Business leaders angry at being told to 'stop whingeing'

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The Independent Online

Business leaders have reacted angrily to William Hague's comments that they should stop whingeing and work harder to boost the economy.

The Foreign Secretary enraged company executives when he said they should stop "complaining" about the economy, and "get on the plane and sell things overseas".

The chairman of the CBI last night told delegates at its annual dinner in London that businesses do not need the Government to "crack the whip" to get growth going. The City veteran Sir Roger Carr, famed for selling Cadbury to Kraft of the US, said: "There are no whingeing businessmen here, but engaged and positive people advocating a more constructive approach to solving the nation's greatest challenge – growth."

Mr Hague was delivering a keynote speech in what one delegate dubbed "a case of Daniel entering the lion's den".

In a nod to the anger he provoked at the weekend, he notably did not repeat his call for business to stop complaining. Instead he focused on how the Government was trying to help exports.

Mr Carr chastised businessmen for paying themselves too much and failing to act responsibly. "At a time when business could not matter more, it could not be trusted less," he admitted. "In the way we pay ourselves, present ourselves and conduct ourselves, now is the time to be more transparent, more responsible and more accountable."

Mr Carr is currently being paid £450,000 a year as chairman of Centrica, where more than 16 per cent of shareholders recently refused to back the directors' pay deals.