Monday, 30 November 2015

US, The Middle East and a Bar in Haifa

I have sat on this blog for a long time.  With renewed calls for British military campaigning in the Middle East, perhaps now is the time to tell the story.

It was late 2012 and work must have been heavy that day for I fancied a beer straight after.  Not in the hotel bar though.  I would inevitably be joined by colleagues, one beer would turn into two, three and I would be lucky to get out of there by nine o'clock for something to eat.  True, when compared to the UK, many restaurants in Haifa do open late.  All I wanted was one beer.  Slipping away, I walked around the corner and popped my head around the door of Charlie's Bar.  Apart from a single customer, whom I did not recognise, the place was empty.  Wonderful.

Charlie's Bar is the narrowest of strips so there isn't a lot of choice when it comes to seating.  Parking myself a few stools away from the stranger, I nod to him and order a Carlsberg.  It's true, a prospect of an Ice Cold In Alex can keep a guy going.

A bit to my surprise, the stranger starts talking.  He asks my business and I tell him that I am part of the team for gas exploration offshore Israel.  He seems satisfied.  I ask him who he is and what bring him to Israel?

The guy hesitates then asks the question "You are not anyone are you?"

The question sends me a bit sideways.  If I was just being polite previously, now he has my full attention.  But I don't show it.  After all, I had just told him what I do for a living.  Really, I am not anyone.  I therefore pull a long face downwards.

The gentleman is an American.  He asks me what do I know about the US forces in Afghanistan.  Not a lot but I know that the troops are there.  He then tells me that his ship is in the harbour and it is part of resupply convoy destined for Turkey.  I tell him that I have heard that supplies used to go via Pakistan but the Hindu Kush had been closed by the Taliban.  He seems a little disconcerted but agrees.  So I ask if the supplies now go overland from Turkey.  He says that this is the case.  The Silk Road has effectively been reopened.

Then I make the observation. "But we are not in Turkey are we?"
"No," he agrees.  "We are not in Turkey."
There is a tension in the room.
I shrug.  "Friends will help friends." I say.
He relaxes.  "Yes."  He takes a pull of his beer.
"Before I wasn't here, I wasn't in Egypt either."

Now my mind reeled.  Earlier in 2012 Muhammad Morsi had been democratically elected president of Egypt.  I knew that instant that if the Americans were still secretly supplying the Egyptian military, the Arab Spring in Egypt was screwed.  Morsi was indeed overturned in a military coup the following year.

During 2004, I turned forty and was on a beach in Bulgaria with the family.  My choice of reading that summer was Robert Fisk's Great War For Civilisation: The Conquest of The Middle East.  In 1982, during Israeli invasion of Lebanon, a Hellfire missile was flown into the back of an Lebanese ambulance, killing six people.  Local people gathered the fragments of the rocket and brought them to Fisk, who lives in the country.  He did a routine check on the serial numbers and was surprised to find that instead of being issued the the Israeli Defence Force, the weapon belonged to the US Marine Corp.  The question was therefore how was a Marine Corp Hellfire missile come to be launched from a IDF gunship into the back of Lebanese ambulance?
His research showed that the US military task forces active in the Persian Gulf was sail home via the Suez Canal.  Instead of turning left and heading straight home through the Mediterranean, there would be a slight detour to the Northeast.  Unused consumables, including weapons, would be offloaded in Haifa.  The warships would return to their bases empty and would be resupplied at the expense of the US taxpayer.  The process was a secret subsidy to Israel.

I knew that my encounter in Charlie's Bar not only confirmed Fisk's story but enlarged it.  It seems that Israel is not the only nation to benefit from American largesse.  Arms and supplies officially bound for US forces in Afghanistan were instead being sent to Egypt, Israel and goodness only knows what other US-backed nations en-route.

We come to today.  The UK is facing calls to take part in the bombing of Syria.  After the murderous outrages in Paris, the French have little choice.  In the UK, we do have a choice.  My experience in Israel has left me deeply cynical about the whole of the Middle Eastern wars.  It seems that the US is backing, either openly or in secret, many sides in the region.  Therefore adding to destruction will not in any way create peace.  It seems to me that the wars are a profit-driven venture.

Britain could instead start to genuinely act as an honest broker in the region.  This however would need a complete reversal to the policies currently being pursued.  Make no mistake here: as I outlined in my previous blog Drones, Britain is deeply embedded into arms research with Israel and the US.  This is wrong.

As such, I call upon my all friends and colleagues in the Liberal Democrats to have nothing further to do with these wars and not support the bombing of Syria.

Saturday, 21 November 2015


I have tried not the write about Syria because I have never been there.  Sure, I am aware of its history, both modern and ancient.  How between the great wars it was a protectorate of France and how the Ottoman Empire ruled.  The Ottomans were smart.  They did not care which tribe one came from nor which god one worships.  All they cared about was service to be empire and that one did not rock the boat. Before that were Mamluks and Mongols, the Crusaders,  Ayyubids, Byzantines and Romans, the Seleucids, the Persians, Assyrians, Hittites and the Phoenicians.  

Syria is recent.   Only her people, their cultures and great cities ever existed.  As a nation, Syria never really existed: she was either the seat of empires or the subject of others.  After World War Two however, Syria the nation rose and fell; even briefly entering a union with Nasser's Egypt.  Under the Ba'ath Party and the rule of the al-Assad, father and son, some sort of heavy-handed normality was established.  Although non-aligned, many of your middle and upper classes received a secular Russian education.  Russia supplied your military but you did not cut links with the French either.  Despite US bans on technological transfers, French oil companies still were free to help develop your oil wealth.  I even hoped one day to visit you, to see ancient Damascus, whose roots go deeper into history that any other city in the world.  I would have also loved to have visited the site of the ancient rebel Palmyra, to see the temples and palaces that remained of Queen Zenobyya's oasis realm.  The city that fought the might of the Roman Empire and almost won.  Yes,  I would have devoted wished to have seen you.

All this was so until the Arab Spring.  Ah, what misery it is to have neighbour turn against neighbour, tribe against tribe.  To endure not only a ruler whose peoples' blood means nothing but also the malice of other nations who would do nothing to help one side or the other.  Instead the conflict was nurtured, and how eagerly the different factions suckled the sour milk of hatred.  The longer the memories of past wrongs,  the more bitter the hurt unleashed.  Did you not notice your only reward was the mirth of your enemies?

Now a new peril has emerged, ISIS, who wish to recreate the Caliphate that never was.  Between the power-at-all-costs fanaticism of al-Assad and the mono-cultural and murderous fanaticism of ISIS, where do the people go?  The choice is either to become a fanatic or to flee.  So many have fled now.  Your neighbours are either full of your people or their gates are barred completely.  Others, especially the young who still have hope, look further afield to Europe but here the welcome is mixed.  Some people and nations welcome you with an open heart.  Others would sooner throw you back into the burning fire that was your home.  Your war spills into the streets of Paris and beyond.  For what?  How will such cruel deeds extinguish the fires that now blaze?

For still Syria burns.  It has become a playground of Hell and a purse for profiteers.  More bombs seem to be the answer offered to a question that is now forgotten: how to bring peace to these lands?

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Thirty Nine Barrels

I was Christmas shopping with the wife when the mobile phone rang.  It was not a welcome call.
"Martin, I have booked you on a flight to Angola for the 20th."  It was my manager John.
"Oh. What?!  Steve covers Angola.  Where the hell is he?"
"Steve has just checked himself into hospital.  Back problems."
"That son of a bitch just doesn't want to go!"

Everybody knew that Steve was faking it.  Even I had heard that, during a base meeting in September, he had stated that if a job came up over the Millennium celebrations he wouldn't be available.  Pretty ballsy to say that in front of the regional manager.  Besides, the guy was in his late twenties and built like an athlete.  He was less likely to suffer with back problems that I was to overdose during a rave.

I tried to call Steve on his mobile but naturally it was turned off.

"Well, that's Christmas and the Millennium cancelled," I tell my wife.

At least the flight down to Angola was uneventful.  Stavanger to London.  London to Luanda.  On the previous occasion I had been routed via Nairobi in Kenya (for reasons I have never discovered) but fog meant I had missed the forward connection.  No such drama this time.  In fact I was even met at the airport and, once I got to the base, things had improved there as well.  While still located at the port (to this day they have not re-mettled the old dirt road leading to it), instead of the mosquito-ridden cesspool of old containers that existed previously, the new place was modern, shaded and with a tarmac yard to boot.  Very nice.
While having a hoke around the yard, I came across a set of seismic tools set up in a seven by one-and-a-half metre orange tool rack.  Noting that the cables between the tools were ten metres long, I asked somebody whether these were the tools assigned to me.  No, I was told.  Those ones were for another job out of Luanda.  Simon was doing that job.  My tools were already offshore Cabinda. Fair enough.

That afternoon, I, along with another engineer and the local manager, went to the Chevron offices in town to discuss the upcoming job.
"Ah, glad you are here Martin.  We have a question for you.  The MLR [the downhole seismic tools] tools, how are they in rugged borehole conditions?"

The thing is with any borehole seismic array is that each set of geophones have to be acoustically isolated from each other.  They are therefore not connected by solid bars but rather by long sections of cable which are usually of ten to twenty metres in length.  It is therefore impossible to push them down a hole without risking a god-awful tangle.

"Not good", I reply.  "What is the borehole deviation?"
"Fifty-five degrees."
"Hmm.  Are you intending to run casing?"
"Yes we are.  Can you shoot through casing?"
"At fifty-five degrees, it should be no problem.  A good cement job always helps but at that angle there will be enough casing touching the borehole so that there will be a bond with the formation."
"That's settled then", smiles the Chevron manager.  "We'll run the VSP once the casing is set."
"When will that be?" I ask.
"Oh, after the first week in January."

In car back to the base, one could not but reflect that that conversation could have been done over the telephone.

The following day, the 22nd of December, I flew up to Cabinda.  Expecting the base to be a dry zone, I left in the Luanda staff house a litre bottle of duty-free vanilla vodka I had impulse-purchased in Heathrow duty-free.  Upon takeoff, the airplane went out to sea and stayed there.  Angola was still in the process of moving away from a series of civil wars and it was better safe than sorry.  As we headed north, the blue South Atlantic could be seen lapped against the white beaches far below.  On approach to Cabinda the plane circled the runway before landing.  I was amazed to see people casually waling across the concrete landing strip.  By the time we landed however, the runway was clear.

The Cabinda oil base starts offshore with a series of small platforms and tanker mooring points, then at the head of shallow cliffs by the sea are a series of giant oil storage tanks.  Below the cliffs and set back from the white sandy beach, largely populated by white burrowing crabs, are a row of small yards and bases where the oil-service companies have set up.  There is a more substantial jungle-covered hillside behind these and at the top of it, is a series of chalet bungalows, very American in style.  Frankly, it was rather nice.  Food was taken in a  low multi-storey block which doubled as offices and cafeteria, which reminded me a bit of a town hall.

The emergency drill for the base was simple.  A constant siren means pack a bag and get down to the dock for evacuation by boat.  A warbling siren means dig out the heavy kevlar blanket from the wardrobe and lie underneath it: the place is under artillery attack.  I did ask whether this had ever been necessary.  Apparently in years past some Cuban troops had taken pot shots.
I never saw but I was told that Angolan troops surrounded the entire base, as did a series of minefields.  I did see the night spotter plane that constantly circled, without navigation lights, using heat-detecting technology to spot infiltration attempts.  Being of a curious nature, I asked if that had ever happened.  Apparently its major success was to spot a couple having illicit sex on the beach.

After lunch, I took the minibus down to the beach base.  It was the kind of short bus used in Britain during the late 1970s and into the 80s.  The base itself was small and the guys friendly: an American, Brit and Italian.  We had a company car too!  The most knackered VW Golf my eyes ever had the misfortune to look upon.  It still had seats, a steering wheel and four tires in each corner but most of the rest had gone, fallen either to rust or theft.  The door panels were completely empty.
The working yard was unpaved.  I found some seismic tools and decided they needed a bit of a clean up.  Naturally I didn't want to drag them through the sand after been cleaned either so it was little fun lifting a 67kg, 1.6m long tool and carrying it clear of the soft sand.

I got on very well with Jim, the American.  He was one of those larger-than-life characters, soon telling me of his teenage exploits of ordering hookers and drinks on his father's credit credit while staying at Las Vegas.
"Wait Jim," I said.  "Didn't you say that you are a Mormon?"
"Ah Martin," he replied with relish.  "That just makes the sin all the more sweeter."  Not that there was much opportunity for such sin in Cabinda.  Assuming the base was dry, I had left the duty-free bottle of vanilla vodka in the company staff house in Luanda.  That turned out to be a mistake as expat workers were allowed to buy a small quality of beer each day. A four-pack of small Heinekens does not go very far but it was better than nothing.  Meanwhile the local workers were allowed unlimited purchases, which they took fully advantage of: carrying out beer by the slab.  They would grin widely as us northerners would try to buy more than our allotted amount, only to be gleefully refused by the officious clerk.

That first day I went down to the beach and was amazed to see not only the white burrowing crabs but a family of rather scraggy-looking sea eagles: mum, dad and large fledgling.  The young bird amused itself by casually capturing and killing crabs.  Not much effort was made to eat them.  My sense of joy was added to when, as I was sitting looking at the sea-eagle's antics, a large dark back broke through the surf.  A nesting sea turtle hauled herself out of the sea and up the beach.  It was bright daylight; I thought that turtles only came out at night.  She came right towards me and only reacted with I stood up.  Hissing suddenly, it focused upon me with salt-filled eyes filled with displeasure and laboriously turned around and headed back into the sea.
I felt bad about disturbing the turtle,  Next day though I saw a local guy with a cloth bag slung around his shoulder.  He carried a long thin stick, taller than himself.  Apparently such men used the stick to probe the sand, with turtle eggs providing a welcome supplement to the family diet.
The tools went offshore on the 23rd and I followed on Christmas Eve, expecting to spend the rest of the trip there.  The helicopter itself was an ancient Bell, the kind of shopper made famous in various Vietnam war movies.   During the safety briefing, we passengers are strongly reminded again that in event of a crash landing over water, not to inflate life-vests until outside the chopper.  The week before one of these Bell's had gone down into shallow water.  A couple of Angolans on board had panicked and pulled the inflation line.  Despite the shallowness of the water, they could not be removed in time and their bodies eventually had to be retrieved by divers.

Upon arrival and much to my surprise, Derek the wireline engineer had set up the entire seismic equipment and checked it out too.  Until recently he had been a seismic engineer.  That was great.  I took the opportunity both to thank him profusely and recheck the equipment along with my recently-arrived downhole tools.  Not because I didn't trust Derek; it was just part of the job.  Having satisfied myself that all was in order, I asked what the lookahead plans were.  Open-hole logging was due to start in a few days and a full program taking at least five days.  After that the open section of the well would be lined with steel casing, the casing would be secured to the well-bore walls with cement and then it would be my turn.
Checking with both Derek and the Company Man - who is the head client representative on board, that it was okay, I booked myself a seat on the Christmas morning chopper.

As we are waiting to board, a huge American cementer struggles with his life jacket.  This guy is tall, yes, but the mass is mostly fat: he is easily over 160kg.  He sits by the starboard window and I mentally decide that if the chopper goes down, I'm out the other side.  There is no way he will be getting out and I was not eager to keep him company.  As the chopper lifts, I honestly expect it to be tilted on that side.  It didn't tilt of course but there is no way that a man like that would get medical approval to be offshore in the North Sea.

The Christmas lunch was worth the flight.  Eight huge turkeys had been laid out and the cooks stood proudly by, beaming in the praise they so well deserved.  It was rather strange eating a full Christmas meal when the temperatures are so hot outside, but the dining hall was well air conditioned.  The weight of the turkey, trimmings and pudding only made itself known once outside in the heat of a tropical early afternoon.  I walked down the hillside road to the base afterwards: a distance of just less than a mile.  With all the equipment offshore there was not so much to do and besides, it was Christmas Day.

It was a few days after Christmas when I first noticed the helicopter.  Not the usual crew change choppers but a small, bubble-domed two-man chopper; probably an early Bell, the kind thing they flew on M.A.S.H.  It was flying up and down, about a kilometre offshore.  Beneath it was suspended a boom arm which reminded me of a crop sprayer.  The next day came the smell.  A thick chemical smell that drove people indoors.  The day after that, the slick hit.

If you have every seen pictures of oil slicks hitting a beach, they are unable to do justice to reality.  The smell of oil and chemicals is horrendous.  The oil stands easily fifteen centimetres thick without support.  Everything is wiped out.  Crabs gone.  Eagles gone.  Turtles gone.  All replaced by a noisome black sludge.

Out of all the downs of working in the industry: the abuse, the sleep deprivation, being away from the family, the unsympathetic and even bullying management; none of these ever ever came close to having me quit the industry more than the experience of that oil slick wiping out a tropic beach.

What we we told?  How were the personnel instructed upon the situation?  What measures were issued to to protect us or the environment?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  The air we breathed could have been a very poison but Chevron said nothing to us.  In fact, they made sure that we said nothing.  A colleague who started to talk about the slick on the telephone had the line cut.  Emails did not make it through their destination.  Chevron did their best to ensure there was a complete news blackout.

While none of the employees of service companies were told a damned thing, of course word did leak out.  I was invited down one night to an annex off the main living quarters.  It was effectively a small village where the old regular service hands lived.  They got the supplies from the main canteen and did their own cooking.  They also did their own drinking and none of this four-small -tinnie-nonsense: a bottle of vodka per man was not unusual per person each night.  I can drink but never learned to keep up with that rate.

As the vodka and tonics flowed, the chatter increased.  It started innocently enough.  Small talk.   was introduced to what I was told was the hottest chilli sauce in the world.  One drop would season a cauldron of stew.  Two drops would spice it and three would kill it.  I was advised to wash my hands simply after holding the bottle.  I did so: why the hell would I not?  By the end of the meal the talk turned to the slick.

This is a summary of the story as I was told it.  The country was undergoing a process called "Angoladisation" which involves getting rid of the the ex-pat workers and bringing in local staff instead.  Some local guy was on night shift and it was his job to monitor the levels in the oil-storage tanks which are situated at the top of the low cliffs.   At about one o'clock in the morning, an alarm tripped.  He did what any local would have down: turned off the alarm and went back to sleep.  By eight o'clock in the morning between 20,000 and 40,000 barrels of crude oil had been pumped into the sea just offshore.

Here's the rub though.  Corporate headquarters in Houston had declared that thirty nine barrels of oil had been spilt.  Only thirty nine as a forty barrel spill had to be reported to the international authorities.  Despite the local management trying to disperse the slick with what was locally available, they were overwhelmed.  Because it was only thirty nine barrels of oil however, no hope was sent from the outside.  We were on our own.

In all the years that passed since, that was the single most despicable and cynical decision by an oil company I have personally come across.

New Year's came and a group of us were on a hill top overlooking the local village.  At about half-past-midnight, a few fireworks fluttered up into the sky.  That was the Millennium celebrations done.

I must have been walking to work next day when a long convey of black limousines and SUVs rolled into the base and drove up towards the offices.  Official pennants fluttered from some of the car bonnets.  "Oh oh," I thought to myself.  "Shit is hitting fan."  It was about time.   Almost a week had gone by since the discharge had occurred.

It proved to be an eventful day.  On the way back up the hill, I was walking back up the hill when I heard a rustle from the jungle from about twenty metres to the right side.  Ahead of me and walking straight a large black-backed jackal emerged.  I judged the speed and distance and it seemed we were on a collision course.  It was also a jackal which was supposed to be timid so making a noise to draw his attention, I kept walking.  The jackal looked over, saw me and also kept walking.  This guy was not backing down.  So much for jackals being timid.  He was a big canine: almost the size of a German Shepard.   Our eyes locked and we both stopped simultaneously, no more than two metres away from each other.

There was no way I was going to turn my back on this fellow.  Still holding each other's gaze, we gradually edged around each other, me to the right and the dog to the left.  Holding my ground, I turned to follow his path into the bush.  All the time we held eye contact.  I only moved one was convinced he was gone.  I have no idea whether there was any danger and probably in the view of animal psychologists it may have been completely the wrong thing to do.  Stuck on that road alone with a quite a large wild predator, one can only do one's best.

That night down the old ex-pats' enclave there was a fair amount of racist banter going down.  Apparently the delegation had responded to Chevron's claims over thirty nine barrels with "We may be black but we are not stupid."
"Hang on a minute there," piped up an ancient Schlumberger hand, to general laughter.  Okay, that was witty but on the whole many of the white workers were just plain nasty about the Africans.  When challenged, the rationale of one individual was "You don't have to be racist because you don't have to work with the fuckers every day."  Although genuinely sickened by some of the attitudes displayed, from thereafter I kept off the subject altogether.

Finally, finally finally, it came time to get offshore again.

As the chopper lifted to about 1000 feet, the extent of the pollution could be seen.  For miles in both directions, the beaches were black.  The ocean was discoloured for a mile or so from the beach, with an obvious line marking the edge of the oil slick.  I did not see any evidence of oil booms or other forms of containment being deployed.

The job itself went well as far as the seismic was concerned but the Company Man seemed a mite ungrateful when I pointed out I thought there was no cement over the interval which the well was due to be perforated.
"What?" he almost shouted  "Schlumberger told me they did a good cement job."
"That is not what the seismic data is telling me," I replied.  "I recommend you run an SBT over the interval."   With bad grace the Company Man concurred.  The issue is that explosive charges are used to blow holes through the steel and cement so that the oil can flow into the well.  If there is space on the outside though, the oil can also migrate upwards and perhaps into formations above.  This would reduce production and in extreme cases even lead to oil seeming out on the surface.  Thus an acoustic cement bond tool can be run in order to find out the true state of the cementing job.

After the cement bond tool was run, the Company Man even had the nerve to come back to me to complain that the cement job was even worse than I had predicted.  The ingrate.

That was pretty much that.  Job done and processed.  I had a few moe days on the beach cleaning the equipment and packing it up ready for the next job.  Upon arrival though I had a panicked call from the operations manager in Luanda.

"Martin!  How long are the interconnects on your MRL?" [Translation: how long are the cables between the geophones?].
"Fifteen metres.  Why?"
"I want you to measure them."
"I know they are fifteen metres.  What is going on?"
"Measure them.  There has been another job where ten metre cables have been used and it wasn't noticed."
"Oh, was it using those tools in the yard in Luanda?  Yes I know they have ten metre cables."
"You knew?  How did you know?"
"Well," I said.  "I looked at them.  I saw they were short and there gathered they were ten metres in length.  I'm sure mine are fifteen metres but just for you I'll make sure when I'm cleaning them."

Then home.  The flight from Cabinda to Luanda was depressing.  The distance from the base to the mouth of the Congo to the south is about sixty miles.  Oil covered the beaches for every single mile.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Double Standands: Pharmacy Companies vs. the Individual Pharmacist

I'm sure that in your household, like millions of others, the Pharmaceutical Journal forms the bedrock of breakfast table reading.  One story (also covered in the obscure publication The Daily Mail) was about a company, Pharmacy2U, being fined £130,000 ( about $200,000) for the selling of over 20,000 customer records to anybody willing to stump up £130 per thousand records.

Quoted in tPJ, David Smith deputy commissioner of the Information Commissions Office said: "Patient confidentiality is drummed into pharmacists.  It is inconceivable that a business in this sector could believe these actions were acceptable.  A reputable company has made a serious error of judgement and today faces the consequences of that.  It should send out a clear message to other companies that the customer data they hold is not theirs to do with as they wish."

To be fair to the company, Pharmacy2U has accepted the fine and offered sincere apologies.  This is not enough though.  The computer systems in the NHS are still not joined up and under current rules cannot be owing to the risk to client confidentiality.  It is still not unusual for a qualified pharmacist having to take a trip across town to collect records of a new patient because she has no direct computer access to those records: a shocking waste of skill and resources.   The breach of patient (not customer) confidentiality by Pharmacy2U may well put back progress in having an integrated patient database available to health professionals.

The double standards though comes with how accountable a company is compared to an individual pharmacist working in the NHS.  Pharmacy2U sold the records of over 20,000 patients, has been found out and fined £130,000.  Beyond some damage to its professional reputation, that is pretty much it.  No individual is held to legal account.  Contrast this to a NHS pharmacist would takes an unauthorised look at a patient's records.  All data searches are traced to individual users so if the person searching does not have the right to look at the data, they stand not only to face disciplinary action and being struck off the register of practicing pharmacists, but also the criminal sanction of imprisonment.   This is not theoretical: pharmacists do get struck off for data breaches and prescription mistakes.

While individual pharmacists who breach rules are left without a profession and possibly with a criminal record, a pharmacy company takes a rap on the knuckles.  "Why?" one irate pharmacist asked me. "Isn't any of the directors being sent to prison?"

Even if it is decided that prison is too tough a sanction, surely it is right that those who have responsibility for patient data should face the possibility of being declared as unfit persons to hold a directorship, if that confidentiality is breached.