A SHORT but important Christmas message has come our way from Secretary for Insecurity and Paranoia, Peter Lai. It is not marked 'confidential'. 'Security Regulation 232,' it remarks, 'says that waste material classified confidential, if to be destroyed by shredding, must be shredded to a width of 1mm or less, but need not be cross-cut . . . It has come to our attention that most of the shredders now available on the market have a cross-cut function. Shredders that only strip cut are rare and those producing a shred width of 1mm or less are expensive.' Insecurity Branch has taken this threat to the confidentiality of its waste very seriously. This is no trifling matter. After all, the Iranians learned the secrets of the Great Satan, America, by piecing together shredded documents from its Teheran Embassy. Imagine how much easier the job would have been if the shreds had been wider. Those non-existent records on civil servants' nationalities would be an embarrassing find if the Chinese were able to put them back together. But would Finance Branch understand if departmental security officers around the government kept demanding expensive shredders? No. So Mr Lai's men have decided waste 'may also be shredded to a width of 2mm or less with a cross cut at 20mm or less.' What a relief! But wouldn't old-fashioned destruction by swallowing be a cheaper and more secure alternative?. BRITISH Joint Liaison Group team leader Hugh Davies got into the festive swing of things the other day and took his colleagues to a meal at the Furama. The feasting and carousing over, he called for the bill. It came to $1997.06. Very apt for a man in his position. EXECUTIVE Councillor Tung Chee-hwa must be worried sick. Now he is apparently the main contender for Chief Executive, he wants to look good in China's eyes. The last thing he needed was to be praised by Chris Patten. That alone could be enough to blow his candidacy out of the water. All he needs is a few words of support from Martin Lee Chu-ming, and he's done for. BILL Dickson, the British Foreign Office spokesman, can stop fending off those calls politely inquiring the date of his departure. He's been getting a few since we mentioned the imminent return of his predecessor, Chris Osborne last week. But he's been able to tell everyone he is not about to jump on the next plane out. He's firmly entrenched as Media Helmsman for the foreseeable future. What does the Foreign Office do with men with Mr Osborne's spin-doctoring experience? What does it do with any spare diplomat nowadays, since they are all supposed to have the gift of the gab? It turns them into salesmen, in line with Britain's new policy of commercial diplomacy. When he finally gets here, Mr Osborne is expected to take on a commercial co-ordination role, organising visits, conferences and other high-powered diplomatic imperatives.