Busi­ness chiefs rally in de­fence of free mar­kets

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Front page - By Christopher Wil­liams

BRITISH busi­ness chiefs have this week­end re­sponded to a call from the Chan­cel­lor to de­fend and pro­mote the mar­ket econ­omy as it comes un­der at­tack from Left-wing ad­vo­cates of re­na­tion­al­i­sa­tion and of large-scale White­hall in­ter­ven­tion.

The chief ex­ec­u­tives and chair­men of some of the county’s big­gest em­ploy­ers have lined up to tell The Sun­day Tele­graph that free en­ter­prise must be pro­tected to cre­ate jobs, in­vest in pro­duc­tiv­ity, raise liv­ing stan­dards and pay for pub­lic ser­vices.

Busi­ness lead­ers have be­gun speak­ing out as polling shows ris­ing pub­lic sup­port for state own­er­ship of swathes of the econ­omy and greater mar­ket in­ter­ven­tion, as planned by Jeremy Cor­byn. At the Con­ser­va­tive Party con­fer­ence Chan­cel­lor Philip Ham­mond called for more vo­cal sup­port for the eco­nomic sys­tem in a rear­guard ac­tion he said was not about party pol­i­tics.

Sir Mike Rake, chair­man of BT and World­pay, said: “It is vi­tal that busi­ness helps to re­make the case for free trade and re­spon­si­ble cap­i­tal­ism.”

Sir Philip Hamp­ton, chair­man of the drug gi­ant Glax­o­smithk­line, which em­ploys 16,000 peo­ple in the UK, warned that in­ter­fer­ing in mar­kets would dam­age pub­lic ser­vices.

He said: “Prof­itable busi­nesses pro­vid­ing good jobs are needed to pro­vide the tax rev­enues to sup­port ser­vices.” That view was echoed by Alis­tair Cox, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Bri­tain’s big­gest re­cruiter, Hays.

Cen­trica chief ex­ec­u­tive Iain Conn is bat­tling Tory in­ter­ven­tion in the form of planned en­ergy price caps, but nev­er­the­less backed Mr Ham­mond’s de­fence of free mar­kets.

He said: “En­cour­ag­ing free and open mar­kets is crit­i­cal to the UK’S pro­duc­tiv­ity and eco­nomic fu­ture.”

Lady Bar­bara Judge, chair­man of the In­sti­tute of Di­rec­tors, warned that “ex­ces­sive state in­ter­ven­tion by politi­cians of any party” is dam­ag­ing.

There were wide­spread calls in­stead for busi­ness to get more in­volved along­side gov­ern­ment in tack­ling the chal­lenges that have un­der­mined faith in the mar­ket, such as high house prices, creak­ing in­fra­struc­ture and squeezed wages.

Vir­gin Money chief ex­ec­u­tive Jayneanne Gad­hia said “eco­nomic pros­per­ity re­lies on de­liv­er­ing a bet­ter form of cap­i­tal­ism” and said any­thing but an en­ter­prise-led econ­omy would “leave peo­ple ma­te­ri­ally worse off ”.

Clive Ban­nis­ter of the FTSE 250 in­surer Phoenix Group said that his­tory demon­strates that “whether the UK has had a gov­ern­ment of the Left or the Right, it is a well-func­tion­ing mar­ke­tled econ­omy which has helped de­liver higher gen­eral liv­ing stan­dards”.

The strong­est re­buke to Mr Cor­byn’s poli­cies came from Mor­risons chair­man Andy Hig­gin­son, who said he had “lived through the sham­bles of state en­ter­prises whether that was the rail­ways, the Post Of­fice or British Ley­land”. Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Jil­lian Am­brose, Ash­ley Arm­strong, Lucy Bur­ton, Tim Wal­lace and Iain Withers

Lady Bar­bara Judge, chair­man of the In­sti­tute of Di­rec­tors, said ex­ces­sive state in­ter­ven­tion was dam­ag­ing

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