UK Politics

Nick Clegg defends ex-Dragons' Den star James Caan on daughters' jobs

Nick Clegg and James Caan
Image caption Nick Clegg and James Caan rode together on a bus to the launch of the Opening Doors initiative

Nick Clegg has told people not to be "sanctimonious" in criticising parents who help children with their careers.

The deputy prime minister, standing alongside new social mobility tsar James Caan, said it was an "instinct" to want to help offspring.

Former Dragons' Den star Mr Cann has been accused of hypocrisy for employing his daughters despite suggesting children should "find their own way".

But he said they had been chosen by normal recruitment processes.

Mr Caan appeared alongside the deputy prime minister in central London to promote the government's Opening Doors campaign, aimed at providing fair and open access jobs and professions for young people, regardless of background.

More than 150 major organisations in the UK have committed to offering places.

'Makes sense'

Mr Clegg, whose financier father helped set up an internship for him at a Finnish bank at the start of his career, said: "I am a parent. I want to do the best for my child. Every parent does. I don't want us to deny parental instinct.

"You shouldn't be sanctimonious about this. All I'm saying is governments, businesses, those who can open doors to youngsters who don't have the luck and good fortune of having supportive parents and families, I think should do so.

"Not only because it's good for youngsters but it's good for them as well - it's good for governments, good for business. It makes sense all round."

Mr Caan insisted his daughters Jemma - who works for a firm in which he has an investment - and Hanah - who got an internship at his private equity company - had been through "normal" recruitment processes and were qualified for the jobs they were given.

Speaking about his own experiences, Mr Clegg acknowledged he had been "very lucky" but added: "I don't think it should be about luck.

"It should be about those people who don't have that luck. How do we make sure that doors open to them?

"How do we make sure that opportunities are provided to them so that everybody, regardless of their background, regardless of the circumstances of their birth, are able to live out their dreams, fulfil their potential, as long as they are prepared to work hard and put in the hours?"


Earlier this week Mr Cann told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that job prospects should not depend on "who you know rather than what you can do".

Reappearing on the same programme on Wednesday, the entrepreneur defended the decision to employ his daughter, saying: "When they were in a position to look at opportunities, it is about applying through a normal channel, a normal process.

"You should not discriminate against family or friends. Just because they are family or friends does not mean they are not qualified to do the job."

Mr Caan said elder daughter Jemma had worked for four years with other firms before going to work for one of his organisations, but acknowledged that Hanah had done a series of internships in his organisations before being given a job.

He rejected suggestions that he was the wrong person to be the social mobility tsar, saying: "I have been doing recruitment for 30 years and have built up a number of substantial organisations - we employ nearly 800 people. I do have experience, I do know what I am talking about."

Mr Caan refused to answer further questions from reporters about his daughters.

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