In surprising move, Sainsbury’s chief is replaced by Tesco’s as the government faces spectre of triple-dip recession
David Cameron has shaken up his inner circle of advisers on business matters, with Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King, advertising boss Sir Martin Sorrell and Diageo’s Paul Walsh among those leaving a high-profile industry panel.
In one of the most surprising changes, the prime minister is switching supermarkets, with Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke set to take King’s seat on the business advisory group, which replaced Gordon Brown’s “business council for Britain” in 2010. Other departures include Sir Michael Rake, chairman of BT and easyJet, Centrica boss Sam Laidlaw and James Cameron, chair of Climate Change Capital.
The shake-up comes at a difficult time for the government, which faces the spectre of a triple-dip recession after weak official data from industry indicated that the economy was set to shrink again in the final three months of 2012.
When the group was announced in October 2010, Cameron said would be called upon to give “regular, high-level advice on critical business and economic issues facing the country”, including the deficit and strategies for growth.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “Membership of the business advisory group is continually reviewed to ensure that a range of business leaders with a variety of experiences can provide advice to the prime minister on critical business and economic issues as the UK competes in the global race.”
It is understood that Airbus chief Tom Enders, Google chairman Eric Schmidt, Tata chairman Ratan Tata, and Sir Andrew Witty and Tidjane Thiam, the chief executives of GlaxoSmithKline and Prudential respectively, will continue to sit on the panel, which meets four times a year. The group’s female members – TalkTalk’s Dido Harding, Burberry chief executive Angela Ahrendts, Harriet Green from Thomas Cook and Alliance Trust’s Katherine Garrett-Cox – are also staying on board.
It was unclear why some members of the panel are departing and others are staying. However, the government has recently been critical of price rises and opaque tariffs at energy companies including Centrica and the Sainsbury’s boss has railed against government policy in recent months. King recently rubbished proposals made by the chancellor to allow company workers to trade in their employment rights for share ownership. He also used the company’s most recent trading update to urge George Osborne to introduce a national insurance holiday to support job creation.
The full list of new recruits will be confirmed in the first quarter of next year.