Labour to rid Whitehall of business figures who advise government thinking

Chuka Umunna

Chuka Umunna, the party’s business spokesman, has queried the integrity of some of the commercial and industrial leaders brought in by the Coalition.

He said not all of the so-called ‘government non-executives’ may be impartial, and some recent appointments have been ‘party political gifts’.

Among the business leaders that have taken up senior Whitehall jobs are Lord Browne, the former head of BP, and Sir Ian Cheshire, former chief executive of DIY group Kingfisher.

Mr Umunna’s comments were made to the Financial Times last month, just days after more than 100 corporate figures wrote an open letter backing David Cameron.

He said many of the signatories were Tory donors and revealed that Labour was looking at improving the way business figures are recruited to ensure the appointments were more objective and independent.
They are known as ‘government non-executives’, and the Cabinet Office says there are 68 of them.

Mr Umunna said: ‘Some of the appointments have the appearance of being party political appointments. There is a risk that there is politicisation – that has happened in some cases.’

His Labour colleague Lucy Powell told the FT: ‘I feel like some of these appointments have been political appointments. I think that diminishes what the value of those roles should be.’