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Beckett names 20 to boost competitiveness

Margaret Beckett, President of the Board of Trade, yesterday pressed ahead with her agenda to improve Britain's competitiveness by naming the 20-strong group of businessmen and women who will act as advisers.

Mrs Beckett also disclosed that she was considering setting up a specialist unit within the Department of Trade and Industry to advise on what the industries and markets of the future Britain should be targeting.

She rejected suggestions, however, that the two initiatives amounted to the re-incarnation of the National Economic Development Council, disbanded by the last government, or that Labour was intent on "picking winners".

The advisory group on competitiveness is as politically correct as they come, containing women, ethnic minorities and representatives of both big business and small, entrepreneurial hi-tech firms.

Among the members are Perween Warsi, managing director of S&A Foods, Judy Lever, director of Blooming Marvellous and Jan Hall, European chief executive of the advertising agency GGT.

The group will meet four times a year and advise Mrs Beckett on the setting up of specific working parties to examine particular sectors of industry.