‘No point’ engaging with CBI after membership exodus, Chancellor says

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There is “no point” engaging with the Confederation of British Industry after dozens of its members deserted the trade body, the Chancellor has said.

Speaking to reporters, Jeremy Hunt said it is “incredibly important” to engage with a body that represents British business.

But he questioned whether it makes sense to speak to the CBI after it lost so many members due to a series of sexual misconduct and rape allegations against members of its staff.

“There’s no point engaging with the CBI when their own members have deserted them in droves,” Mr Hunt said.

“So we want to engage with a body that sticks up for business. It is incredibly important for me when I’m constructing budgets to have someone I can turn to who speaks for British business.”

It came after a second allegation of rape was reported by the Guardian newspaper on Friday morning.

The CBI – which had already fired its director general who was the subject of some allegations, although not the alleged rapes – suspended all of its policy and membership activities.

Mr Hunt said: “We’re obviously very concerned about the allegations of what’s happened at the CBI … very, very serious.

“But we would like to be able to engage with business through a representative body when we can, but we’re not stopping.”

On Sunday a new group, BizUK, was announced after it contacted chief executives to ask if they would be interested in a new short-term group which could represent their interests to Government.

BizUK does not yet have any members, it is early days, but its founder Nick Faith told the PA news agency he hopes to have between 50 and 60 organisations within the next four to six weeks.

A batch of letters inviting chief executives to join was sent out on Friday with the remainder set to be distributed in the early part of this week.

There has already been significant interest from some well-known brands, he added.

It comes after the trade body last week mothballed key parts of its operations following a series of allegations of sexual misconduct and rape by members of its staff.

“I think the CBI exists to act as a collective voice of industry with Government and other political parties, and if those ties have been cut with those parties you have to question what the point of continued membership of the organisation is, especially with an election 12-16 months away,” Mr Faith told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday.

Mr Faith said on Sunday that he and the consultancy he runs, WPI Strategy, have been holding meetings with Government and opposition parties and would form BizUK.

“To be clear from the outset, we are not looking to replace the CBI,” he said in a statement.

“It is not a trade body or a rolling membership body. Instead BizUK will be a temporary, time-limited initiative, focused on helping businesses communicate new thinking ahead of the next general election.”

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