New CBI boss attacks 'soundbite' fix to rising energy bills

Sir Michael Rake Image copyright Barclays PLC
Image caption Sir Michael Rake also criticised current politics around immigration

The new president of the Confederation of British Industry, Sir Michael Rake, says soundbites are no answer to tackling Britain's rising energy bills.

He also dismissed a recent call by the former Prime Minister Sir John Major for a windfall tax on the energy supply providers.

Sir Michael said Britain needed a long term plan to bring its energy industry and the rest of the country's infrastructure up to date.

"Whatever the rights or wrongs, it's absolutely clear that soundbites have given no thought around the implication of price control or windfall taxes.

"It will do nothing except make the situation worse," he said.

Sir Michael, who is chairman of the BT Group, was speaking to members of the East Midlands CBI in Leicester.

He added: "It is incredibly important that we in business do not interfere with the political process, but try to ensure the facts are understood."

'Sensitive to concerns'

With signs the economy is beginning to pick up, Sir Michael told his business audience that workers had to benefit from any revival.

"We need to be very, very sensitive to the concerns of the population. They've had five years of recession which is blamed on business.

"We have to understand concerns about the cost of living and rising energy bills versus incomes that aren't going up.

"It's incredibly important that as this recovery continues, we are clear that everyone benefits. Through increased productivity, we must ensure people are fairly paid."

He said Britain had suffered from short-term political decision making. His answer was a long-term infrastructure building plan for Britain.

'Master plan'

"We have to encourage our politicians to resist taking short-term decisions.

"We should have a 'master plan' for the next 40 to 50 years on road, rail and air and with an independent commission to decide the list of national priorities for investment.

"HS2 is one of those issues. We cannot continue to simply put up projects like the Heathrow runway extension and then eliminate it for electoral reasons."

"We have to move forward and start making those decisions," he added.

Sir Michael was also critical of immigration being used for party political advantage. He said immigration had helped plug a serious skills gap in the UK economy.

He is a former chairman of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.

"We have a disturbing lack of skills. Foreign investors say we have a problem.

"One of the solutions which has been good for our economy, has been immigration. And some of the debate on immigration hasn't been factual," he told his Leicester audience.

"I find it quite damaging. So we must work with the politicians but we must be factual, unemotional and non-confrontational."

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