CBI picks director general from outside M25

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The Independent Online
THE NEW director general of the Confederation of British Industry, Digby Jones, yesterday pledged to make the organisation more representative of small business and the regions while maintaining its broadly pro-euro stance.

Mr Jones, vice-chairman of corporate finance at KPMG and chairman of the CBI's West Midlands region, takes over the pounds 250,000-a-year post from Adair Turner on 1 January for a five-year term.

Selected from a shortlist of five, which included one woman, Mr Jones, 44, is taking a "significant pay cut" in his new job. He said the biggest asset he would bring to the post was the ability to represent all sides of business, helping to combat the perception that the CBI was too metropolitan and too interested in big business.

Although that was not the case in reality, the organisation needed to do more to appeal to the regions and small and medium sized enterprises, he added. A lawyer by training, Mr Jones described his politics as "centre right" and disclosed that he became a member of the SDP for one year immediately after it was founded.

His first appearance before the press yesterday was a polished affair. Mr Jones refused to be drawn on whether the CBI needed to become more confrontational in its dealings with the Government and he towed the party line on Europe and the unions. "As director general I am not going to pick a fight with anyone just to grandstand," he said.

Referring to the fact that all three of his predecessors had been McKinsey men, Mr Jones said the CBI had broken with tradition in appointing someone who had never worked for the management consultancy and came from more than 100 miles outside London. He cycled from John o'Groat's to Land's End last year to help raise money for the Birmingham St Mary's Hospice appeal, losing four stone in the process.

Sir Clive Thompson, president of the CBI, denied that the appointment of a serving regional chairman indicated a shortage of high quality candidates.

Sir Clive said that the CBI had received "literally hundreds of applications, including some from aspiring politicians, serving politicians and past politicians. We also got some good candidates".

Around 100 candidates were considered and 25 were interviewed. Mr Jones was initially approached by headhunters from the Miles Partnership in August and offered the job a month ago.

Mr Jones described this month's interest rate rise as "one too many" and said he would be disappointed if Britain were not in the euro by the end of his five-year term, provided the economic and structural conditions in Europe were right. He said his aim would be to make wealth creation "as relevant to the shopfloor as it is in the boardroom," during his five- year tenure and indicated that transport would be one of the CBI's top priorities.

Mr Jones met Stephen Byers, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, yesterday and is scheduled to meet Tony Blair next month.

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