Theresa May has watered-down on her Tory leadership campaign pledge to install worker representation on company boards.
Speaking to the CBI’s conference in London this morning, the prime minister said firms would not be forced to do it if they did not want to.
“While it is important that the voices of workers and consumers should be represented, I can categorically tell you that this is not about mandating works councils, or the direct appointment of workers or trade union representatives on boards,” she told business leaders.
“Some companies may find that these models work best for them – but there are other routes that use existing Board structures, complemented or supplemented by advisory councils or panels, to ensure all those with a stake in the company are properly represented. It will be a question of finding the model that works.”
In July, May used her most high profile Conservative Party leadership campaign speech to say:
“If I’m Prime Minister, we’re going to change that system – and we’re going to have not just consumers represented on company boards, but employees as well.”
TUC General Secretary Frances O-Grady said criticised the prime minister for her change of heart.
“Theresa May made a clear promise to have workers represented on company boards. The proposals in her speech today do not deliver on this. This is not the way to show that you want to govern for ordinary working people,” she said.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, business secretary Greg Clark said there were “different ways of doing this”.
“Theresa May has talked about an economy that works for everyone - that includes workers, employees, consumers, the supply chain businesses - so we will put forward a series of ways in which those voices can be represented on boards. We will publish those plans. We will have options. We are working with business,” he said.
“It is very important that the confidence that the employees in every part of the country have that very successful British business works for them is something that Theresa May and this government takes very much to its heart and we are acting on it.”
In her speech to the CBI conference today, May said: “We believe in free markets. They are the means by which we spread opportunity and lift people out of poverty.
“We believe in capitalism - the means by which we drive economic growth, putting people into work to provide for their families. And we believe in business – the entrepreneurs and the innovators who employ millions of people up and down this country – the basis for our prosperity.
“The Conservative Party – and the Government I lead – will always believe in these things. But I am here today not just to reaffirm these core beliefs, but to say that - if this is what we value - we need to be prepared to adapt and change.
“For if we support free markets, value capitalism and back business – and we do – we must do everything we can to keep faith with them.”