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Business praise for May's CBI speech, but anger from unions

Published 21/11/2016

Prime Minister Theresa May won praise from the business sector, but less so from the unions
Prime Minister Theresa May won praise from the business sector, but less so from the unions

The Prime Minister's CBI speech sparked praise from business groups, but anger from unions and opposition politicians.

CBI director general Caroline Fairbairn said Theresa May had set out an " ambitious and inclusive" vision for the economy , adding that she welcomed the commitment to providing clarity on her Brexit negotiations.

"Businesses around the UK will strongly welcome a progressive partnership between industry and Government," she said.

Terry Scuoler, chief executive of the manufacturers' organisation EEF, said it was good that the Prime Minister had outlined the beginnings of what a post-Brexit industrial strategy should look like.

"Manufacturers are willing to pick up the gauntlet the Prime Minister has thrown down and contribute to driving up the UK's productivity performance," he added.

Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said business leaders will be pleased to get more information on the Government's industrial strategy and welcomed the boost to research.

Company directors would be "significantly reassured" by the speech, particularly the proposals on employee representation on boards.

But the GMB led union attacks, accusing the Prime Minister of "back tracking" on a pledge to have worker representatives on boards.

Shadow business secretary Clive Lewis, said: "While I welcome the Government's commitment to start reversing the decline in research and development spend, this is woefully inadequate and risks being too little too late.

"And it comes on the same day that the Prime Minister announced she is ditching her flagship policy to put workers on company boards - just one month after committing to it.

"Tory promises don't last until Christmas."

Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "Businesses will be reassured by the tone of the Prime Minister's remarks, which was substantially different to what we heard at the Conservative Party Conference less than two months ago.

"At a time when the UK is embarking on a major political and economic transition, businesses of all sizes need to feel that they are being championed, both in government and by government.

"Business communities around the UK are well aware of their responsibilities to local growth, to their employees, and to their owners and shareholders - and want to know that their commitment is matched by backing at the very top."

Professor Dame Ann Dowling, president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: "I am delighted to see the Government's stated aims of building an effective industrial strategy for the UK realised in this morning's announcement of increased investment in research and innovation, including a new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to accelerate the growth of important engineering technologies, such as robotics and biotechnology.

"Together with the UK's other national academies, we have been consistent in making the case for such investment in the future of our country."

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