Business and politics

 

As someone who has been a Chairman of industrial companies  in the past I have always thought it best to express no political views in such a role. The interests of a  business  require the company to get on well with customers, advisers and suppliers with a  very wide range of political views. Plunging the company into high political controversy may simply alienate people you need to keep on side. The company needs to show it understands and can work with people of very differing opinions. It is also a community of people with very different attitudes and backgrounds.

If government decides to take an action like imposing a new law or tax that would damage the business interest, then of course the company may wish by agreement between the Board and shareholders lobby or argue against the proposal. This is best done through the proper channels. Companies, like individuals, belong to a particular constituency and can always approach their constituency MP to take up their case. They can also write in directly to Ministers. Some choose to spend money on lobbyists, which should be done   carefully and requires good  choice.  Lobbyists who become too enthusiastic or too careless about the rules can get the company into trouble.

Recently there is a new vogue abroad. Various companies have decided to give us their opinion on the Scottish referendum, and on membership of the EU. As a democrat who  believes in good debate, I have no objection to this. I merely ask the companies two questions. Will their expression of view help the cause they espouse, or could it put people off if they think they are being hectored by big business? And is it wise for any individual business to declare a political view on one or both of these very emotional and sensitive subjects?

I can seek to answer this question from an independent viewpoint, as businesses are interfering in the Scotland question mainly on the side of the Union which I also  support, whilst companies talking about the EU mainly speak on the other side to my view.

It seems to me in the case of the Scotland debate it could become counterproductive for too many companies to claim they will leave Scotland if the Scots vote for independence. It would not be good if the independence cause is associated with resisting the pressures and hectoring of big business, with Alex Salmond reassuring people that they probably do not mean their threats. Companies that appear to be anti Scotland may lose support in Scotland for their pains.

In the case of the EU argument any business which puts forward the lie that we will lose 3 million jobs if we vote to leave the EU but have instead some kind of trade arrangement deserves to lose customers  and annoy people. I am glad to see the CBI accepts that if we change our relationship or simply vote for out we will not lose all our export jobs, if for no other reason than the rest of the EU will still want to sell us more than we sell them and will seek successor arrangements to do so.

So maybe I should welcome misguided businesses trying to mislead electors about the trade and jobs position, as the electorate will see through it and respond negatively to those who put out that lie. What we do know from the polling is any company being too trusting and supportive of our current EU entanglement is upsetting more than half its potential customers in the UK.

We also need to remind electors that in the past certain big  businesses intervened in the debate in favour of the Exchange Rate Mechanism, a ruinous policy which destroyed many jobs and hopes. These same big companies also tried to get us to join the Euro, though here wiser decisions were made by the politicians. As these pro Euro companies have been twice badly wrong, their credibility as they tell us today the current EU is just fine for them should cause us to doubt rather than to fall in line. I do not recall any large company leaving the UK in the way they threatened when we did  not join the Euro, so they presumably did change their mind in a sensible way about that aspect of the EU plan.

 

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60 Comments

  1. Lifelogic
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    Well up to a point companies should keep their heads down. But often, in a desire to sound “nice” and all things to all people companies allow huge harm from government lunacy. Trying to be kind to staff, embracing “fake green” marketing and similar madness many companies encourage totally idiotic laws on employment, over regulation, over taxation, expensive fake green energy, gender neutral pensions (and insurance) and other Cameron type of compete imbecilities.

    These idiotic laws usually damage everyone, the customers, the public, the share holders and these employees.

    I see Ed Davey is telling skeptics (with his usual pathetic appeal to the authority of the climate change scientists) to shut up. He seems to have no rational arguments to put and is simply not listening to the right scientists. Sensible physicists like Prof Lindzen, Freeman Dyson types and countless others (who are not on the make from the “climate change” industry) think catastrophic AGW is a huge exaggeration and is wasting billions (and not even reducing c02 anyway). Davey’s rotating bat/bird exploding crucifix religion is just bonkers. Sensible economists think spending money, to perhaps reduce temperatures in 100 years is pissing money down the drain.

    I am very worried about Clegg too with his forthcoming radio debate with with Nigel Farage. What on earth will Clegg say? He simply has no clothes or rational arguments to put. The only rational argument is surely that if we left the EU then our “EU friends” will gang up on the UK to intentionally damage it, but they surely do that far more effectively through absurd regulations and laws while we remain in.

    • Hope
      Posted March 8, 2014 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      Cameron stated he only wanted skilled, qualified immigrants working in Britain. Does Clegg’s and his nanny fit this category? Are there not British unemployed people who could have fulfilled this role? Once again, JR writes a sensible blog with merit, however I do not think it is mirrored by the Tory modernising elite, whether it be business, employment, or anything else to do with the EU. Cameron cannot be trusted.

      Cameron is the prime minister you would have thought he would set example for what he says to country.t his is why he will not be elected in 2015, and deservedly so.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted March 9, 2014 at 7:25 am | Permalink

        It is not just Cameron but over half the Tory party that Cannot be trusted,
        they are Libdem, career politicians.

    • Kenneth R Moore
      Posted March 8, 2014 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

      There is no rational argument for EU membership just lies…3 million jobs depend on our membership of the EU…it’s not the time to pull up the drawbridge blah blah blah

    • uanime5
      Posted March 9, 2014 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

      He seems to have no rational arguments to put and is simply not listening to the right scientists.

      How are climate change deniers with no evidence to back up their claims the “right scientists”? Surely the scientists whose evidence has been repeatedly proved correct are the right scientists.

      Sensible physicists like Prof Lindzen, Freeman Dyson types and countless others (who are not on the make from the “climate change” industry) think catastrophic AGW is a huge exaggeration and is wasting billions (and not even reducing c02 anyway).

      Yet have no evidence to back up their claims nor any explanation as to why the average global temperature has been rising for over 100 years.

      Sensible economists think spending money, to perhaps reduce temperatures in 100 years is pissing money down the drain.

      Well it’s a good thing that the government is listening to scientists and their evidence, rather than economists and their uncorroborated feelings.

  2. Mike Stallard
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    What a wise and thoughtful article! Well written!
    It is a pleasure to read a politician who understands business – and an increasingly rare event too.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted March 8, 2014 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      In connection with “understanding business” I see Vince Cable the anti-business secretary says: Teachers Know Nothing Of World Of Work. One wonders how on earth he would know?

      Businesses just want to be left alone and not taxed/regulated out of business. All they need from government is law and order & a fair and cost effective legal framework & mechanism. One with a fair risk reward balance which is also sadly lacking in the UK.

  3. Alan
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    It seems to me very useful that companies that think they can see how their businesses will be affected by Scottish independence or leaving the EU should state their opinions publicly. The great problem with these issues is that we, who do not spend a great proportion of our time considering these matters, have to make an important and almost irreversible decision in the absence of good information. Anything that attempts to clear the clouds of uncertainty and is presented honestly should be welcome.

    Having said that I expect the decisions to be made on the basis of emotion, not rational analysis. We won’t have enough facts on which to base a rational decision, and most people would not want to spend the time considering them if we did. Instead we will decide on the basis of which argument sounds most persuasive, or which politician speaks best, or on fear or hope.

    Whether you regard that as an argument for or against using referenda as a method of making important decisions is another controversial topic. Referenda are not in my view a method of getting a good decision. The best that can be argued for them is that they are a method of making a decision in cases where you want to feel assured that most of the people who will be affected will accept the outcome.

  4. Alan Hill
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Large Scottish companies are British as well as Scots. Most of them will for good commercial reasons choose to remain British if the Scots choose independence and they are right to draw attention to this.

  5. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    It is a delicate balance between all powers. If an individual can get support, then complaints can spoil a company ,especially a small one, therefore complaints can be a creative project, based on lies which need fighting legally.

    If a government makes prosperity difficult for companies, by imposing or siding with those who make it impossible to prosper, then that is also a restricting power.

    If companies begin to worry that their profits are falling , then competition tactics can be dirty and underhand and would be difficult to pin point.

    Society is up against the power of bias and restriction. For example one of my jobs entails entering into peoples houses and needs to be carefully executed. I am not allowed to go into one persons house as it is said that I am too posh.The careful approach to be well mannered and respect an individuals property is seen as ‘posh’. This also can be aligned to those who knock on the doors of houses whilst electioneering.

    Another great problem I have faced for many years ,is the sometimes group , sometimes individual, attempt to turn things around .This is a’ mind game’ which if backed up by a group of others with an attention of covering something up or misappropiating something, can be destructive and bring companies, individuals and political parties down.

    Another simple example of how this manifests itself in the bigger picture is as follows; I was driving in the dark evening visiting houses with a student in my car. She was horrified when I stopped on my side of the road allowing the oncoming traffic to pass, was then was beeped at, faced angry signing by drivers who had some sort of misplaced perceptions , when I was following the code of driving. This is a small problem ,but as it grows can be very dangerous.

    These power balances are far away from the simple lives we all, by comparison used to live in and on large scales are breeding societies of cheats and liars.

    • margaret brandreth-j
      Posted March 8, 2014 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

      i.e ” with an intention of covering something up” NOT attention . Not a very well constructed comment , but the intention was to highlight how changing things around can ruin business or individuals lives .

  6. Alan Wheatley
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Companies expressing an opinion would have done better to have kept their opinion to themselves.

    If companies place relevant facts in the public domain then that is to be welcomed. For instance, where a company currently based in Scotland but with the majority of their customers in England say, because of the rules under which they operate, they would have to move their HQ to England in the event of Scottish independence.

    If companies offers an analysis and reasoned argument in support of the facts, then I would say that too is beneficial. Such companies have to bear in mind that they expose themselves to attack as to the quality of their analysis and argument, so they better be sustainable.

  7. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    JR: “In the case of the EU argument any business which puts forward the lie that we will lose 3 million jobs if we vote to leave the EU but have instead some kind of trade arrangement deserves to lose customers and annoy people.”
    Well said and that applies also to MPs who regularly peddle that “lie”. In fact one party (your coalition partner) is presently espousing that “lie” at its spring conference in York. Unfortunately, they are not alone as Labour and many members of your own party support the “lie” rather than your view.

  8. alan jutson
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    You make some interesting points John, but I wonder exactly how much influence company statements do have on potential customers.

    Surely there is no better example than the sponsorship of a football team.
    Would the fact that a Company pours tens of millions into a certain club, mean that all of its supporters will purchase its products, or all of its competitors teams supporters refuse to purchase such, simply because of a club association.

    I think I understand your thought process, and I agree that any Company should be careful in how it makes public comment, but comment sometimes is a necessary requirement.

    My biggest concern is the use of lobbyists, and how Mp’s seem to allow themselves to be highjacked by these organisations,

    Yes wise Council is always the best advice, and the CBI should perhaps be the spokesmen of large businesses, smaller businesses should perhaps use their local business support network, perhaps it is not as public, but it should have useful and meaningful contact arrangements with its local Mp on a regular basis in any case.

  9. Gary
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Yes, we keep hearing that the EU will continue to trade with an independent UK, of course, the EU trades with the entire world. But more pertinently, will the rest of the world want to trade with the UK when they can get access to 17(or whatever the number is) EU countries with a single entry permit and a single currency ? Why should they duplicate all paperwork and forex just to trade with the UK?

    Already Nissan and Toyota have threatened to withdraw from the UK if we pull out of the EU.

    Financially only a fool would deny that a single market is not economically sound in principle. The nub of the skeptic argument is that we risk losing The City to Frankfurt, which they won’t publicly admit to, and we will be in a political dictatorship, which we already are. So where’s the beef?

    • Gary
      Posted March 8, 2014 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      “Financially, only a fool would deny that
      a single market is not economically
      sound in principle.”

      I should edit my double negatives before I post. Should read :

      ” Financially ,only a fool would say that
      a single market is not economically
      sound in principle.”

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted March 8, 2014 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

        Well, that’s apart from the companies who complain that as far as they are concerned the costs of the Single Market exceed its benefits.

        From last November:

        http://www.conservativehome.com/thetorydiary/2013/11/business-is-more-eurosceptic-than-self-appointed-pro-eu-voices-let-on.html

        “Already, the nascent pro-Brussels campaign British Influence has been tweeting endlessly about the importance of the Single Market to the UK. They seem to view it as a silver bullet argument. And yet, the BfB polling found business thinks the costs of the Single Market now outweigh the benefits – by 46 per cent to 37 per cent.

        Small businesses are the most concerned about the costs, while big businesses are the most relaxed.”

        In fact was what was found as long ago as 2006, when Ruth Leas had an article in the Telegraph entitled:

        “It’s official. The Single Market costs outweigh the benefits”

        In which she wrote:

        “Business is going cold on the Single Market. A majority of businesses polled said the costs of the Single Market’s regulations outweighed the benefits. And, by a margin of 60pc to 30pc, business supported moves to renegotiate the existing treaties and, essentially, reduce the UK’s relationship with the EU to a basic free trade area. This would, of course, mean repealing the European Communities Act of 1972 which took the UK into the European Community.

        In the business community, at least, it is no longer heretical to suggest that the UK should move to a free trade area with the EU. Given the cost-benefit analysis, it would be amazing if it were otherwise. There is no need to be defensive or apologetic about this position. It now increasingly appears to be the mainstream position.

        And it is increasingly clear that those who believe otherwise are behind the times, locked in the out-dated geo-politics and geo-economics of the mid-20th century.”

        That’ll include you and yulwaymartin then, locked into out-dated thinking.

        • yulwaymartyn
          Posted March 8, 2014 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

          Denis – you quote Conservative Home. What do you think they are going to say? You of all people, who provides copious detail and research material on this blog, can do far better than rely on what is a biased and to my mind, ridiculous, source of information. You might like to expand your research sources. May I suggest you read some of Dr Roberta Guerrina’s material; Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies, University of London. Its dated 2012 and nothing to do with being outdated.

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted March 9, 2014 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

            Do you want it all presented on a plate? It wouldn’t have been terribly difficult for you to have gone to that article whereupon you could have followed the link to the actual poll which was provided in its first paragraph. If you chose you could also have found my comment on the article, in which I quoted more extensively from the 2006 article by Ruth Lea. I have a copy of that article but unfortunately it’s no longer on the Telegraph website, otherwise I would have given a link to that as well.

    • arschloch
      Posted March 8, 2014 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      Even inside of the EU I would bet if the differential in labour costs made it worthwhile Nissan would be straight out of Sunderland. Just like Siemens did with their micro chip plant in North Shields or Cadburys did in Bristol. Why inconvenience yourself with the cost of ferrying your cars across the North Sea, when if you are in Poland or the Czech Rep, you can just stick them on a train to wherever the buyers are? Even being outside of the EU, for the meanwhile, Hewlett Packard have still found it profitable to make the printer attached to this PC in the Ukraine. The more EU pushes eastwards and a literate, cheaper and more “flexible” labour force can be found the less the UK appears to be an attractive place to do business.

    • yulwaymartyn
      Posted March 8, 2014 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      Gary. Of course you are correct.

      Only a fool would not understand the resentment caused in the remainder of the EU by this ludicrous concept of the UK leaving the EU. Why don’t those advocating this themselves leave the UK and leave us who are in business with the EU and making the money and PAYING THE TAXES to get on with it.?

      • Mark B
        Posted March 8, 2014 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

        As someone you might consider a fool, can you explain your first paragraph to me ? Only I think looking round the EU and seeing the state it is in, I think the UK leaving would be the last of their worries.

        ” . . . leave us who are in business with the EU and making the money and PAYING THE TAXES to get on with it.?”

        As with Gary, this sentence clearly shows that you simply do not understand the issues. Also, you are speaking from a position of self interest. Whilst there is no shame in that, (see by reply to this article below) you confuse a small mater of your wealth with the governance of a Nation and its people. This strikes me not so much as foolish, but selfish, ignorant and irresponsible.

        You can still trade with the EU (political project) and have access to the Single Market / EEA (trade agreement).

        http://www.efta.int/free-trade

        Please click on the map and work through it.

        And as for taxes. Yes, we all pay those and £2.5 billion pounds worth has just been demanded by the EU.

        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2573051/EU-demands-Britain-pays-2-5bn-plug-massive-black-hole-budget-Plea-makes-mockery-claims-spending-control.html

        • uanime5
          Posted March 9, 2014 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

          Mark B you seem to have ignored that those in the EEA and EFTA still have to obey EU laws in exchange for having access to the single market. Though being part of the EEA means we don’t have to pay the EU’s taxes we also lose our ability to influence these laws.

      • forthurst
        Posted March 8, 2014 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

        “Only a fool would not understand the resentment caused in the remainder of the EU by this ludicrous concept of the UK leaving the EU.”

        Only a fool would attenuate their behaviour purely in order appease others; we’ve had far too much of that in this country already.

        Why do Europhiles claim only that we would lose 3 million jobs if we left the EU? Why not claim that we will not have to house, educate, provide healthcare and in and out of work benefits for millions of Europeans and their families” or obey laws on energy production and the rest? Not scary enough?

        Why not claim that we will not have to contribute toward the 3 billion euros the EU has promised Ukraine, a country not even in the EU or with a constitutionally elected government?

        Why not claim that we will not belong to a “new country” stretching from the Atlantic to the Urals?

        No. The only excuse given by europhiles for staying in is a big fat lie about 3 million lost jobs of which the EU woud lose more if we left and they failed to grant admission to the EEA and failed to uphold existing international trade agreements. The reason that europhiles only use this excuse, is because they know everything else is manifestly desirable by even the simplest soul.

        I have no intention of leaving England because I am English, but I would be prepared to very actively assist the departure of those who wish to destroy my country as I consider them traitors.

        • Gary
          Posted March 8, 2014 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

          I would like to see a set of costed forecasts of what we would pay in and what economies of scale we would extract by joining or remaining in the single market. We only hear of the costs and alot of hand waving. What are the incomes?

          I just know that it is always better in pure economic terms to have a single currency(I would prefer gold that govts cannot print ) and a tendency for lower tariffs and duties and less red tape between trading partners.

        • uanime5
          Posted March 9, 2014 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

          While the UK may lose 3 million jobs if we leave the EU and the EU will lose 4 million jobs as the EU has more than 3 times the population of the UK this means that these job losses will harm the UK much more than it harms the EU.

          Reply Why would your beloved EU stop trading with us? Don’t be so silly.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted March 8, 2014 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

        Are you sure that it would be enough for such people to leave the country rather than upset you with their disagreement? You don’t want to go as far as suggesting that it would be better if they dropped dead, then?

      • libertarian
        Posted March 8, 2014 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

        Yulwaymartyn

        Er I know you’re not very knowledgable about business and economic activity but that post really takes the biscuit.

        For your misguided information 85 that is EIGHTY FIVE % of UK economic activity is INTERNAL and therefore the greatest proportion of tax is paid in that way too.

        Those TINY few who make money out of the EU such as yourself are irrelevant in the overall economic and business scheme.

        Rather than calling others foolish I would suggest you try joining the rest of us in the 21st Century long tale, digital age. Stop with the imperialism and empire building let go of your politics and look at pragmatic long term strategy. Then you are a person that based his opinions on the UK housing market based on what one friend did about 6 houses in Camden so your actual credibility is pretty non existent.

        • uanime5
          Posted March 9, 2014 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

          Those TINY few who make money out of the EU such as yourself are irrelevant in the overall economic and business scheme.

          Those tiny few are the reason why the UK’s trade deficit isn’t getting any larger.

          Rather than calling others foolish I would suggest you try joining the rest of us in the 21st Century long tale, digital age. Stop with the imperialism and empire building let go of your politics and look at pragmatic long term strategy.

          How is isolating the UK a long term strategy? Surely we should be doing the opposite by increasing trade with the EU and other countries.

    • Mark B
      Posted March 8, 2014 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      Gary

      There is a difference between the Single Market / EEA and a Political Union (EU). The very fact that you equate that access to the Single Market can only be achieved by continued membership of the EU shows that you lack any understanding of the subject.

      The UK, and for that matter Scotland, can get access to the Single Market / EEA and not be part of the EU. Switzerland do it and we can also use EFTA / EEA membership. Business need not worry on these matters, as membership of the EU is not a business matter but a Sovereignty one.

      • Gary
        Posted March 8, 2014 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

        try reading what I wrote before you shoot from the lip.

        I said we will have no problem trading with the EU, and the EU will have no problem trading with us because they trade with the entire world already. Where there may be a problem, as Nissan and Toyota have already implied, is that the rest of the world may have a problem trading with us.

        Why should the countries of the world get one permit to trade with 17 countries in the richest trading block in the world, in a single currency and then bother to have to go through the entire process again for a relatively small country 20 miles from Europe and get another set of permits and the headache of another forex quagmire? Far easier to just relocate their factories within the EU.

        Also, you keep making the elementary mistake of not recognising a credit restructuring for what it is. If you are trying to contract credit to live within your means, then you suffer pain and unemployment, but it is the correct medicine for the long term. The alternative is to crack open a fresh credit card to pay off the old maxxed out one, put more punch in the bowl, and party on. Unfortunately on that route the future is bleak.

        There is no free lunch.

      • uanime5
        Posted March 9, 2014 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

        The UK, and for that matter Scotland, can get access to the Single Market / EEA and not be part of the EU. Switzerland do it and we can also use EFTA / EEA membership.

        While not part of the EU you still have to obey all EU laws; so in practise there’s little difference between being part of the EEA and being in the EU.

  10. Alan Wheatley
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    I am concerned that companies, particularly big companies, already have far too much influence as to the way this country is run. We see this through an ability to write directly to ministers (and get a considered reply, no doubt), the ability to hire lobbyists to push their point of view and through an ability to buy favoured party membership status and with it access to political party leaders.

    Further, I heard on the BBC Radio 4 this week about how the “Big 4″ accountancy firms are dominating many contracts. Margaret Hodge was quoted saying that government departments need to write better contracts, but how are they going to do that when the accountancy firms pay top dollar to get the best talent?

    Buying in expertise is OK up to a point. But if in-house expertise is inadequate how do you know which expert to choose, and how do you know whether the expert advise you are given is credible?

  11. John E
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    The companies potentially impacted by the Scottish issue have a duty to their shareholders to state the risks and take mitigating actions. Surely they would be failing in their duties to keep silent?

  12. Max Dunbar
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Two points.

    Firstly, companies used to have a vote at council elections. As business rate payers they had a say in the running of their local area, therefore they were directly involved in local politics through the polling booth. As I understand it, they had one vote which the boss of the company could cast. This right was abolished some time ago by the socialists.

    Secondly, it would be wrong to say that companies are anti-Scotland. They may be anti-SNP and who could blame them? What responsibly managed company would remain in a country that is likely to be dominated by a zealous neo-Marxist re-distributive administration for the next few years?

    • uanime5
      Posted March 9, 2014 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

      What responsibly managed company would remain in a country that is likely to be dominated by a zealous neo-Marxist re-distributive administration for the next few years?

      Given that Scotland has the third highest GVA in the UK (second highest including oil and gas revenues) it seems that Scotland is good for business.

  13. acorn
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    There is no end of people jumping in front of TV cameras, giving their, mostly ill informed and uneducated opinions, on everything and its mate. Many seeing problems where none actually exist.

    It now appears necessary for a police officer, outside of the Court House, to give an opinion that justice has been done for some heinous crime, . Why? Police do not prosecute the CPS does. Are the police saying they were on the side of the victim all along, and collected evidence with that in mind. Particularly, someone should tell the police that its job is purely law enforcement; everything else must be by definition, someone else’s job. The most recent disclosures about the MET police have all the signs of an outfit that has lost the plot, including having eleven ranks of a police officer with five (5) at “senior officer” level.

    Anyway, it is worth having a read of the latest Economic Review. http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171766_355071.pdf . Particularly pages 4 through 7 “Trade”. Regardless of where we export and what boundaries we have to cross to deliver stuff, there is a message in this document which politicians should absorb. Basically, stop importing stuff that only needs a screw-driver to prepare it for re-export.

    • JA
      Posted March 8, 2014 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      PS – When does a police officer give evidence for the defence ?

  14. oldtimer
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    My own view, and practice when responsible for a business which operated and traded internationally, was to be very circumspect about making comments on the politics of the countries where the businesses operated and traded. By “very circumspect” I mean I cannot recall ever making public or attributable remarks which might be misconstrued as interference. If existing or proposed legislation or regulations affected the business, then the implications were pointed out to the ministers or officials concerned where possible. Sometimes they were interested to know, especially if a potential new investment with jobs attached was contemplated. Sometimes, in effect, they said “get lost”.

    From time to time I was also lobbied, by groups in the UK, to push their own agendas for change which they perceived desirable in the countries where we operated. These were resisted as (regardless of my personal views) I did not see it as the business of the business to lobby for political or legislative change in other countries. I suspect these pressures on international businesses are much, much greater today than when I was involved. The EU has an established track record in this respect.

    My suspicious mind suggests that there is a politically inspired agenda to encourage businesses to speak up about the Scottish referendum as a precursor to the in/out EU arguments to come.

  15. Leslie Singleton
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Given that Salmond is patently capable of saying just about anything it’s a wonder he doesn’t start telling us that the border should be put back down to Hadrian’s Wall

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 8, 2014 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      The suggestion that Hadrian’s Wall should be rebuilt usually comes from English village idiots who are ignorant of its line.

  16. Atlas
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    In regard to the Ukariane we see a nice example of ‘ business and politics’.

    The Germans put their business interests first. Mind you, having been weakened (fooled?) by the old-pro-communist Green Party into getting dependent on Russian gas, perhaps we should not be so surprised by their present craven stance.

  17. Neil Craig
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    This is a good explanation of why the power of big business to “politically advertise” in favour of particular interests is so much more limited than their economic role, whereas government has no serious limitations on the £10s of billions it puts into “raising awareness” of scares designed to get us to allow them more power.

    Hidden lobbying and donation is a murkier area but even there it cuts both ways. For example C.A.S.H. (consensus action on salt & health), an organisation committed to scaring us about salt, a necessity of life, are partly government funded but also get a large cheque from ( a named company ed) and, since they refuse to say why, the suspicion must be that this (word left out ed) is a quid pro quo for government support of them.

    Unfortunately, while most of the business fear of an SNP Soviet seems justified, with evidence that the UK government have been strong arming……. other companies and other governments to say that not joining the Euro/quitting the EU, there are bound to be suspicions that the same is being done in Scotland (& to be fair, being loudly done in the opposite direction by the SNP who have been talking about boycotting companies that do not toe the line).

  18. Mark B
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    The issue regarding Scotland and the UK, and the UK regarding the EU is much the same. It is a ‘question’ of Sovereignty and nothing else. Yes, business and other interested parties may wish a say but, I do not believe that their opinions should be given any weight on THIS matter. Its up to the PEOPLE to decide who governs for and on their behalf; no one else need be involved.

    For example. How would political parties feel if a business told their employees that, if such and such party were to be elected, either to the local constituency or high office, then they would leave and make them redundant ? People, quite naturally, would both be shocked and disgusted by such blatant blackmailing.

    So how is this any different may I ask ? I think it is wrong and I believe it is something that should be either prevented or frowned upon.

    Yes, business needs to feel that they will be able to conduct their affairs in much the same way as before. This is both fair and reasonable. But it is up to the political parties, and in each case , that would be both the SNP and UKIP respectively, to make that same case. They need to explain to business and to the electorate that, a change in political administration would not adversely affect them. There needs to be a plan in place in which business and its needs are addressed prior to any debate on the issue of Sovereignty. In the case of Scotland, the SNP should have had a range of ideas and options in which the business community were consulted before this debate on independence was made. And the same for UKIP and the EU. They do not have a credible plan. In fact, no one has ! So naturally business will speak out of its own interests because currently, due to no plan in place which takes into account their needs, they have little choice. Had business been consulted first, and needs and concerns met, then they simply would not be part of the debate, and the SNP would not be having the problems they are experiencing.

    In summary: The debate on Scotland greatly reflects the debate on our continued membership of the EU. It is poorly lead, on both sides. Narrow in views and outlook. Does not take into account the needs and wishes of many. And is so poor in overall strategy, as to wounder if any of the main debaters really are serious and genuine in their respective cause.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 8, 2014 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

      “How would political parties feel if a business told their employees that, if such and such party were to be elected, either to the local constituency or high office, then they would leave and make them redundant?”

      Allegedly during the 1975 referendum campaign some companies actually sent letters to all their employees warning that they would lose their jobs if the result was for the UK to leave the EEC.

      • Mark B
        Posted March 8, 2014 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

        Upon hearing this, I refer you to the following sentence of that snip-it from my post.

  19. Antisthenes
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    I doubt many small to medium size businesses are calling for the UK to remain in the EU. I see a vested interest here for big businesses to call for the UK to remain a member. The draconian laws, rules and regulations that Brussels spews out with such regularity and abundance adds considerable costs and hampers new businesses entering the market place and existing ones remaining in it. For big businesses this is an advantage as they can more easily absorb the cost and at the same time it reduces those that are able to compete with them.

    As for the false claim about losing 3 million jobs it is a lie that is so blatant that those who espouse it should be ashamed of themselves. How they can say so without blushing escapes me. The truth is much closer to there being many more jobs created as exports to countries outside the EU would not be so constrained by EU rules. Unfortunately the bulk of the electorate will be taken in by this lie as they for various reasons will not take the time to analyse this claim and see it for what it is just spurious propaganda.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 8, 2014 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      Clegg said it, Farron said it again on Newsnight … pure Goebbels, as we know, and they need to be taken down and crushed.

    • oldtimer
      Posted March 9, 2014 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      Spot on!

    • APL
      Posted March 10, 2014 at 7:48 am | Permalink

      Antisthenes: “about losing 3 million jobs it is a lie that is so blatant that those who espouse it should be ashamed of themselves. ”

      It is a proxy war, between those who have never worked a stitch in their lives, and hate the idea of actually trying to be useful and productive, thus a career outside the public sector ‘scares the bejusus’ out of them.

      And we all know the first casualty of war is truth.

  20. Denis Cooper
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    A private company exists primarily to make profits for its owners, and incidentally to provide its managers with such livelihoods as they can extract.

    Private companies are not there for abstract purposes such as upholding democracy – if there are good profits to be made under dictatorship then that can do just as well as democracy – or defending national sovereignty – indeed the larger multinational companies would be perfectly content to see every nation state abolished if that meant they had a freer run to make their profits globally.

    At the same time it is obviously of crucial importance to them to have their property rights protected, so they do want some form of stable and effective government to guarantee that; there is just no particular virtue in it being either a national or a democratic government, a stable and strong global dictatorship which always upheld their property rights would be just fine as far as they were concerned; and no doubt many of them would be willing to come together to provide that stable and strong global dictatorship themselves if they were allowed to do so.

    If a company has set itself up to operate profitably under one system then it will naturally oppose any change to the system which it sees as potentially negative for its future profits, and it may well issue threats to try to prevent that change taking place even if the people want it to take place, that is of no account, whether the proposed change is Scotland becoming independent or the UK leaving the EU; on the other hand, if another change is seen as a potential positive for its profits then it will work to get that change even if the people don’t want it, that too is of no account.

    Whether any of the threats would actually be carried out is another matter, and again that would entirely depend upon what seemed the most profitable course.

  21. Alte Fritz
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    If I were an undecided Scots voter, I might well be sufficiently annoyed by corporate statements to vote Yes next September.

    But it such a wide policy. Why must the police offer comments to broadcasters on each successful conviction, but, curiously, none if there is a successful appeal.

  22. Posted March 8, 2014 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Surely public companies have an obligation to inform their shareholders if the believe that anything might adversely affect the company and its profits.
    Thus, Labour has said it will freeze energy prices if it is elected; surely the energy companies are right, and indeed are obliged by the Stock Exchange, to inform their shareholders of the extent to which this might impact on their profits and share price.
    Again, it seems right that an Insurance Company might wish to point out to the Scottish Government, that as the majority of its beneficiaries are in England, they might wish to keep their funds in Sterling held in English based banks and conduct their business under English law.
    What I find unacceptable is when companies, or at least their directors, come up with broad brush statements, such as “we must remain in the EU or our trade will suffer”, without giving any valid reasons. It is even worse when a trade organisation, such as the CBI, supports a particular course of action backed by general statements such as “Our members believe that”, but again without any reasoning. As you have argued on many occasions, other countries will always want to sell us their goods, and provided we produce what they need, they will continue to buy ours.

  23. ian wragg
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of business John, I see Egborough power station, 2000 MW at £38 per MW is due to close soon due to our glorious EU.
    When are the idiots from government going to be locked in a secure unlit and unheated room until they see sense. 4% more of our installed capacity lost for ever.

  24. The PrangWizard
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    Businesses may have their concerns, but they are nothing compared to the concerns the people of England should have over Scottish demands after independence. This example is from the Scottish Governments submission to the Constitution Committee of the House of Lords on what they will demand after Independence.

    11. Following a vote for independence, the Scottish Government will negotiate with Westminster to agree a sharing of assets and liabilities that is fair, equitable and reflects Scottish needs and those of the rest of the UK. Assets already used to deliver devolved public services in Scotland, such as schools, hospitals and roads, would remain in Scottish hands. Physical assets located in Scotland and needed to deliver currently reserved services, such as defence bases and equipment, and buildings to support administration of welfare, tax and immigration, will transfer to the Scottish Government.

    12. Assets located elsewhere in the UK will also have to be included in negotiations, as Scotland has contributed to their value over a long period of time. For physical assets like these, the equitable outcome may be to provide Scotland with an appropriate cash share of their value.’

    So, they want all assets in Scotland and the value of similar ones in England, because they say they have contributed to them, and as if England has not contributed to anything in Scotland.

    My fear is that the UK Unionist Government will once again give in to them and continue to impoverish England (and Wales) for Scotland’s gain and to appease such aggressive demands, even if the vote is ‘No’, from people who are acting like enemies.

    The trouble is England is in the treacherous hands of PM Cameron who will not even mention the word England, and does not like the English. (‘I will take on the Little Englanders’). He cannot be trusted to protect the English nation, he’d rather appease his friends in Scotland and his Unionist beliefs.

    There is no English parliament and thus absolutely no-one to speak for the English nation. How far will all Unionist go with him? We the people of England are in serious danger of being sold out again by a government that will not represent our interests and denies us the rights they support and espouse for people elsewhere.

  25. Kenneth R Moore
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    If government decides to take an action like imposing a new law or tax that would damage the business interest, then of course the company may wish by agreement between the Board and shareholders lobby or argue against the proposal.”

    I can foresee much lobbying being required as the ‘Conservative’ led coalition has imposed over 500 new taxes since it came into power. This after racking up more debt than Gordon Brown and Tony Blair combined.
    Mr Redwood, as a former banker and top level politicianm what is the point of all this so called ‘austerity’ when debt is now at crippling levels. When the bailouts of the bank are added in, debt as a proportion of GDP is around 130%!!.

    The story of the next few years will be ‘wealth regresssion’ when the government will come after more and more of our money by a process of stealth. The debt is unpayable my conventional means (especially when gov borrowing rates rise from rock bottom). How can savers protect their wealth ??

    • Kenneth R Moore
      Posted March 9, 2014 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      Lord Redwood,

      As a business person, I hold the opinion that it is now almost impossible for the UK government to pay back it’s debts. Ever. The current figures are understated as they do not include bank bailouts. The burden of debt is around 2.2 trillion pounds. (.£2,200,000,000,000, or 130% of our national output).

      Ofcourse there have been voices like your own calling for less spending…but they have been shouted down by those calling for the gravy train to continue. The Conservative party has once again failed to be conservative and let down alot of hard working and decent people.

      So what will happen next when government borrowing rates inevitably rise :-

      1. Government default

      2. Money printing

      3. Government theft
      ie stoking inflation, imposition of pension taxes, limits on money transfers, higher taxes on company dividends ?. Vat at 20% just the start of a whole raft of new tax rises ?. Are those earning 30 or 32 thousand pounds soon to be caught in the 40% tax rate ?. Back to 70’s style taxes and controls on capital ?.

      Interest rates have already been rigged to help keep government borrowing rates low. What happened to Mark Carney’s pledge to increase them once unemployment dropped below 7% ?.

      For all the prudent savers and strivers out there – the government is after YOUR money to pay for the mistakes of the spendthrift.

      George Osborne, in order to prop up his own career, has spent more money than George Osborne and Tony Blair combined. He has sacrificed our own and our childrens future to get a few years in the sun. I hope there are more principled Mp will step in and do the right thing.

      • Kenneth R Moore
        Posted March 9, 2014 at 10:36 am | Permalink

        That should read ” has spent more than the Brown and Blair governments combined”

  26. uanime5
    Posted March 9, 2014 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    In the case of the EU argument any business which puts forward the lie that we will lose 3 million jobs if we vote to leave the EU but have instead some kind of trade arrangement deserves to lose customers and annoy people.

    If the UK leaves the EU any trade agreement will be subject to quotas and tariffs, just like the trade agreements the EU has with the USA and China. So the UK will have a reduced access to the single market which will result in UK jobs being relocated inside the EU.

    As not even Switzerland has access to the EU’s service sector it’s likely that the UK will also lose access to the EU’s financial market, which will harm the UK’s financial sector.

    So it’s likely that the UK will lose a large number of jobs if we leave the EU.

    As these pro Euro companies have been twice badly wrong, their credibility as they tell us today the current EU is just fine for them should cause us to doubt rather than to fall in line.

    What about all the companies that predicted the euro would collapse after the 2008 recession. They were also wrong and their credibility has been reduced.

    I do not recall any large company leaving the UK in the way they threatened when we did not join the Euro

    That’s because it didn’t affect our access to the single market, unlike leaving the EU which will result in the UK having a restricted access to this market.

  27. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    I wish that John Redwood would write a blog on which organisations represent which types of UK business and how much credibility each has.

    My impression over the years is that the CBI represents sleepy big business, the type of companies that no longer strive to be competitive and highly profitable; in other words, incumbents who welcome the hidden protectionism that results from EC and UK gold plated regulations.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
    Published and promoted by Thomas Puddy for John Redwood, both of 30 Rose Street Wokingham RG40 1XU
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