Business chiefs rally in defence of free markets
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