 The Guardian  used the whole of page three for an article written by David Hencke, Westminster correspondent and headlined ‘Whitehall waste. Crazy prices: civil servants on a costly paper chase. Report says £660m could be saved on stationery. Departments pay over the odds for own brand name.’

Examples were illustrated. An HP LaserJet cartridge was shown as costing Whitehall £41.89 and available on the High Street at £38.50. Recycled copy paper cost Whitehall £6.95 to £14.95 per five boxes. High Street price was £4.94. Post-it notes cost Whitehall £4.41 to £10.55 per pack; High Street cost £1.75. It was claimed that ‘only 5% of Government purchasing goes through the central body.’

The article went on to say:

‘Saving money is one of Whitehall’s favourite preoccupations, from slashing red tape to cutting the number of public sector jobs. But the mandarins could do more for the public purse by sending their office juniors to the local shops to buy their stationery, The Guardian  has discovered.

A report by Parliament’s watchdog, the National Audit Office, reveals the extraordinary prices that the country’s 554,000 civil servants are paying for everything from Post-it notes to broadband access. Some departments appear willing to pay well over the odds to ensure that their supplies have their own brand name on them. As a result, the report says, the Chancellor could save £660m a year simply by getting better deals on office equipment. The auditors had picked three simple items of equipment — Post-it notes, recycled paper and toner cartridges for printers — to check the price paid across the government’s 200 Ministries and Quangos. The data showed that hugely different prices were being paid for the same items. For Post-it notes the cheapest price Whitehall could find was £4.41 for a pack of 12, while some departments paid as much as £10.55 — 139% more expensive. Yet The Guardian  found that even the best price could easily be beaten: at Chartered Supplies in Central London, for example, a pack of 12 unbranded notes costs £1.75 — less than half of what the most price conscious bureaucrats are paying.

Even the Treasury’s central purchasing body, known as, which is supposed to get the best deal in the country for Britain’s bureaucrats, could not supply figures yesterday to show how many reams of paper, mobile phones or Post-it notes it buys every year. One reason for the price discrepancies is that many departments buy their own supplies. ‘Frankly there are a lot of turf wars going on between different departments. Some of them literally want their own brand name on the equipment and not the words OGC written on them.’ John Prescott’s office appears to be an example. It has recently ordered thousands of ballpoint pens with Office of the Department of the Deputy Prime Minister printed on them.

OGC also provided poor value for money on broadband services, largely because the buyers had not checked prices for two years, according to an NAO spokeswoman. Competitive pressure in the broadband market means that many suppliers will now provide free access if users sign up for a mobile phone contract. Whitehall had recently improved its contracts for mobile phones, the report found, but officials were said to be worried about signing up to bulk buys for phones and computer software in case they became out of date.

Richard Bacon, Conservative MP for South Norfolk and a member of the Public Accounts Committee, said MPs would closely question civil servants at the buying agency. ‘We are going to give them a very tough grilling. Frankly, I am not surprised that you could get some of these items cheaper in shops or online. These huge organisations in Whitehall spend a lot of time at sales conferences discussing big deals when a little bit of common sense means that local offices could get better prices. In my own office, my Secretary has already spotted that the official suppliers to parliament often charged hundreds of pounds more for printers than you get in shops or online.’

The report showed that was better at getting discounts for computer maintenance, energy prices and legal services in London. However, it did not fare so well on recycled paper in boxes of five reams (2500 sheets). The cheapest five-ream box is available for £6.95. The most expensive supplier to Whitehall charges £14.95 — 115% more expensive. The Guardian  found Equations Direct could supply five boxes of recycled paper for £4.94, £2 cheaper than anything could offer. Even local shops could supply five reams at £1.29 a ream. The most expensive was £2 a ream — coming to £10 — still £4.95 less than the top price paid by Whitehall.

Whitehall was better at supplying cartridge toners for printers. The cheapest price The Guardian  could get was £38.50 for an HP laser toner and others were much more. The prices Whitehall paid for the same toner varied from £41 to £89, a difference of £117%’

No comment from OGC (or anyone else) appeared in the newspaper during the two days following this article. But what is that we hear? It must be the gasps of surprise from the hundreds of HMSO employees made redundant in 1996.

15 Dec 2006 – From Barry Palmer in Canada

Another year is almost gone and of course all of the good resolutions to keep in touch more frequently got forgotten along the way. This year started off where the last left off, with chronic back pains, which have been diagnosed as arthritis, however they gradually subsided and I have not been troubled too badly since the end of April. We didn’t get to do too much camping this year mainly because Jeannine got a summer job with Tabi International and didn’t want to be alone at home, so Bonnie stayed with her and I set off to Ottawa with Andrea and Vanessa (Andrea met a boy from Ottawa in downtown Toronto). She got to see him a few times in the four days, three nights we were there and Vanessa and I got to sightsee on our own. I sold all of the printing equipment and it got shipped to Ghana as local dealers wanted to be paid to take it away.

Jan and I did get together for a day in the summer and apart from me almost ending up in the U.S. we had a good time together, chewing over all the good old times and the good old days with good (old) friends. My brother and his wife came to visit for a few days so we took them to Niagara Falls and found them an Outlet Mall to visit and took them to an authentic looking London pub in Niagara-on-the-Lake owned by our former neighbours. For my birthday we went to Montana’s Steak House and I got to wear the Buffalo horns and they sang to me and the previous weekend we went to Mandarin Chinese Restaurant with my brother and wife and got a cup cake with a candle on top. That’s the last one, I am 65 now for the rest of my life. And that’s all the news, now all that is left is to wish you, from Bonnie and the girls and myself, all of the best for Christmas and the coming New Year. We may be apart but you are never forgotten. Barry Palmer

Second Tuesday in December Society

The background to this annual gathering (held in The Ship, Borough Road, London SE1) is given in Memories  December 2005.

The December 2006 meeting was missing some stalwarts (Durkin, Macdonald, Cole, Walker from Norwich and Les Crawford,  Bernard Johnson, Walter Wood, Christopher Bindloss, Bob Nuttall, Bob Rice, Alex McLeod, Jan Hewitt, Tony Wilson, Basil Radford from London and its environs).

However, Arthur Brunwin, John Gilbey, Ron Carman, Peter Empleton, Bryan Allman, Brian Ekers, Eddie Jukes, John Eveson, Ron George, Alan Clift-Jones, Sue Whitaker, John Eason, Anne Eason, Roger Pudner, Dave Stoten, Ron Martin, John Strand, Brian Puplett and Mike Betts made it. They raised a glass to Fred Bagley, who was Reprographics Manager at Inland Revenue for some years. Sadly, he died in February 2006.

Brian Ward 1940-2006
Brian Ward died on 8 December. He had been suffering from cancer for about two and a half years and the end, when it came, was peaceful. The funeral will be held at St Faith's Crematorium, Norwich, on Thursday 4 January at 2pm. All welcome but no flowers.
Bob Barnard writes:  Brian was one of my staff when I was transferred back from Belfast in 1982 and I took over from Tom Harris on his retirement as DDPS2. Brian was then a Clerical Officer in the Industrial Pay Section. When his EO retired (I recall he was an ex Squadron Leader Noble) Brian was promoted into that post and I think he remained in charge of the Section until reorganisation prior to privatisation in 1996. Brian was a Geordie and a passionate supporter of Newcastle United Football Club. His many friends will miss him.

Ernie Downs adds:  Brian started in the HMSO at Gateshead Press in 1974. He was employed in the General Office where one of his duties was, if not the most important job then the most onerous — Secretary of the Canteen Committee. This was a job to which he was most suited, he being an excellent cook. On occasions he prepared lunches for important visitors to the Press. He also managed to get the canteen into surplus, not an easy task.  His successor got rid of the surplus without too much effort. His leaving Gateshead for Norwich came as a surprise at the time but later events explained matters.

Reunion December 2006

Around 40 ex HMSO employees braved the foul weather (just as bad as it was for the June event — is someone trying to tell us something?) and came along to the Unorganised Evening Event at The Eagle,  Newmarket Road, Norwich on Thursday 7 December. Those ‘workers’ who requested an evening event did not, needless to say, make it.

Those who attended know who they were, and those who could not avoid the lens of Philip ‘Mr Badminton’ (see page 48 of the EDP for Thursday 7 December) Marriage are featured in the Picture Gallery.

8 Dec 2006 - Update from Ron Lyons
I left Wroxham Barns three years ago. Have now left Norfolk and I’m living (with Anita) in Royston, Herts. Both children now married and given us one grandchild and another on the way. I would like to wish all my old colleagues a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Hello Ron, Good to hear from you. I still have a sample of your fine woodcarving on my shelves (bought for me by your fellow Printer, Roy Plackett, some years ago). All the best for Christmas and the New Year. Reg

5 Dec 2006 — From Dave Roberts

Somehow stumbled across the HMSOldies site — not quite sure how but was interested to see some familiar names. I noticed in Stan Church's pen picture a reference to John Wilson still working, did he ever? Also interested to hear that Mike Mahoney has bought a new pair of gloves. I worked in the IT division 1979 — 1989 and spent quite a few years working with John in a small project team, never ceased to be amazed at how he survived the latest of a series of scrapes. Would like to hear from the old boy or any other IT old boy/girl from that period and have a chat. I have been living in Maidstone since I moved from Wymondham and can't see me going anywhere else. Currently working in the IT department of the Charities Aid Foundation, a charity specialising in banking and consultancy for the philanthropic sector. Dave

Hello Dave, Good to hear from you, and thanks for the contact. I have copied your note to John Wilson who may wish to reply to your slander! I still see Gwyn Morgan, who lives near me, and occasionally Mick Hardy, Brian Wilson, Ed Crickmore wandering the streets. If anyone reading your note in HMSOldies cares to contact me, I will pass on their message to you. All the best in sunny Maidstone. The Wymondham Feathers is still serving a good pint. Reg


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