Ministers snub CBI over rape and drug allegations as crisis deepens

Ministers and big business snub CBI over rape and drug allegations as crisis deepens

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) plunged deeper into crisis last night when ministers severed ties with the group amid allegations of sexual misconduct and drug abuse.

In another day of turbulence for Britain’s largest corporate lobbying organisation, the Treasury and Department for Business and Trade suspended cooperation pending an inquiry into a range of allegations.

Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch

Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch

Companies including Rolls-Royce, Ernst & Young and Marks & Spencer also raised concerns following allegations about the behavior of high-profile figures, with one woman claiming she was raped at a staff party on a boat on the Thames.

One business leader, who asked not to be named, said the CBI’s reputation was in tatters, adding: “It’s hard to imagine how they could have any influence or represent business interests.”

And activists called for more companies to speak up.

Gwen Rhys, campaign group leader for Women in the City, said: “This is the boys’ club that wants to maintain the status quo. The problem is that if the CBI gets caught, they’ll all be under scrutiny.

The CBI, which represents many of Britain’s biggest companies and campaigns on behalf of 190,000 companies, was rocked this week by allegations including rape, sexual assault and drug abuse among its staff. More than a dozen women turned to The Guardian newspaper, claiming they were victims of sexual misconduct by high-profile figures.

Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch (pictured) was due to hold talks with Britain’s top five business groups, including the CBI, after Easter but the meeting was cancelled.

The CBI said: “We understand the government’s decision to stay the engagement pending the outcome of the independent investigation. The Board expects preliminary results and actions from the first phase of the investigation soon after Easter.’

The allegations follow complaints against CBI Director General Tony Danker, who agreed to resign last month pending an investigation. It is understood that the new allegations do not relate to Danker.

Some companies have begun to question their membership in the 58-year-old’s networking group.

Rolls-Royce said: “As a company that has no tolerance for wrongdoing, the latest allegations are deeply worrying. We expect the CBI to thoroughly investigate any findings from this investigation and take concrete action. We will await the outcome before considering our membership.’


EY, the accounting firm, said it will wait “until the official investigation is complete and the CBI has responded to the findings.”

Manufacturer Siemens said: “It is right that a thorough and independent investigation is taking place.” Andy Wood, chief executive of Adnams Brewery, said: “There is no place for sexual misconduct in society.”

According to Bloomberg, Marks & Spencer has contacted the CBI for more information on the investigation. The CBI has canceled upcoming public events, including an annual dinner where Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey was due to speak on May 11.

Over 600 executives were invited to the event, sponsored by Lloyds Bank, to “discuss the opportunities and challenges in the current business environment”. Tables cost up to £4,900 each.

The lobby group is facing its biggest crisis since it was created by royal charter in 1965.

It was already teetering after complaints against Danker surfaced last month. A junior colleague is said to have complained about “unwanted contact”, which she took to be sexual harassment.

He reportedly sent a spate of messages, some containing sexually explicit language, for more than a year. The father-of-two vowed to work with the Fox Williams law firm, which was tasked with investigating the claims. Ministers snub CBI over rape and drug allegations as crisis deepens

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