CBI is no longer relevant in its current form, says former Barclays’ director Baroness Wheatcroft

The CBI's time has passed and it is no longer fit for purpose, according to former Barclays' director Baroness Wheatcroft.

The CBI’s time has passed and it is no longer fit for purpose, according to former Barclays’ director Baroness Wheatcroft.

The peer said it was “increasingly difficult” for the business lobby group to represents the likes of both Amazon and a small manufacturing firm.

The CBI and its future are under the spotlight following claims of misconduct, including sexual assault.

The City of London police is investigating a number of allegations.

Three CBI employees have been suspended while the claims are examined.

Baroness Wheatcroft, who is also the former editor-in-chief of the Wall Street Journal Europe, told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme that the CBI “probably can survive, but in a reduced form”.

“Should it survive? I think its time has probably passed honestly,” she said.

“To represent the broad-spread of members that it claims to is increasingly difficult and I think the interests of Amazon and a small manufacturing business in the north of England are so different now that to put them under the same umbrella as the accountants and consultants and the banks really doesn’t make sense and longer,” she said.

Some large UK businesses have gone on record to say they are “deeply concerned” about the allegations facing the CBI.

A number said they will wait until an investigation by law firm Fox Williams into the claims has concluded before they make a decision about their membership of the CBI.

Meanwhile the government has paused any engagement with the CBI until Fox Williams’ investigation has concluded.

Baroness Wheatcroft said that the original purpose of the CBI was to be “a voice that trumpeted the need for business and business being a force for good”.

But she questioned whether the CBI was currently in a position to instruct companies how how they can be a force for good.

She added that it was important not to rush to judgement of the claims facing the CBI, the most serious of which date back to a summer boat party in 2019, adding that, as of yet, they are “unproven”.

Separately, the CBI fired its director general Tony Danker this week, following a complaint from a female employee in January and allegations from other members of staff which emerged last month.

Mr Danker is not accused of the claims that the City of London police is investigating.

His conduct was found to have fallen short of that expected of the director general, according to an investigation by Fox Williams.