Lobby launch

New business group formed as CBI faces key vote

Shevaun Haviland
Shevaun Haviland: a different kind of representation

A battle over business representation has taken a new twist with the launch of a new lobby group claiming to have the support of several big companies.

The Business Council has been set up by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) in a bid to “design and drive the future of the British economy”. BP, Drax, Heathrow and IHG Hotels & Resorts are among the founding members.

BCC director general Shevaun Haviland and president Baroness Martha Lane Fox will join business leaders in London on Monday to discuss the work of its new council.

The timing of the new group has not been lost on the troubled CBI which faces a vote on its future on Tuesday after being shaken by a series of sexual harassment allegations.

It has received the public backing from 13 companies – including manufacturing giant Siemens and the world’s largest computer software firm Microsoft – but resignations have been so substantial that it has been forced to cut jobs balance its books. John Lewis and BMW were among those that terminated their membership.

The BCC is now looking to position itself as the premier voice of business and is creating the new council to target companies in what it claims will be different to the approach offered by the CBI.

Ms Haviland said: “Over the past few months we have been talking to the nation’s largest corporates and it has become clear to us they are looking for a different kind of representation.

“These businesses want to be part of a framework that’s rooted in their local communities, but with the ability to shape the national and international debate.”

Ms Haviland said the Business Council would focus on an initiative directed at the future of the economy targeting the digital Revolution, People and Work, Net Zero, Global Britain and the High Street.

A CBI source said “the timing of this is very opportunistic. Business succeeds through a collaborative approach and we find that more effective”.

Critics say the CBI has outlived its relevance, having been created in the 1960s at a time when the British economy was dominated by big companies that needed representation against powerful trade unions. Since then the economy has fragmented and numerous groups have sprung up to represent a more diverse economy.

The CBI’s former director general Tony Danker is planning to sue his former employer after he was forced out over the sexual misconduct allegations, according to The Sunday Times.

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