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CBI Director-General responds to Theresa May's speech

22 Nov 2016

The CBI responded to Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech to its Annual Conference in London.

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said:

'The Prime Minister has laid out an ambitious and inclusive vision for the economy, placing the UK front and centre of the world stage for innovation. Alongside her backing for free, fair and open markets this will be a powerful catalyst for investment.  

'Businesses around the UK will strongly welcome a progressive partnership between industry and government, who together can build a modern industrial strategy tailored to the UK’s great strengths. As well as the focus on science and innovation, this must be underpinned by the other key growth enablers including skills, education and infrastructure, which will help to increase productivity and spread prosperity across the whole country.

'Business will rise to this challenge by driving forward the UK’s economy and renewing the social contract: the irresponsible behaviour of the few can no longer be allowed to tarnish the reputation and the contribution of the many.'

On the importance of innovation investment, Carolyn said:

'The UK is home to world-class science and research and hundreds of innovative companies, but we need to do better at turning our new ideas into commercial successes.

'The substantial funding increase for R&D will make sure the UK remains a world leader in innovation and sends out an important signal to global investors. A first priority for this new investment should be Innovate UK, which has an excellent track record in stimulating business innovation but is currently underfunded relative to its international peers.

'The creation of a new Challenge Fund will embed research and innovation at the heart of the Government’s industrial strategy. Business will have an important role to play in outlining the challenges and working with UKRI to coordinate different parts of the innovation ecosystem to meet them.'

On corporate governance, Carolyn said:

'UK corporate governance is admired across the world. Our businesses know that brilliant employee engagement, openness with customers and support for local communities are essential to success. 

'But firms recognise public concerns. The challenge now is to take the great practice that we see in so many places and apply it everywhere, eradicating the unacceptable transgressions that some companies do make. 

'On employee engagement, different approaches will work for different businesses but a starting point is firms being able to outline and explain what approach they are taking – whether that's employees on boards, employee committees, dedicated representatives, or other models that genuinely address the issue.'

On the EU, Carolyn said:

'The way in which we leave the EU and on what terms will be critical to jobs and investment here in the UK. It’s vital that the on-the-ground expertise of business is used to help get the best deal for the UK and we welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to providing clarity on her negotiation plans, where possible.

'With only two years for such a complex negotiation, the Government rightly has on its radar that we should seek a smooth transition which gives firms time to adapt.'  

Related links

Panel debate: Brexit and the UK's Industrial Strategy

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