Scandal-hit CBI faces crunch vote in battle to secure its future

Members will be asked whether its plan for renewal is enough to give them confidence in the CBI, a vote which will determine the group’s future.


The future of Britain’s former top business lobby group hangs in the balance, ahead of a crunch vote on Tuesday for remaining members of the scandal-hit Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

The CBI is battling to secure its future following a series of sexual harassment allegations, which first emerged in March.

Members will be asked whether its plan for renewal is enough to give them confidence in the CBI, a vote which will determine the future path of the once-influential group.

Brian McBride, the CBI’s president, said on Monday that the outcome of the critical vote is not a “given”.

He wrote in the Financial Times: “Succeed and we can make a leaner, more accountable and inclusive organisation, fail and we lose precious time to fight for our members and a stronger economy and society.

“To members, as well as the wider business community, I want to say that the outcome of Tuesday’s vote isn’t a given.”

The vote will be held for members during the extraordinary general meeting (EGM) which begins at noon.

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.

The CBI’s new director-general, Rain Newton-Smith, has pledged to “fight for the organisation”.

About a dozen firms, including engineering giant Siemens, Microsoft and oil firm Esso, signed a joint letter published in The Times on Monday backing the CBI and its overhaul ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

But a new business group was launched on Monday hoping to garner the support of those businesses which have ended or suspended their membership with the CBI and are not part of the vote.

Tony Danker
Tony Danker was dismissed from the CBI following allegations of misconduct (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) set up the Business Council, with founding members including some of the UK’s biggest companies, such as FTSE 100 oil giant BP, Heathrow, Holiday Inn owner IHG Hotels & Resorts and power station firm Drax.

BCC’s director-general Shevaun Haviland said: “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.

“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.”

She added that ahead of the next general election, the “voice of business needs to be heard loud and clear, and now is the right time for us to speak up”.

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

His exit came after the Guardian reported the allegations against him in articles in March and April.

Law firm Fox Williams was appointed to carry out an independent investigation and a number of other people were also dismissed by the CBI.

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.

Aviva was the first major business to cut ties with the group after the allegations, with dozens of the biggest names in British business soon following suit.

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