Mrs May and big business

I see today the CBI are worried about their relationship with the new government. I wish to make it clear that I fully support Mrs May’s view that some businesses have to improve the way they behave. Many of us have been concerned by the behaviour of some senior business people towards their employees, and by their view of how much money they should take out a company they do not themselves own. I will write at greater length about various aspects of government and business in the next few days.

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28 Comments

  1. The Active Citizen
    Posted October 8, 2016 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    There have always been notable and highly regrettable excesses in the behaviour of some business people, just as in any walk of life.

    However this is no excuse to roll back all the achievements of the Thatcher era, during which you were a key thinker in forging the renewal of the country. I’m amongst a great many people who are deeply concerned at the apparent statist and interventionist stance which the PM appeared to be moving towards in her speech to Conference.

    If this sort of approach should continue, Mrs May runs the risk of alienating a large part of the Conservative vote, just as she appears to want to appeal to it regarding Brexit.

    • Anonymous
      Posted October 8, 2016 at 8:19 am | Permalink

      Sorry, but as a Thatcher supporter (still) I feel betrayed by how business has behaved.

      We embraced global competition. What we did not expect, however, was for that global competition to be invited to live here and compete with us for our very homes, schools, healthcare and welfare – and for us to subsidise that competition through our own taxes whilst business did its best to offshore and outsource for tax and wage saving reasons.

      It is manifestly not a good thing.

      Only this week the papers have been discussing how much poorer the under 40s are and the national debt is still sky rocketing.

      My own children are far better qualified and skilled than I and yet are impoverished, compared to me at a similar age.

    • Mark B
      Posted October 8, 2016 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      This matter is between business and the share holders. No government busy-bodying needed. And in anycase, they need to look at those in the State Sector. How much does an MP get when they get unelected ? £30,000 the last I herd ?

    • Mark Watson
      Posted October 8, 2016 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      I think the one or two comments on intervention have been blown up by the media( in its present hyperactive state),out of all proportion to what the PM actually said.

  2. am
    Posted October 8, 2016 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    Very necessary subject to cover. I think, if you look at my comment under the previous link, that some serious consideration is needed of business supply side practices and their detrimental effect on UK aggregate demand and balance of payments.

  3. oldtimer
    Posted October 8, 2016 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    Although not a member of the CBI (as far as I am aware) the BBC counts as a big business, albeit one in an extraodinarily privileged position. Judging by its post Brexit commentary, apparent editorial policy and its position vis a vis the Corbyn Labour party, it could be judged now to be the principal opposition to the May government.

    I see that this morning it thought it newsworthy to air a complaint from the LSE that none of it foreign born academic staff have been invited to help advise the FO or David Davis’ new department for exiting the EU. Quite why this was an issue was not explained; it seems obvious to me that the UK would want to keep its cards close to its chest and not risk leakage of its negotiating position by employing foreign nationals in such a sensitive role. Perhaps I should not be surprised; we know that the BBC is a thoroughly europhile organisation and accepts money from the Commission to propagate its views.

    • hefner
      Posted October 8, 2016 at 9:02 am | Permalink

      Oldtimer, Are you so old you remember the Fifth Column? Are there some members of it at LSE?

      • alan jutson
        Posted October 8, 2016 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

        hefner

        “…..fifth column…”

        They have infiltrated most of the establishment positions over many decades, indeed so many have infiltrated our educational system, generations of students have been hoodwinked by their socialist views.

    • graham1946
      Posted October 8, 2016 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      Why should we have foreigners, especially Europeans involved in Brexit?

      How far would we get with France or Germany if we said we wanted someone (lets say Nigel Farage to pick one out of the air) to sit in on their meetings? They don’t even want us at the EU meetings and we are fully paid up members until someone gets a finger out and gets on with Brexit. 3 Years from the referendum is far too long. If Cameron had kept his word and put in the Article 50 notice the next day, we’d already be well down the road by now.

      As far as big business is concerned, Mrs May would do well to keep away. They have enough influence already and if she is true to her word to be a one nation Tory, then she needs to think about the ‘little people’ especially small businesses for a change who don’t get a look in and are regularly ignored after election time.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted October 8, 2016 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      But there are British citizens whose primary loyalty to the EU, so they will also have to be weeded out as untrustworthy. Most members of Parliament, for a start.

      • hefner
        Posted October 8, 2016 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        Sorry, reference is on various web sites. I read it in the independent.co.uk

  4. Anonymous
    Posted October 8, 2016 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    A big thing is being made of declaring foreign employees, on the grounds that it is racist.

    Funny that the same people don’t complain that the Government already has us declare our race and nationality on every document.

  5. alan jutson
    Posted October 8, 2016 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    The CBI only have themselves to blame.

    For decades now senior managers and non owner directors have been vastly overpaid in very often failing companies, and the ordinary employees have taken the financial hit.

    Poor working conditions, and under funded pension schemes together with a total disregard of shareholders thoughts and wishes on senior pay scales, share options, bonuses and huge pay offs for failure, have increased the them and us divide.

    The fact that some Companies also use very complicated structures (some legal some not) to avoid the payment of tax does not help, although quite honestly the Politicians are the culprits here, because they are the ones who fail to make the rules simple to operate and understand.

    We do need however to be mindful and be careful not throw the baby out with the bathwater or to kill the golden egg with too much regulation and interference, as it is business which drives progress and wealth in a very competitive World.

  6. a-tracy
    Posted October 8, 2016 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    The CBI speaks for a very small section of big business, it never speaks for SMEs in my opinion, it is more a big business lobbyist group. The main organisations for SMEs are both poor at getting information out to their members about changes and getting tv time for their top paid staff to defend the constant and one sided attacks on a collective ‘business’ groupings. Even when you think you are following all the thousands of rules now you get caught out, it’s almost as if it’s done on purpose. I read more sense and interesting thoughts from libertarian here on your blog. If you know them personally run your business piece by them for critique for their input.

  7. Prigger
    Posted October 8, 2016 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    If the CBI disappeared within the day what would be the result? Its employees would need a new job. By now though, after indicating how the UK would head steeply downhill after the Leave vote, they will already have applied for jobs in EU and arranging schooling for their children over there.
    So why is the CBI “worried about their relationship with the new government.”? The only government they need a relationship with is that headed by Mr Juncker. The CBI has made its bed so now they should lie in it and stop cluttering up the airwaves, here, with their usual mad-cap drivel.

  8. Mark B
    Posted October 8, 2016 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Good morning

    What about taking monies from people through agressive taxation Land tax and death duties ?

  9. Antisthenes
    Posted October 8, 2016 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Big business behaving badly is part truth and part fiction. Even the truth is not always evidence of wrong doing legally at least. It may be more to do with governments affinity to crony capitalism and/or legislation doing what is was enacted to do or merely be misleading denouncements made by vested interest exploiting envious people. We make business act the way it does by the rules, regulations, laws and the system of oversight that parliament and government put in place.

    If that is found defective then corrections have to be made and that cannot be done by just castigating those we perceive to be doing wrong. Disapprobation has to be heaped on our law makers and guardians who have to be directed to improve laws and policing. Care has be taken though that any corrections should not be for political reasons as they so often are that lead to equally undesirable consequences. Acting on moral grounds is pointless if in doing so it brings greater material losses.

  10. gyges01
    Posted October 8, 2016 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    “I will write at greater length about various aspects of government and business in the next few days.”

    Anecdote 1. Whilst having lunch with work colleagues during the period when Sports Direct were being investigated I asked if anyone has ever bought anything from them. All said yes. I asked if they were going to continue. They all said yes. (Aside – of course hey were Remainers and Blairites).

    Anecdote 2. During the last round of redundancies at the company where I currently work the CEO bought a new sports car (porsche). He could’ve waited ’til the dust settled but didn’t.

    Anecdote 3. A tearoom close to where I live has a policy of employing people for 23 months.

  11. Ed Mahony
    Posted October 8, 2016 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    ‘Many of us have been concerned by the behaviour of some senior business people towards their employees’

    – Yes. And British companies run by British CEOs. Nothing to do with the EU. Although some have made a nebulous connection to try and marr the EU when, if anything, the EU can play a role in protecting British people from British CEOs and using British people for their own profit.

    • Ed Mahony
      Posted October 8, 2016 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      ‘Many of us have been concerned by the behaviour of some senior business people towards their employees’

      – Or American companies not paying tax in European companies which the EU has been trying to tackle.

  12. rose
    Posted October 8, 2016 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    I wonder whether the government should go after those other abusive big businesses, the giant career charities? They are huge business now, and the people who work in them aren’t volunteers. They abuse their positions by behaving as political pressure groups, trying to change government policy and manipulate behaviour all over the world. They cause a lot of trouble and put people’s lives at risk by encouraging them to make journeys they might not otherwise do. If they were responsible, and patriotic, and moral, they would behave quite differently.

  13. rose
    Posted October 8, 2016 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    I think businesses have always been mixed, some paternal and others exploiting, but decades of socialism must surely have killed the patriarchal element in all but a few – like John Lewis. Overtaxation, over-regulation, welfarism, etc must have changed the original Victorian ethos which the Chamberlain-extolling spad wants to bring back; to the extent that businesses either went under or emigrated. Business that survived mutated into giant multi nationals, immune from government. If patriotic paternalistic business is to flourish again then the change must come from within and that surely means government getting out of the way.

  14. Iain Gill
    Posted October 8, 2016 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    I hope you mention the massive use of imported cheaper labour working for the outsourcers, subcontracted into other big companies for less than it costs to hire a Brit, in skills already in oversupply, being taxed less than British workers, displacing Brits from the workforce and driving down pay level. Coming in on EU passports from places like Bulgaria, and on uncapped intra company transfer visas from places like India.
    The problems these practises are causing for our country are massive.

    I also hope you mention the way some of the best British intellectual property is leaking abroad to undercut us, especially in cases where it was partly funded by the British taxpayer via universities etc.

    • hefner
      Posted October 8, 2016 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

      I really like your comment about British intellectual property. But notice that a few days ago the innenarable LifeLogic denouncing IPRs as useless.

  15. Colin
    Posted October 8, 2016 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    I am deeply concerned by Theresa May’s apparent intention to return to Heath/Heseltine-style socialist interventionism. History clearly shows that the economy is best served by free enterprise, low taxes and light regulation.

    However it is equally concerning that many people seem to regard the national interest as identical to the interests of big business. For example, a high level of low-skill immigration is good for big business who want cheap labour (and rich individuals who want cheap servants), but very bad for ordinary working people who find their wages undercut and additional pressure on housing and public services – not to mention feeling like strangers in their own homeland.

    Surely we must recognise that the best thing for most people would be a low-tax, low-regulation, pro-growth economic policy, with minimal immigration. Full employment would result; employers would have to train up our 1.6 million unemployed rather than shipping in foreign workers, and when the demand for labour exceeds the supply employers will have to compete for staff by offering constantly-improving pay and conditions. They can maintain their profits by improvements in productivity and technological innovation, or outsourcing the poorly-paid jobs to other countries where they will be more wanted. Everybody wins.

  16. Bert Young
    Posted October 8, 2016 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    The CBI as a recipient of funds from the EU was biased in the referendum campaign . Its present stance is a combination of the EU influence and that of international companies who are under orders from overseas . The success of manufacturing and commerce is entirely dependent on the value of goods and services on offer ; organisations should not rely on favourable “props” . Its a tough world out there and the reality of competition exists at all times .

    The Government must not give in to any sort of threat ; it must set standards and goals to be achieved providing the necessary stimulus along the way . What the CBI wants is probably not representative of its membership anyway . Send them packing .

    • hefner
      Posted October 9, 2016 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      What difference do you make between a “necessary stimulus” and some “favourable props”. To me, in both cases, they are likely to be taken from the taxes people pay.

  17. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted October 10, 2016 at 3:33 am | Permalink

    I trust that Mrs May is not proposing a return to the National Economic Deveopment Council, together with lots of little industry specific Neddies, as practised in Harold MacMillan’s day.

    No matter how dysfunctional markets are, government interference makes them worse.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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