The departing head of the country’s biggest business group has taken a surprise swipe at the Government, accusing it of failing to put forward its vision for the economy.
Sir Richard Lambert, who stands down as director general of the CBI on Friday, said business supported the “ruthless” approach to spending cuts, agreeing they were essential for the long-term stability of the economy.
But in his last major speech after four-and-a-half years in the job, Sir Richard said the Government had not been so consistent and focused on its plans for economic growth.
“It’s failed so far to articulate in big picture terms its vision of what the UK economy might become under its stewardship. And it’s taken a series of policy initiatives for political reasons, apparently careless of the damage they might do to business and to job creation.”
Sir Richard said ministers were yet to set out a vision of what a successful growing economy would look like, adding: “The growth White Paper that was expected last autumn never materialised, and the impression was given that there simply weren’t enough good ideas around to justify such a publication.
“Rather than a big picture of the kind of economic eco-system the Government wants to champion, we are left with a few rather vague ideas about the scope supporting a number of predictable sectors, and the promise that more ideas will be forthcoming at the time of the spring budget.
“When it comes to micro policy initiatives, politics appear to have trumped economics on too many occasions over the past eight months.”
Sir Richard said the Business Department had been “understandably preoccupied” with the “dramas” of higher education in recent months, but he said: “Perhaps it is time for a hard look at the role of the Department of Business. We need a department that is seriously knowledgeable about everyday business needs. Less of a talking shop, more of an action-oriented growth champion.”
David Cameron’s official spokesman said: “Richard Lambert, it seems to me, is making many of the arguments you would expect a business lobby group to be making. The Government has made no apology about the fact that the deficit has to be addressed. We are also looking across the board at what more we can do to promote growth in the economy.”
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls said: “These are damning criticisms from such a respected figure in the business world. As Sir Richard says, the Conservative-led Government has no plan for growth and has taken decisions for political reasons regardless of the consequences for job creation and business.”