British Chambers of Commerce sets out stall ahead of CBI crunch vote

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has announced a new “Business Council” as firms depart the beleaguered Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Yorkshire employer Drax is among the founding partners of the group which says it will shape the organisation’s national offer to businesses.

Later today the BCC will meet in London to discuss next steps as representatives of British companies.

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Shevaun Haviland, Director General, BCC, said: “Over the past few months, working closely with the Chamber Network, we have been talking to the nation’s largest corporates and it has become clear to us that they are looking for a different kind of representation.

Portsmouth and District Business Week supplement

Shevaun HavilandPortsmouth and District Business Week supplement

Shevaun Haviland
Portsmouth and District Business Week supplement Shevaun Haviland

“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.”

It comes after high profile companies have fled the CBI which has been rocked by allegations of sexual harassment.

Firms, including Natwest, Mastercard, ITV, and AstraZeneca, among other leading companies across different sectors, have left the CBI since April, when the sexual harassment claims were first widely reported.

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The BCC last night said that it would focus on five challenges facing British companies: Digital Revolution, People and Work, Net Zero, Global Britain and the High Street.

“These challenges will form the backdrop to the next general election, which we know will come before the end of next year, and which everyone in Westminster is already gearing up for,” said Ms Haviland.

“The voice of business needs to be heard loud and clear, and now is the right time for us to speak up.”

Ross McKenzie, Interim Group Director of Corporate Affairs, Drax, said: “We look forward to working with the BCC and other leading businesses through the Council to help tackle some of the key challenges facing the UK.

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“This includes ensuring that the country has the right policies in place to deliver its Net Zero commitments.”

It comes as the head of the CBI said that she will “fight for the organisation” ahead of a crunch vote this week.

Rain Newton-Smith, who became director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) last month, will face a vote tomorrow when members decide whether they have confidence in the business body.

Members will vote on a new prospectus, which includes appointing a new president and giving members an annual vote on the make-up of its board, following claims of sexual harassment at the CBI made by more than a dozen women, with two separate allegations of rape.

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Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme, Ms Newton-Smith said: “It’s been absolutely devastating to read about some of these instances, and I hope we are emerging from what has been a really deep and painful crisis for us as an organisation.”

Former CBI head Tony Danker was dismissed on April 11 following complaints made against him, including one sexual harassment claim.

Mr Danker told the BBC his name had been wrongly associated with separate claims, including the alleged rapes which reportedly happened before he joined the CBI.

Asked by Ms Kuenssberg whether she would take a pay cut following reports earlier this week that the company will lay off workers, Ms Newton-Smith said they were looking at “all the options”.

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She said: “My pay is already not as high as my predecessor’s, and I think what’s really important is that we protect as many jobs as we can through this. I don’t want to lose any colleagues.

“That’s why I’ve come back, to fight for the organisation, to fight for the jobs of the people within that organisation.”

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