Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Portman Group backs report on how Labour Party should work with business

Published:  26 January, 2015

A report by the Fabian Society, which proposes a charter for how the Labour party engages with business, is being released today with backing from the Portman Group.

A report by the Fabian Society, which proposes a charter for how the Labour party engages with business, is being released today with backing from the Portman Group.

'In It Together: Labour's new relationship with business' focuses on how businesses can work well with government and how the Labour party needs to make a "big, open and comprehensive offer" to British firms.

Henry AshworthThe Portman Group’s Henry Ashworth will address Parliament todayCEO Ashworth will focus on the contribution the drinks industry has already made in increasing responsible drinking as reasons why industry/government partnerships work well.

Recently the Portman Group hit back at Labour's call for greater regulation on public health issues, saying the alcohol industry's partnerships with government had delivered strong results. Earlier this month shadow health secretary Andy Burnham launched an attack on high strength, cheap alcohol, saying tougher sanctions are needed and looking at putting restrictions on price and bottle size.

A public health white paper from the Labour party also calls for mandatory pregnancy labelling - which the drinks industry has already delivered 90% voluntarily - and will be looking at other top-down regulations, eschewing the voluntary approach.

Speaking at the time the Portman Group's chief executive Henry Ashworth said: "We must move on from the old politics of one-size-fits-all policies which antagonise voters and responsible businesses and do nothing to redress the imbalance of health harms across the country.

It has now backed a proposed charter, developed by the Fabian Society, on how Labour can better engage with business. It includes suggestions: 

  • a 'no surprises' approach to business policy, with regulation a measure of last resort
  • if regulation is necessary, government should gain endorsement from affected companies affected. If they don't, they should explain why not
  • appointing a business partnerships manager in the leader's office comparable in stature to its current trade union liaison manager
  • praise businesses that do the right thing rather than shaming those that don't.

The report will be launched today in Parliament with speeches from Lord Stewart Wood (Shadow Cabinet Office Minister), Ashworth, Ed Wallis (editorial director and senior research fellow, Fabian Society) and Nita Clarke (director, IPA).

The Portman Group's Ashworth said: "Companies with long-term visions understand their responsibilities to consumers, and prioritise delivering social value alongside economic growth. Governments that build partnerships with industry can align incentives towards the long term, and harness the resource and innovation that businesses use to improve the communities they serve.

"In the UK for example, the drinks industry has voluntarily taken a billion units of alcohol out of the market, limited the number of units of alcohol in single serve cans and voluntarily labelled 80% of products with important health information, and over 90% with a warning about drinking when pregnant. The industry also champions and funds local partnerships to tackle alcohol harms in many areas across the country. Drinks companies take their duty to promote responsible drinking and improve local communities seriously.

"So it makes sense for any government to make an open and comprehensive offer to the business community to work together to grow the economy and deliver effective social policy."

The Fabian Society's Wallis said: "We need a new way to do business in Britain, one that makes economic long-termism, public health, environmental sustainability and strong local communities integral to a profitable British business model. And there is a real challenge for Labour in doing so. While business likes Labour's noises on skills and industrial policy, they're worried by the rhetoric over markets. It doesn't have to be this way - if Labour is going to make the changes it wants to as the next government, it needs a new partnership with business."