Letter: PR bad for business

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Sir: I was interested to see that you placed a story on the English regions immediately below one on voting reform (12 May).

It comes as no surprise that no sooner has Scottish and Welsh devolution become a visible reality, than their English regional neighbours, too, are looking for "equality". The pressure will now surely mount for greater devolution to the English regions. If that were to lead to the wider application of proportional representation, that could have very damaging consequences.

When the Jenkins Commission made its recommendation to abandon the first- past-the-post electoral system in England, the Institute of Directors warned that the business community should be very wary of supporting a system that could lead to minority governments dependant on the support of minority parties: parties which would undoubtedly demand their pound of flesh for that support and circumscribe the ability of the main party of government to deliver its declared policies.

The uncertainty and instability brought about by the kind of public haggling that this involves and public suspicion that the Government will readily abandon tough political decisions, are inclined to deter business investment, unsettle financial markets and undermine consumer confidence.

If the Government needs now to side-step pressure for undesirable political change in the English regions, the potential to achieve this already exists, by developing effective regional economic strategies through the new Regional Development Agencies.

To be effective the RDAs must be business-led: this is the Government's declared intention. It is essential that central government gives the RDAs sufficient freedom and coherence to succeed and that it genuinely carries through its pledge that they should be business-led.


Director General

Institute of Directors

London SW1