YP Comment: Corporate laws: May pays price. Brexit and responsible business

Picture: PA
Picture: PA
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AS the Government sets out a Green Paper on corporate governance, the precursor to future legislation on ethical business practices, Theresa May needs to tread carefully to avoid compromising her credibility – or Britain’s future prospects post-Brexit.

If Mrs May’s promise of workers on company boards to tackle boardroom abuses does not come to pass, it will be very quickly portrayed as the Prime Minister’s broken promise – and this, after all, is one of the eye-catching policies which so endeared the then Home Secretary to Tory MPs when David Cameron quit.

Even though many will welcome Mrs May’s more consensual approach rather than following the more knee-jerk example followed by some of her predecessors who did not always think through the consequences of their pronouncements, it does offer scope for opponents and those with most to lose – namely irresponsible business executives – to bring undue influence to bear on the ensuing debate as Labour risks opposing the Government just for the sake of doing so.

An issue prompted by the abuses at BHS and Sports Direct, Mrs May needs to balance a desire to get tough with those ‘rotten apples’ who do give capitalism a bad name with a need to maintain Britain’s competitive advantage as the country prepares to leave the European Union.

Given the Government’s stance appears to amount to little more than “have cake and eat it” according to scribbled notes from one meeting, and given how the public finances are so stretched that planned cuts to corporation tax cannot be more ambitious, it’s equally important that British businesses are not compelled to follow rules of engagement which are more draconian than those abided by their rivals in the EU and beyond.

As such, it might still be prudent for Mrs May to see if her more laudable objectives can be introduced without cumbersome one-size-fits-all legislation which might prove to be counter-productive. After all, the most responsible employers won’t be waiting for new laws to be passed before they take more notice of their workforce or the verdict of shareholders on contentious issues like the remuneration of top executives. They will already be doing so.

Roads go to pot: Yorkshire’s transport logjam

IF it wasn’t for the fact that a hastily-repaired giant sinkhole in the middle of a busy road in Japan had started collapsing again, there would be much to admire from that country’s approach to infrastructure.

At least the Japanese got on with closing the chasm in a week – and then apologised when the road’s temporary reopening was delayed by a day. Contrast this with the pedestrian approach in Britain where potholes are left unrepaired for years and repairs to routes damaged by flooding last winter are still to be completed.

With poorly planned roadworks exacerbating delays – and the powers-that-be not even able to prioritise the timing of traffic lights in peak periods – it is little wonder that tailbacks in Hull, Sheffield, Bradford and Leeds now cost the Yorkshire economy £90m a year.

Even though there needs to be a change of mindset so construction projects are speeded up, the plain fact of the matter is this volume lost productivity will only increase, still further, unless the Government accepts that this region’s infrastructure is not fit for purpose and is going to pot. And while some say HS2 is an unnecessary folly, the failure of successive generations to invest in new roads, railways, cycleways and public transport is the major reason why Yorkshire will remain stuck in a jam. In all seriousness, the Japanese would not accept this. Why should Britain?

Football tragedies: Plane crash has echoes of Munich

THE chilling echoes with Munich, an unspeakable sporting disaster that claimed the lives, amongst others, of revered South Yorkshire footballers Tommy Taylor, Mark Jones and David Pegg, were self-evident as news emerged of a tragic plane crash in Colombia involving players, officials and journalists from Brazil’s Chapecoense team. Like the immortal ‘Busby Babes’ in 1958, this was a team of relatively young players representing their country in the latter stages of a prestigious continental tournament when calamity struck, and their deaths have already been widely mourned by the global football family.

It also puts into context tantrums about disputed decisions or water bottles kicked in frustration. Such unsporting outbursts are not even trivial when compared to the loss of an up-and-coming side which, by all accounts, had the world at its feet.