Hunt steps in to salvage troubled CBI’s relaunch summit

Business

The chancellor has agreed to address the CBI’s first public event since the business lobbying group was plunged into crisis earlier this year.

Sky News has learnt that Jeremy Hunt will be among the keynote speakers at the CBI’s annual conference in London next week, just seven months after declaring that there was “no point” engaging with it.

Mr Hunt’s appearance will represent a major boost to the organisation, which came close to collapse during the summer after being deserted by major corporate members in the wake of a sexual misconduct scandal.

The CBI’s scaled-back conference will take place next Monday, two days before the chancellor delivers his autumn statement.

In April, he cast doubt on the merits of engaging with it, although he has in recent weeks held private talks with Rain Newton-Smith, its director-general.

“There’s no point in engaging with the CBI when their own members have deserted them in droves, so we want to engage with a body that speaks for business,” Mr Hunt said in the spring.

“It’s incredibly important for me when I am constructing budgets to have someone I can turn to that speaks for British business because we are a very, very pro-business government.”

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The chancellor’s decision to address the CBI summit comes after Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch turned down an invitation to attend, citing diary commitments.

Other senior political figures, including Labour’s shadow business secretary, Jonathan Reynolds, will also speak at the event.

The CBI recently secured funding to ensure its short-term survival after a torrid six-month period in which it teetered on the brink of collapse.

Read more:
New CBI boss ‘profoundly sorry’ to women let down
Chancellor offers olive branch to CBI

A sexual misconduct crisis, which included several rape allegations against former employees, triggered an exodus of corporate members including Aviva and John Lewis Partnership.

Tony Danker, its director-general – who was accused of inappropriate behaviour but had nothing to do with the more serious allegations – stepped down in April weeks after being suspended.

The CBI briefly entertained talks about a merger with Make UK, the manufacturers’ body, but these have now been curtailed.

Established by royal charter in 1965, the CBI’s financial crisis has forced it to slash jobs and close overseas offices.

Both the CBI and the Treasury declined to comment.

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