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Signoff: David Taylor

RAY O'ROURKE doesn't look like a power-hungry schemer hell-bent on world domination, though if his eyes were a bit closer together and he started talking nonsense in a Texan drawl while trying to inhale pretzels, he might pass for one at a pinch.

Of course, Mr O'Rourke's ambitions aren't as awesome as George W Bush's but, within the context of the construction industry, they're quite breathtaking. Consider this: Mr O'Rourke bought that company for £1 and he's now aiming for a combined group turnover of £5 billion in eight years' time. I've never heard of anyone making a five-billionfold return on an investment within a decade.

So Ray O'Rourke has got sleeves rolled up and now he's ready to elbow his way past Amec and Balfour Beatty and anybody else who fancies themselves as a major contractor.

Good for him.

I'm not normally very keen on unfettered megalomania but I find myself strangely encouraged by Mr O'Rourke's ambitions. At a time when most big construction firms wince if you call them a contractor, it's good to see someone so determined to take on more and more building work.

It would be nice if Laing O'Rourke's quest for power encouraged other big firms to abandon their drift away from contracting and give the newcomer a run for its money. But even if they don't, it's not the end of the world.

Even if Ray O'Rourke becomes the most powerful contractor in the universe, he can't do much harm. It's not like he's got a nuclear arsenal - unlike George W Bush.

SINCE I've raised the subjects of Laing O'Rourke and spooky Americans, I thought this would be a good opportunity to tell you about a strange experience I had last week.

Returning from my regular pastoral visit to the chaps at Heathrow T5, I became uncomfortably aware of the fact that I was being followed.

My unwelcome companion actually tailed me all the way back to T4-2 headquarters behind the old gas works in Sydenham. I was shaken, I can tell you.

Once I was safely inside, I twitched back the net curtains to see my persecutor unfurl a banner proclaiming 'Save the Planet - Kill Yourself'.

I felt a spark of recognition: this slogan sounded familiar. Where had I seen it before? I racked my brains.

Was it something from a George Orwell novel? Had I seen it scrawled on a toilet wall? Or was it a chapter heading in the Kyoto Protocol?

Hmmm, I was sure I was getting warm.

Warm. Of course! I suddenly felt sure I'd read that phrase in the Government's Energy White Paper.

So this chap must be something to do with building regulations.

Feeling greatly relieved, I opened the front door and invited the fellow in. He was friendly enough, 'though he had an American accent and didn't seem to have heard of Paul Everall, the Government's building regs supremo. He told me that he and a few colleagues were spending time at the T5 site explaining a few environmental home truths to the folk who work there. Laudable, I thought, they're getting the message straight down to site level.

But as he warmed to his subject, my original discomfort began to creep back. The planet was dying, he said rather too forcefully, and we must make sacrifices.

What sort of sacrifices? I asked.

He handed me a leaflet and drew my attention to a heading: 'Four Pillars of Faith - Suicide, Abortion, Cannibalism, Sodomy'.

'How's that going to get U-values up?' I demanded to know.

Of course he wasn't from building regs at all, but from a weird cult called the Church of Euthanasia that's been targeting vulnerable workers on the T5 project. Unfortunately, I thought he said the 'Church of Youth in Asia' and sent him to see the Pentecostalists next door. They haven't spoken to me since.