Industry: water, steel & energy

Holliday, Fred (9 of 14) National Life Story Collection: An Oral History of the Water Industry

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The British Library Board acknowledges the intellectual property rights of those named as contributors to this recording and the rights of those not identified.
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  • Recording date

    2009-08-13, 2009-08-20, 2009-11-16, 2010-02-09, 2011-02-02

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home

  • Interviewees

    Holliday, Fred, 1935-2016 (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Gilmour, Alison (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 9: [Session three: 16 November 2009] Comments on Britain’s 1980s policy to dump nuclear waste in the sea; mentions Greenpeace response. Remarks on chairing commission requested by William Waldegrave to investigate dumping. Opposition from National Union of Seamen. Comments on unanimous proposed recommendations. Remarks on ideal repository for storing low and medium level nuclear waste: Billingham salt mine owned by ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries). Comments on how to manage nuclear waste; mentions hydrogen isotope tritium. Comments on needing to know proportion of waste from defence industry: refusal to provide information from Michael Heseltine, Secretary of State for Defence. [12:20] Comments on public views regarding dumping in oceans. Comments on need for nuclear power in short term. Mentions Lord Brian Flowers’ warning to government regarding nuclear waste. Mentions French nuclear waste industry. [15:05] Comments on impatience with accountants. Description of Chairman role at Northumbrian Water: interpreting work of company to shareholders and customers, playing to personal strengths. Comments on learning French and reading Le Monde newspaper. Remarks on Le Monde. Comments on responsibility for water supplies for Essex & Suffolk, North East Water, and desalination of water in Gibraltar. Remarks on planning processes; comparison to quicker French planning systems. Comments on raising level of Abberton Reservoir; reluctance of Ofwat to spend customers’ money. Description of taking water from sewage treatment plant back into public water supply for Essex & Suffolk. Comments on securing planning permission by going to planners, regulators, pressure groups to explain demand for water. Remarks on working in a team: role of chairman in a team, comparison to skills needed for teaching. [28:58] Mentions working three days a week as Chairman; living arrangements in Newcastle; London office. Mentions visiting Gibraltar. Comments on travelling with French water company and briefings from French Embassy. Mentions efficiency of French companies. Remarks on lack of punctuality of French colleagues. Remarks on British industry being betrayed by government. Comments on difficulty for British companies to takeover French companies. Comments on international business; mentions work with Shell. Remarks that international business is easier without wars between nations. Gives example of Shell Argentina refuelling [ARA General] Belgrano with Shell tanker. Mentions IRA (Irish Republican Army) knowledge that Shell was supplying British Army in Northern Ireland. [36:54] Mentions limited experience of working with British Embassies. Remarks on difficulties in Gibraltar. Description of desalination process using membranes and electrical energy. Mentions reservoirs in the Rock of Gibraltar. Comments on use of excess electrical energy from nuclear power to desalinate water; China and India considering desalination for domestic water. Remarks on expense of this process for irrigation. Description of Israel approach to rear plants tolerant to sea water. Description of previous process used for water supply in Gibraltar. Description of partnership with Gibraltar government. [45:04] Comments on organisational relationship between Northumbrian Water, North East Water, Essex & Suffolk: each a limited company. Remarks on French company retaining names of United Kingdom companies. Mentions Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux buying water companies overseas, for example in Manila. Comments on FH resigning from board temporarily to manage sale of Northumbrian Water by Suez. Mentions consortium that bought company. Mentions being on the AIM (Alternative Investment Market) prior to being on Main Market. Remarks on joining the AIM. Mentions that Northumbrian Water is still vulnerable to takeover. Remarks on general resistance to takeover. Remarks on French takeover; comments on French expertise. Description of managing change in the company by continuing work as usual. Description of French manager posted at Northumbrian Water, Patrick Babin. Mentions articles written for staff magazine: response from Trade Press, staff response. Remarks on winning over Trade Press. Story about a blackbird in FH’s garden being caught by a sparrow hawk; comparison to accidents at work. [57:13] Comments on meeting Patrick Babin at takeover negotiations. Story about telephone correspondence with Jérôme Monod about takeover bid. Comments on selling shares. Patrick Babin became Managing Director of Northumbrian Water. Mentions French research staff. Remarks on reluctance of French colleagues to accept Ofwat terms. Remarks on French knowledge of British water industry. Story about member of Lyonnaise des Eaux providing briefing to Buckingham Palace on water industry. Comments on environmental expertise provided by British team. Remarks on Northumbrian Water team prior to takeover. Mentions French companies supplying water to Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Algeria, Manila, South America, Buenos Aires. [1:07:12] Description of research developments due to work with French companies: desalination, work on sensors, use of ozone and UV sterilisation. Mentions reservoir of water under London; future use of desalination by Thames Water to exploit water. Remarks on cost of water. Comments on supplying and charging for water in Johannesburg [South Africa] with Lyonnaise des Eaux. Story about experiences supplying water in African and Indian villages; unresolved violence at water pumps. [1:14:39] Comments on impact of sale of Northumbrian Water by Suez. Description of lessons learnt about pursuing international contracts. Comments on holding annual general meetings after sale of company. Comments on correspondence with new shareholders; story about writing to shareholders on the Isle of Man. Story about responding to a question about aluminium levels in water. Story about poor water quality in a private well near a graveyard. [1:26:55] Remarks on being aware of shareholders when making decisions. Comments on opportunities for staff to make suggestions for improving services. Mentions cost of water treatment works built to resemble farm houses in the [Yorkshire] Dales. [1:33:37] Description of strategy for Northumbrian Water following sale by Suez: assembling new board, cleaning coastline, upgrading sewage treatment works.

  • Description

    Life Story Interview with Fred Holliday, former chairman of Northumbrian Water Group

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