CBI Annual Conference 2015: Prime Minister's speech

The Prime Minister spoke at the CBI's Annual Conference. Read the transcript of his speech and the following questions and answers session.


CBI Annual Conference: Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech and Q&A

Prime Minister’s speech

Well, good morning everyone. It’s great to be here. It’s great to be back, as you said. Never one to miss this absolutely vital conference. Can I first of all thank Paul for what you’re doing for the CBI. But can I say a special thank you, on behalf of all of you, to someone who has served this organisation for a staggering 33 years, has been a great ambassador for British business, has always spoken truth to power, someone who I’ve worked with very closely, your great leader, John Cridland. John, thank you very much.

And let me welcome Carolyn Fairbairn, I think it’s great that the CBI is going to tap in to some strong female leadership – about time – and a great welcome to her. I’m sure she’ll do a brilliant job.

Can I welcome what you’re saying this morning about global ambition. I think that is absolutely right for Britain, not least in a week when we welcome the Indian Prime Minister, having recently welcomed the Chinese President. And John, can I also welcome what you said about a scoring Britain. As an Aston Villa fan, it played very close to my heart. Scoring would be a very good idea.

Now thinking – thinking about what to speak about today, I went back to what I said to you in 2010, where I stood on a stage, just like this, and I said I wanted the next five years to be amongst the most dynamic and enterprising in Britain’s history. Now I’m not standing here and claiming we’ve solved all of Britain’s economic problems. But we are in an immensely stronger position today than we were five years ago. You can see that in the 900,000 more businesses that are operating in Britain. You can see it in the fact that we employ 2 million more people.

But I also think these have been years where the entrepreneurial spirit has really got going again in Britain. I’m not going to dazzle you with statistics, but it is notable that we’ve got unicorns. Now you might think, ‘What the hell are unicorns?’ I did when I first read this statistic. But a unicorn is a start-up business that’s already reached £1 billion in value. Four out of 10 unicorns in Europe are based here in Britain: businesses like Shazam; like Just Eat; like ASOS. You can see it in the fact that, compared to 2010, venture capital is investing ten times more in Britain than it did five years ago. You can see it in the fact that, in the last five years, 191 new companies have decided to headquarter here in Britain, far more than any other country in Europe.

These have been years of enterprise. Go to Tech City. It is an extraordinary thing that, just five years ago, there were 250 businesses in Tech City. There are now over 3,000. It is Europe’s tech hub. So, I think, these have been years of enterprise, they are years of dynamism, but we’ve got so much more to do.

So what I want to do this morning is reasonably say where I think we are, identify what the next challenges for us to tackle together are, and then mention two of the biggest challenges, the deficit and Europe. And then I’ll very happily take your questions.

Now, in terms of where we are, we’ve got to this position of a stronger economy, deficit down by half. It’s the fastest growth in the G7. We’ve done it through partnership. You were very clear about what you wanted from government. You wanted lower taxes, and we’ve cut our corporate taxes to the lowest in the G20, and we’re now heading for an 18% corporation tax.

You said you wanted regulation lifted off business. We’ve taken £10 billion of regulation off business, and our rules on regulation – if any minister of mine wants to introduce a regulation, they have to cut two regulations – that, I think, is working well.

You said you wanted planning reform, and we replaced thousands of pages of planning guidance with just 50 key pages, so that Britain starts building again.

You said you wanted infrastructure prioritised. Now we haven’t solved all of our infrastructure problems by any manner of means, but we’re just about to complete the biggest infrastructure project anywhere in Europe, under this capital city in Crossrail. We’ve given the green light to HS2, and we’ve set up, not just an infrastructure plan, but now a cross-party, all-party, non-political Infrastructure Commission to make sure we build what we need for our future.

Now we haven’t managed to achieve all of the things I would like to, but under those key issues: taxes, infrastructure, red tape, planning, skills – in the last parliament we trained 2 million apprentices, so we’re beginning to deal with Britain’s skills deficits.

So I think we have come a long way, but we’ve come a long way based on partnership. And I know that this organisation, under its new leadership, will continue to work with us. We want to be the most business-friendly, the most enterprise-friendly government anywhere in Europe. That is the goal, so help us to achieve that.

One of the ways we can measure progress is through that international definition of the best place in the world to do business, and we’ve just moved to sixth out of the entire globe. This is the sixth‑best place anywhere in the world to start and to run a business. So first point: keep working with us to deliver that.

Second thing: what do we need to do next? Well I would say the problems that remain: we’re still not exporting enough; we still don’t have a balanced enough economy; and we’ve got a particular issue with some of our infrastructure, including broadband. So let me say some of the things I think I need to focus on, and, dare I say it, some of the things I hope that you will focus on.

In terms of our focus in government, you’re going to see a real drive to help more of you export. We still have a situation in Britain where about 11% of our companies export. We want to drive that up, and you can already see the big advertising campaign, the big promotional campaign to encourage export. We still need to do better on skills, and you will have seen from our [inaudible] funding for 3 million apprentices in this Parliament.

And as I said, a big focus for us is going to be broadband. If you’re a business, or an individual, or a household, and you’re not connected to broadband, it’s like not being connected to the road network or not being connected to the electricity network. So today I can say what we’re going to do next: we’ve taken this country from 2010 at 45% of homes fast to now 83% of homes fast. We’re on track to get to 95% of homes fast in 2017.

But one of the ways we’re going to get to that next step, and go beyond it, is to treat broadband in the same way that we treat telephony, in the same way that we treat electricity, which is to have a Universal Service Obligation. We’re going to consult with Ofcom about how best to deliver it, but I’m absolutely determined that that minimum guarantee of 10 megabits per second to every household, that should be delivered through a universal service guarantee. And that is going to be a major focus for us in the months ahead.

So for us a focus on exports, a focus on skills, a focus on broadband, and crucially a focus on devolution. Our economy is more balanced than it was – we’ve seen unemployment fall in every region; we’ve actually seen exports and manufacturing grow faster outside London and the South East than inside it – but there’s much more we can do. And I’d really encourage you to work with us with this devolution revolution that is taking place, where we devolve the uniform business rate to local authorities. This is going to be one of the biggest changes in the way we run our country in years. Because in future, local councils will want to attract your businesses to set up in their area. Today they have very little interest in doing that; in future, if you invest in an area they will keep the money. And reconnecting economic development with politics in local areas I think will make a very big change.

Now in terms of the things I hope that you will focus on, the challenges if you like that I’ve thrown out to you – and I know they’re not always easy – let me mention a couple. First of all, we’ve got the National Living Wage. I know this is a challenge for business, but I absolutely think this is the right challenge. We’ve got to move towards an economy where we have lower taxes, higher pay and lower welfare. It makes no sense to have an economy where we take money away from people in taxes and give it back to them in ever more complicated benefits, instead of having an economy where we pay people properly, don’t take their money in taxes and encourage enterprise and work. So please, work with us on the National Living Wage.

Second thing is: please work with us on the skills agenda. I know it is going to be a challenge, the apprenticeships levy, but we all know we need a more highly skilled economy. The government can play its part, not least through school reform – and you’re going to hear from Nicky Morgan this afternoon – but we need you to play your part through funding the apprenticeships levy and making sure we are one of the leaders in Europe when it comes to skills, and not one of the followers.

Let me just mention finally, as I said I would – sorry, one more thing I’m asking from you. A bit of a shopping list – National living Wage, apprenticeships levy – one more thing I really want to ask from you is to work with us on this agenda of fighting discrimination and promoting equality. Everyone in this room believes in opportunity; everyone in this room believes you should be able to rise as high as your talent allows. But we have to admit that, for some people, their opportunity is blocked because of where they come from, or the colour of their skin, or the circumstances that they were born into. We need to crack that together.

What I said at the party conference about name‑blind applications, which is going to take part in our universities and also take part in, for instance, our civil service. Please, the more of you that can work with that, I think, the better. We want to build a country where we really access the talent of everybody and no one is held back. Let me finally mention the two – perhaps the two biggest challenges of all that we face in our country in the coming five years. I think we are in a strong position; the economy is growing, unemployment has been coming down, business is thriving. All over the world people can see this is a very enterprising place to come and invest. So here are the two big challenges we’ve got to stop.

First of all, we still haven’t finished the work on the deficit. It’s come down by a half, soon to be down by a third, but we’ve got to finish the job. Now some people, when they look at what we’re doing, they say, ‘Yes of course, I understand you’ve got to live within your means. I understand you have to reduce the deficit, but why are you targeting the surplus?’ Let me just tell you briefly why I think it is so important. By 2019, this country would have been growing for nine or ten years. And if, at the end of nine or ten years’ growth, you’re not putting aside money for a rainy day, you’re not paying down your debt to GDP ratio, then when are you going to do that? And for me, one of the most important things that a government can deliver is long-term, economic security and stability.

[Disruption by two members of the audience]

We’re going to have a debate in here, and, if you wait for a second, you can ask me a question rather than interrupting what is a very good conference. Come on – come on guys, if you sit down now you can ask me a question rather than making a fool of yourself by just standing up and protesting. Well done. Even I can remember that script without any notes. Thanks guys.

[Disruption ends]

Final two points: deficit and Europe. So on the deficit, it is important we get to a surplus, we need to reduce our debt to GDP ratio so we are strong and secure. Why does that matter so much? I’ll tell you why, because I don’t stand on a stage like this and tell you that I’ve abolished boom and bust. There may be rainy days ahead, no one can tell, and as prime minister, as an economy, we should be thinking, ‘How do we cope with those rainy days? How do we give ourselves the capacity to be able to respond with a strong and robust set of public finances?’ So I would say work with us, help us to explain why, in some years, it’s important to run a surplus.

Final challenge: Europe. And obviously this is going to be a huge question for our country in the year ahead and until we have that referendum. Now I’m not going to lay out all the arguments for you today, not least that I’ve got a very big speech tomorrow and I don’t want to pre-empt myself, as it were. But I just want to say this.

First of all, the negotiation that I’m engaged in, I mean, is really starting with this letter that I’m sending Donald Tusk, the Council President [inaudible]. I think it’s absolutely vital for the future of our country. I’m not satisfied with the status quo we’ve got in Europe, and the things I want fixed – whether it’s making a more competitive Europe; whether it’s making sure we’re out of an ever-closer union; whether it’s making sure there’s proper fairness between those in the eurozone and those out of the eurozone, as John Cridland said a moment ago; or whether it’s reducing the pressures that we face through immigration. These are big and important changes, and I think vital that we achieve them. And whilst I’ve achieved them – if I can achieve them, you will see me campaigning vigorously for Britain to stay in a reformed Europe. And as I’ve said, if I can’t achieve them, I rule nothing out. Europe needs to change, and I think it’s very important we make a start. And it is a massive challenge for our country. It’s a challenge we’ve got to get right.

So while I’m not starting, not firing the starting gun on the referendum campaign, what I have done in recent weeks is just to debunk some of the duff arguments that people put around. So last week I talked about what I think is a very duff argument put about by the Out campaign, which is that it would be easy for Britain to leave Europe and simply sign up to a deal like Norway. I think that would be a bad idea. When you look at the detail of the deal that Norway has, it is not a good deal. They pay more per head into the European Union than we do, they take more migration than we do, and yet they don’t have a seat at the table to determine what the rules are. So that is a bad deal. So the people who definitely want to leave, they need to come up with a better argument than ‘let’s have a position like Norway’.

So today I also want to debunk an argument that is sometimes put around by those who say ‘stay in Europe come what may’. Some people seem to say that really Britain couldn’t survive, couldn’t do okay outside the European Union. I don’t think that is true. Let’s be frank, Britain is an amazing country. We have got the fifth biggest economy in the world. We are a top ten manufacturer, growing steadily strong financial services. The world wants to come and do business here, look at the record of inward investment. Look at the leaders beating a path to our door to come to see what’s happening with this great country’s economy.

The argument isn’t whether Britain could survive outside the EU; of course it could. The argument is, ‘How are we going to be best off?’ That is the argument that I think we are going to be making together after this successful negotiation. When it comes to the crucial issues, our prosperity, our national security, of course we could try to look after those things outside the EU, but how do we make ourselves more prosperous and more secure? That’s what the argument should be about, and that’s what I will throw myself into once I’ve completed this negotiation.

And I hope that British business will back me in this negotiation because, frankly, the status quo isn’t good enough for Britain. We need to fix these challenges, fix these problems. That’s what the negotiation is about and then we can throw ourselves headlong into keeping Britain in a reformed Europe. But as we do so, no duff arguments, no pretending that Britain couldn’t survive outside the EU, of course we could. The fifth largest economy in the world, the great economy that is getting stronger and better.

So let’s argue from that position of strength. All campaigns should be about how do we make Britain more prosperous, more secure. It was… [Inaudible]. I don’t have any emotional attachment to the institutions of the European Union, but I have a very strong emotional and practical attachment to asking the simple question for Britain, how do we have more influence to the world, how do we have more prosperity, how do we have more jobs, how do we do the best for the country we love? To me, that’s what it’s all about. Thank you.

If you can say who you are and where you’re from, on that or on any – indeed any other issues. Let’s start with the lady over there, number two.



Since the government started in May, we’ve had rises from the apprenticeship levy, increased business rates, and of course working with you on the living wage, of £14 billion in the next five years. So we would like to really work with the government on reducing the overall burden of business rates on the retail industry, so we can work with you on delivering the living wage. Could we have some idea of how you feel about business rates above and beyond the devolution agenda?

Prime Minister

Okay. Well, I think I’ve got sort of good news and bad news. I mean, the good news, we want to work with you and we want to help, and that’s where the cuts in corporation tax help; that’s where, accompanied by the National Living Wage, was the increase in the employment allowance to cut the National Insurance of many small businesses. And we want to keep on with an economy that’s growing and succeeding. But as we do that and as we clear our deficit, if we’re going to make progress on the issues we both know are important, such as skills, then we have to work together. We have to share some of the burdens, and that’s, of course, what the apprenticeship levy is all about.

Look, on the rates, we have helped, particularly high street stores and small businesses, with the actions we’ve taken in recent years, but I don’t want to pretend to you there’s some simple answer here. Our review of the rates is a review that is not looking to cut the overall burden of rates. It’s simply to ask the question, is this burden distributed fairly? So I can’t stand here and promise that we’re going to reduce the amount of money that rates rise and magically find the money from somewhere else. It’s about asking, do we treat the high street fairly, compared with online retailers? Do we treat small businesses fairly with large businesses? It’s those sorts of questions that we can ask. So I’m afraid limited reassurance I can give you there, but the most important thing for the retail sector is the economy keeps growing, that we deal with our debt and deficit, that we train young people to have good jobs, and we increase the security and stability of our economy. And when we do that, as we’ve seen in recent years, retail can do very well.


Thanks. Good morning. Prime Minister, for all your doom-laden talk of ruling nothing out, most people here, most people in Brussels, believe that you will end up leading the campaign to stay in the EU. How can you succeed in a negotiation where everybody thinks you’re bluffing?

And on a specific point, are you still committed to making EU migrants wait four years before they can claim in-work benefits?

And finally, if I may, just on one quick point on the spending review, given the trouble you are having cutting tax credits, why should anybody think you have the political will and, more importantly, the political numbers, for a further round of austerity?

Prime Minister

Well, taking your last question first, this government was elected on the basis of completing the job, getting rid of our deficit, securing our economy, not because we’re a bunch of cold accountants – although some of my best friends are accountants, let me just say that here while I’m here at the CBI. But because we know that, for families to have stability, for people to have the security of a job, for people to have the security of more money at the end of the month, we have to make sure our economy is safe and secure, which is what getting rid of our deficit is all about. That’s the first point.

On Europe, I couldn’t have been more clear with my colleagues. I’ve been to every single president and prime minister, and I’ve very patiently set out what needs to change. But patiently setting out a list of very sensible changes shouldn’t be mistaken for a lack of resolve. If these things can’t be fixed, then Britain would then naturally ask, do we belong in this organisation? In a way, you can boil down all of my negotiations to one word: flexibility. Is this organisation flexible enough to make sure that countries inside the eurozone can grow and succeed, and countries outside the eurozone, like Britain, can find what they need as well? If it’s flexible enough, we’ll stay. If it’s not flexible enough, we’ll have to ask ourselves a very profound question, is this organisation for us? I think people in Europe know I’m deadly serious about that, and that’s what the negotiation that we’ll be launching tomorrow is all about.

On the migrant issue, no, we haven’t changed our view at all. We believe that what’s set out in the manifesto is right for Britain, right for Europe and needs to change.


It’s very clear that we’re now the sixth most attractive country to do business in in the world. That’s great news. Unfortunately, there’s one area where that’s not exactly happening. I think for the first time the UK is no longer in the top ten Ernst & Young attractive places for renewable energy investment. It seems like, since your government took over, we have seen pretty much a wholesale assault on renewable energy and clean energy policies, and I’m just wondering if you’re, you know, sort of – how – what we can expect that lends support in that area, and whether really cost cutting is really the best thing for a secure and clean future.

Prime Minister

Okay. Well, first of all, let’s deal with what’s happened in the last few years. You know, Britain today has the largest offshore wind market anywhere in the world. Britain today has the world’s first green investment bank. Britain today, since I’ve become Prime Minister, has got another million homes with solar panels on. So we have been a major investment – investor into renewable technology. We’re going to see onshore and offshore wind provide a really good proportion of our electricity generation. I think we can be very proud of the record that we have.

But there’s something else we need to be very concerned about, and perhaps here, with lots of businesses large and small is a good moment to mention it, is you’ve got to keep people’s bills down. Every subsidy for renewable energy, if we’re not careful, ends up on the bill of a small businessman or businesswoman having to pay more for their energy. So this isn’t a costless exercise, investing in renewable energy. It does cost and the cost falls mostly onto small businesses and consumers. So we have to have a balance here: what do we need to secure green, safe, clean energy supplies and a proper balance in our electricity generation, and what do we need to make sure our businesses are competitive? I might get a question later on from the steel industry and the problems they’ve had dealing with high energy bills. So there’s a balance. I think we’re getting it right, because we’ve got a very strong green energy sector but we do need to make sure that we’re reducing carbon at the lowest cost rather than piling costs onto the bills of other businesses, which are equally valid in the jobs and the growth that they create.

Let’s have the gentleman here.


[Inaudible] Bill Good, Diverco. Firstly, as leader of a political party, we’re delighted you’ve come to be here again. We thank you very much indeed for being here. The issue around Europe, you’re – a lot of the reforms you’re looking for are going to require treaty change. Now, that’s going to require all 28 states to agree to it, some of whom are going to have to vote to actually agree to that change. The actual decision that we will be making as a country is going to be before those votes and that’s been agreed. How confident are you, if you get those reforms, they will be enacted? Or are we reliant on the Irish actually voting for us?

Prime Minister

Yes. No, no, what we need to change, some of it does involve changing the treaties. For instance, the point about ever closer union, that Britain should be out of, which John Cridland mentioned as well as I mentioned, that will require the treaties to change, and what we need to do is get agreement from the other 27 countries that that’s going to happen and the changes are unique across the four areas I’ve mentioned. We need to set out that that is legally binding and irreversible, and that needs to happen before Britain votes. I’m very confident. It will be difficult, it will be hard, but I’m confident we can achieve that.

And one of the reasons I’m confident is some of these changes, like ever-closer union, that is something I think Britain feels passionate about. For us, we want to be in a common market, not a common country. But other countries, they may want to go in a different direction. If they want to continue towards an ever closer union, I’m not standing in their way. What I want is a live and let live Europe, a flexible Europe, and so I’m confident we can achieve that because, in the end, this is something that is right for Britain, but not something that stands in the way of other European countries.

And again it comes back to this word ‘flexibility’. You know, if you’re a member of an organisation, if you want some change, it should be flexible enough to deliver that change, particularly when you’ve got two totally different sorts of countries now. You’ve got one bunch of countries that has the euro as their currency, that needs to see deeper integration, that will need to see further changes. You’ve got another bunch of countries, like Britain, that are outside the euro, in my view I think we’ll be permanently outside the euro, so we need to make sure we get the flexibility. That’s why I’ve been launching this negotiation very patiently, going to see every single other leader to talk through the changes that we need. But I’m absolutely confident we have them set down in a way that is legally binding and irreversible before we have our [inaudible].


Prime Minister, you rightly focus on the need for a high-skills economy. I’m just interested in your view on what business and universities can do more to up-skill, re-skill our workforce, and how government can help?

Prime Minister

Well, thank you. Look, we are asking a lot of you, I accept that. We’ve set this target for three million apprentices in this parliament compared with the two million we trained in the last parliament, and we’re introducing the apprenticeship levy to help to pay for that policy. I think it’s in both of our interests, and I think it’s actually in the interests of a responsible business to train apprentices and pay forward that money, not to have other businesses that don’t spend money on training but take the apprentices after they’ve been trained by their competitors. So I think this is in our interests.

In terms of universities and colleges, my plea would be to work very closely with us, with business, publish more information about where your students go, what they go on to do, how much money they go on to earn, what their careers look like. Because, effectively, in higher education, we have created more of a market. We ask young people to pay for their university education once they start earning over £21,000 a year, so frankly they need more information, sometimes, from the university sector about what the course involves, what people who’ve been on it before go on to achieve. Because then we’re likely to create that higher education sector and an economy that is actually more productive and successful. And young people can make a more informed choice about their future, as they plan what GCSEs to take, what A Levels to take, what courses to pursue. And that shouldn’t only be universities. We need to make sure that people have the intelligence and information about what’s available through apprenticeships, so they can make a proper decision.

Final point, we want to build an economy where you don’t go either one way with apprentices or the other way with university. The apprenticeship system needs to be flexible enough – as it is at the moment – so that many people can go on and do a degree while they are working in one of your businesses. That’s what we ought to build. At the end of the day, though, we want to see fewer and fewer 18-year-olds leaving school without taking either path. If we’re going to compete [inaudible]. If we’re going to compete in a global economy, then we need to make sure our young people are more highly skilled, more highly trained than our competitors: either apprenticeships or university for almost everyone.


We often hear statements that the UK can’t keep with the US in terms of the creation of tech start-ups. What would you say to that, and what measures do you think are specifically required to promote tech start-ups and tech community in the UK?

Prime Minister

Well, I would say we are – in Europe we’re definitely doing better than others at trying to create a pro-tech, pro-entrepreneur, pro-venture capital market here in Britain, and I think you can see that in some of the figures I quoted at the beginning of my speech. Look at Tech City, look at these unicorn businesses that have gone from nothing to a billion inside three or four years. Look at the increase in venture capital. There’s a real buzz in this sector in Britain.

I think where we’ve fallen behind the US – and John mentioned this in his speech – is that so far, while we’ve got some of the unicorns, we haven’t had some of the absolutely mega-businesses, the British equivalent of Google or Facebook, and I think we need to have that sort of ambition.

What more can we do to help build this sort of world? Well, I would say pretty much everything we can do, we are looking at doing. So for instance, teaching coding in schools: we’ve now got a queue of European countries coming to see us and coming to work out what we’re doing in schools in terms of ICT and coding and the rest of it. I think in terms of venture capital and encouraging people to invest, it’s a much better climate now than it was five years ago. I think our planning system’s more flexible.

But I think in all these areas we should be permanently asking ourselves, how do we do better? If you’ve got ideas, you come to us, and we will… Anything that Tech City’s come to us with, ideas they come to us with, we’ve been incredibly welcoming of their input, and will continue to do so. I had a meeting the other day with the head of Lego. I got a business card which is a small Lego character with a telephone number. I thought that was quite… But he – they’re coming to London, not their headquarters, but they are going to be bringing hundreds of jobs that he said were coming here because this is the most dynamic, and inventive, and creative country in Europe for the generation of new technology and new platforms. So we’re doing everything we can but, if you’ve got more ideas, come and tell us.

Final question. Let’s have the gentleman here.


Two questions I really want to put across. You talked about, we need to make UK a net exporter, and you also talked about the need to make that easier, we’ll deal with diversity themes, another thing you spoke [inaudible]. On the export side, how do we actually make it so we can actually encourage more UK companies in the construction industry to actually focus on opportunities? On the need to diversify, I presume you’ve spoken about that. Without going [inaudible], how does our industry change [inaudible]?

Prime Minister

Thank you. Those are two excellent questions. On infrastructure, obviously we’re doing everything we can here domestically: the Infrastructure Commission; I think going ahead with Hinkley Point is very important; obviously the airport decision I know is important to business. But safeguarding the infrastructure investment, a forward plan, I think is hugely important.

For exporting, I think practically one of the things that has held us back in terms of exporting is issues of – in many countries, issues of corruption and contracts and all of that, and this I think should be a real area of progress for Britain. We are – we’re not perfect but we are a relatively un-corrupt country. We’ve fulfilled all our international obligations in terms of the aid that we pay, the 0.7% of our gross national income. So if ever there was a country to lead an anti-corruption drive across the world, I would argue it is Britain, and we’re having an anti-corruption conference right here in Britain next year, and bringing together some of the businesses, some of the campaigners, some of the countries that have the best record. And I think in areas like construction, that will not only be ethical and right for those countries, but it also will be good business, because we have such a strong record here that I think we’re able to say do business with us, it won’t just be good business, it will be clean business too.

On the issue of how we encourage diversity without quotas, well, I would say name-blind applications is a classic example, because the evidence is there for all of us to see that people with ethnic-sounding names often don’t get the jobs or don’t get the training place, and that can be not because someone is openly discriminating against them, it can be a sort of subconscious discrimination. And so moving to name-blind application for things like the civil service, universities and many of your businesses, I think will make a real difference. So can I thank all the businesses that came to our Number 10 seminar about this and have pledged – including one of your sponsors, Ernst & Young – to go to name-blind applications.

And, look, I would – one last plea. This is not some form of political correctness, nor is it simply a question of fighting discrimination. For you, it’s about effectiveness. You want the very best people in Britain in your company, and if you lock out half of them because you’re not promoting women properly – or, as my wife would say, considerably more than half – you’re making a big mistake.

And likewise, Britain is, I think, one of the most successful multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-faith democracies anywhere in the world, and if you lock out people from different ethnicities from your businesses because of either conscious or unconscious discrimination, you’re missing out on some of the greatest talent in our country. And so I think this is an issue, not just about fairness, it’s an issue about effectiveness. And if business takes it up with the passion that I’m speaking about, I think you’ll see not only a fairer country, but a much stronger economy too.

Thank you very much indeed.

Published 9 November 2015