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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 12 February, 2003, 19:03 GMT
The CBI: The Voice of Business
The Confederation of British Industry was founded in 1965. It now calls itself the CBI, the Voice of Business.

It is a non-profit making, non-party political organisation, funded by its member companies which employ about four million people between them.

But its history goes back to the Federation of British Industries founded earlier in this century to negotiate with government on behalf of business.

High profile

The CBI has the highest profile of the UK's various organisations representing the business community.

Part of the reason for that is that its membership includes most of the UK's largest businesses, which also have a tradition of supplying a high profile president.

The most closely comparable organisation is the British Chambers of Commerce, which tends to have a stronger voice within regions than it does nationally, and tends to represent small and medium sized companies.

By contrast the CBI's membership and agenda means that it is more influential nationally than it is on a local or regional scale.

The CBI's stated aim is "to help create and sustain the conditions in which businesses in the UK can compete and prosper".

It seeks to do this by using its membership power to lobby on behalf of business to ensure their interests are considered in the formulation of government policies and laws, both nationally and internationally.

Union battles

The CBI also fulfils a quite separate role as a forum for members to exchange views, skills and experience, and make new contacts.

In the past the CBI's battles with the union organisation, the TUC, reflected the polarisation of the UK political system.

The TUC supported the Labour Party while the CBI was closely associated with the Conservative Party.

As the political landscape has changed, that position has modified, with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown setting out in the mid-1990s to win the support of business.

Mr Blair in 1999 became the first serving prime minister to address a CBI conference.

But a long list of Cabinet level politicians have addressed the annual event, seen as a key opportunity for MPs to prove their credentials to, and win support from, the important business lobby.

Its top brass

The CBI's director general has always been an influential figure, being occupied in the past by such figures as the current head of the Financial Services Authority, Howard Davies.

The confederation's director general, Digby Jones, has, during his three years in the post, stressed issues including the development of the nation's transport system, skills training and take-up of technology.

He also toned down the CBI's strongly pro-euro stance, followed by his predecessor Adair Turner, reflecting the split in the business community, as elsewhere in Britain, over Europe's single currency.


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