Here at the CBI’s climate change summit, most of the anger towards government has centred on the changes to the carbon reduction commitment (CRC), which has seen money originally earmarked for businesses with good environmental performances going to the Treasury instead. The BBC’s Roger Harrabin summed up the feeling in the room when he described it as the government “nicking your CRC dividend”.
So business leaders are relieved to hear Chris Huhne, the energy secretary, make some concessions today. Here’s what he said:
Today we have published a UK-wide consultation on delaying the start of Phase II of CRC. This means that participants won’t need to register for Phase II until 2013.
New Labour was very fond of appointing business figures to ceremonial jobs as a way to convince the world that they understood enterprise.
It was also a cunning device to create diversionary “good news” when events were not going to plan. The trend reached its surreal peak when Gordon Brown appointed Alan Sugar as Lord Sugar and made him enterprise tsar – on the day that the beleaguered Labour prime minister was almost toppled by an uprising of his own ministers.
In the post-CSR environment, David Cameron and his team are determined to foster a climate of upbeat events and news stories to shift the focus off the deepest cuts for a generation. This may explain why the prime minister was planning to unveil a new wave of “trade ambassadors” next week to co-incide with a trip to the Far East. This news management has alas been spoiled this evening by FT columnist Mark Kleinman (also business editor of Sky) who reveals on his blog* that Richard Lambert, the outgoing director-general of the CBI, is one of them. Read more
Ministers have no qualms about standing up to the unions in the current climate, as you can see from the FT’s splash this morning about their attempts to slash redundancy terms for 500,000 civil servants. The coalition is trying to push through a move – initiated by Labour last year - to reduce the maximum pay-off from 6.5 years to 2. It was thwarted in May when the Public and Commercial Service Union won a judicial review against it.
But is the government prepared to go to war against the union movement? This is the implication from this morning’s Times front page – “Ministers in secret talks to toughen strike laws” – which claims that ministers could re-examine changing strike laws if imminent job losses lead to widespread industrial unrest.
I heard a similar rumour last week but was told the government had not changed its position since late June. Then, the CBI called for a change so that strikes could only happen if 40 per cent of the total workforce backed action – rather than, as present, a majority of those who voted. The business group was apparently slapped down by David Cameron, whose spokesman said there were “no plans to change strike legislation.”
Having “no plans” is not the same as ruling something out indefinitely, of course. Read more
Ed Miliband, Labour leadership contender, appears to be making a bold call today:
In a speech at the London School of Economics, Ed Miliband will say he wants to get the Labour Party as a whole behind the “living wage” campaign, calling for a rate of £7.60 in London and a national average outside the capital of £7.16. About five million workers would benefit. The actual minimum wage is set to rise to £5.93 in October. (PA)
At first glance this seemed hugely radical/drastic depending on your point of view; given that it would represent a 28 per cent rise in wages for the lowest paid. Surely the CBI et al should be horrified? Read more