The business on...Lord Green, Trade Minister

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The Independent Online

Britain's salesman-in-chief?

That's what our exporters hope, but rumours sweeping Westminster this week suggest Lord Green might put some businesses before others. There was so much gossip that the Government was forced to clarify the situation yesterday. Contrary to speculation, it said, Lord Green will promote Britain's defence industry – including the arms trade – as well as every other type of exporter.

Why wouldn't he?

Lord Green is a committed Christian, an ordained Anglican priest. Sources in Whitehall suggest his religious views have left him feeling uncomfortable about the job of flogging British weapons around the world.

So what will Lord Green do?

If the Department of Business statement is to be taken at face value, he's going to put his personal difficulties aside in the knowledge that defence is one of the UK's most successful export industries.

Will that be painful?

Maybe, though it's worth pointing out that Stephen Green spent more than 25 years in senior positions at HSBC, culminating in a stint as its chairman. It would be fair to say he never stopped the bank investing in businesses about which he might have felt personally uncomfortable.

Mammon before God then?

It would seem so, though Lord Green has been wrestling with thesematters for years, writing two books on related topics.

What do they say?

In his most recent work, Good Value: Reflections on Money, Morality and an Uncertain World, he wrote: "We need to be able to look ourselves in the mirror and ask two questions about our role in the global bazaar: how is what I am doing contributing to human welfare? And why am I specifically doing it?

Does he follow his own advice?

Well, he spent a year working in a hostel for alcoholics after leaving university and more recently slashed traders bonuses after they performed poorly, which is unusual in the banking sector.

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