Heseltine urges top businessmen to curb own pay

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The Independent Online
MICHAEL HESELTINE, President of the Board of Trade, last night issued the Government's strongest appeal yet to top businessmen to curb their pay.

In a speech to the CBI in Glasgow, Mr Heseltine said that ministers had announced a policy for public sector pay and warned that there would be 'more tough decisions in this year's public spending round.' He added: 'But the responsibility does not lie with government alone. It is vital that industry takes advantange of the current good position to improve competitiveness in the long term, and that means keeping wage costs firmly under control at all levels - including the top.'

Mr Heseltine, who also exhorted business to 'put their customers at the top of the agenda', also appeared unrepentant in the wake of leaked attacks by the former Chief Secretary, Michael Portillo, on his department's spending. Asking rhetorically how Galsgow had been turned into a modern and thriving metropolis, he declared: 'Government has played a big part . . . a lot of public money has been spent.'

Mr Heseltine was bullish about the economy, saying that 'for the first time in many years we have the prospect of achieving sustained, non-inflationary growth. That is something which we should be proud of.'

And in a passage which will be widely interpreted as indicating his determination to persuade Cabinet colleagues to go ahead with early privatisation of the Royal Mail, Mr Heseltine declared: 'We have taken one nationalised industry after another and turned them from great bureaucratic monopolies, dominated by trade unions, pre-occupied with the interests of people who work in them and with little concern for the consumers, into not just private companies, but often into world-class companies.'

He added: 'I have no plans to change the status of the Post Office except in one way - they will be given wider opportunities to increase the scale and scope of their commercial activities. We will maintain the viability of the Post Office in both rural and urban areas, and indeed we will enhance it,' he said.

Almost 40 per cent of Tory voters say they would not admit to friends or colleagues that they intended to vote for the party, according to a Gallup/Daily Telegraph poll today. It shows support for Labour unchanged at 56.5 per cent, but a one-point drop to 22 per cent for the Conservatives.