Labour critic Lea loses policy job at Institute of Directors

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The Independent Online

One Of the most outspoken and colourful critics of the Government's business agenda has lost her job as policy chief at the Institute of Directors.

Ruth Lea is currently on gardening leave following a review of the IoD's operations that made her post redundant.

Ms Lea, 56, has been the public face of the IoD for eight years, putting forth generally reactionary views on issues such as taxation, rights for workers, pensions and university tuition fees.

Contacted at home yesterday, Ms Lea declined to comment other than to say she was "cat-sitting". The IoD said it would not comment until its review was completed next week.

She is thought to be in negotiations over compensation for loss of office. Lea was the second most senior person within the IoD, after George Cox, the director general. She could be entitled to a substantial pay-off. Mr Cox earned a salary of £210,000 in the latest financial year and his total package including a three-year bonus, pension contribution and benefits was £374,000.

Ms Lea is widely believed to have been unsuccessful in an attempt to replace Sir Tim Melville-Ross as director-general when he stepped down in 1999.

Last week Mr Cox said the IoD had decided to review the way it formulated, developed and communicated its policy. Last year the policy unit cost £1.6m. "We're in discussions with Ruth on what her role should be," he said then.

The IoD's annual report shows that in 2002 the policy unit responded to almost 80 government consultation documents, held seminars on subjects ranging from diversity to the NHS restructuring, and published 28 papers, including a major contribution to the debate on education and training.

The IoD's views on the need for less regulation in the workplace, often espoused in a typically strident fashion by Ms Lea, has not won the institute any friends in Government.

In contrast, other business groups such as the CBI, the British Chambers of Commerce and the Engineering Employers' Federation have preferred constructive criticism.

Before the IoD, Ms Lea was economics editor at ITN, a senior economist in the City including spells at Mitsubishi Bank and Lehman Brothers, and a civil servant at the Treasury.

Meanwhile the CBI yesterday said Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the US Federal Reserve, would address its annual conference next month.

Mr Greenspan will give his views via videolink about the outlook for the world economy to the Birmingham event.

Delegates will also hear from John Snow, the US Treasury Secretary, and Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who will both appear in person.