Business ‘must help mend broken state’

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Lord Jones: Business, including food firms, should do more to persuade the government to ‘mend broken social systems’
Lord Jones: Business, including food firms, should do more to persuade the government to ‘mend broken social systems’

Related tags Food manufacturing sector

Britain’s business community – including the food and drink sector – needs to play a bigger role in getting government to reform the UK’s broken social systems, according to Lord Digby Jones, former director general of the Confederation of British Industry and a former trade minister.

Speaking at a special industry dinner recently at Fishmongers’ Hall in the City of London to mark the Federation of Bakers’ (FoB’s) 75th Anniversary, Jones called on UK businesses to step up to the plate in addressing the huge challenges facing the nation.

These ranged from globalisation and the emergence of Asia as the world’s dominant commercial powerhouse, to the growth of consumerism and increasing disparity between rich and poor, said Jones.

“Gaps between rich and poor create uncertainty and resentment,”​ he explained. “People feel they are being left behind.”

Jones called on businesses to play their part in the huge reforms necessary to drive the change required. But, he warned: “We don’t have a right to come to that democratic table if we don’t come with clean hands.

‘Train and skill our people better’

“We have to train and skill our people better. We have to work with schools, colleges and universities better than we have ever done before. We have to spend more time, money, effort and application in making sure the quality of apprenticeship programmes succeed.”

As well as playing their part in training and raising the skills levels of the UK population, businesses needed to be environmentally sensitive and socially aware to the growing number of people who no longer felt they had a stake in society, he said.

“It’s against this background that we have got to have reform,”​ said Jones. “Old models of doing things are over.

“You’ve got an NHS not fit for purpose, looking after old people. We’ve got a social care situation that can’t cope and we’ve got a pensions system that hasn’t got enough money.”

Jones referred to the many achievements of the food manufacturing sector over the past 75 years, both in times of war – such as during World War II, when the FoB was set up to manage the “national loaf”​ – and in times of peace.

Achievements of the food manufacturing sector

“If we see what we can achieve with just a little bit of effort and not a lot of money; if we have the courage to go to the public realm and say we’re on your side, but you need to reform, there is not a mountain we can’t climb and there is not a river we can’t swim,”​ he urged.

Introducing the evening event, FoB chairman Mike Roberts said the world and the FoB had changed much since it was formed in 1942.

“But the objectives remain the same: the promotion, protection and representation of the interests of bakers and managing the expectations and issues surrounding the need to ensure that bread is part of a healthy balanced diet.

“We need a strong trade association to ensure that bread and morning goods are protected and regulated the way we wish them to be and not how others would want it.

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