Lord Heseltine has called on family-owned businesses to raise their game and help improve Britain’s international competitiveness.
Speaking at the Cutlers’ Feast in Sheffield, he urged company directors to change their “assumptions, practices and ambitions”.
The Tory grandee said: “We have some of the world’s greatest companies. They are out there winning all over the world every day. The question is, is our average performance good enough and if it’s not, how can we persuade the underperforming tail to catch up?”
Lord Heseltine is carrying out an audit of the UK’s industrial performance for the Government.
He said far too many companies are run by ‘Uncle Bert’ types, who lack dynamism and are happy to live comfortably on profits when they should be investing more to break into new markets.
“When the Chinese Prime Minister left these shores six weeks ago, he left with £1.6bn of British goods. Two days later, he left Germany with £14bn worth of orders,” said Lord Heseltine, adding “there is no room for complacency”.
He is the latest Government figure to challenge businesses to do more to deliver growth.
Neil MacDonald, the Senior Warden, told the 376th Feast that despite “a tumultuous few years”, the aerospace, oil and gas, medical, and creative and digital industries in South Yorkshire “are doing much better”.
He praised the public, private and university sectors for working together more effectively than in previous years.
Pam Liversidge, the first female Master Cutler since the company was founded in 1624, won the loudest applause of the evening at Cutlers’ Hall.
She told Lord Heseltine that the nation is “in need of a long-term industrial strategy”.
In her speech, Angela Knight, the outgoing chief executive of the British Bankers’ Association, borrowed Warren Buffett’s phrase that it is only when the tide goes out that you learn who has been swimming naked.
She said: “The tide has gone out on eurozone countries and there are not a lot of trunks.”
Ms Knight called on EU leaders to find a solution quickly.