This government says it wants to be a friend to business. As it has repeatedly shown, at least in the case of the food and drink industry, it is no such thing. Defra minister Owen Paterson couldn’t even be bothered to turn up at the Sial exhibition in Paris this week to promote British exports - as he sorted out the mess he and his farmer pals had made over the badger cull.
But it’s not just the snubs that bother me.
First, it’s out-of-touch policy, like the Chancellor’s shares for rights proposals. Sainsbury’s CEO Justin King spoke for many in business when he reiterated last weekend his resentment that the scheme “purported to be on behalf of business”.
Also last weekend, Sir Terry Leahy, speaking at the Telegraph Festival of Business, called on the government to ensure business and wealth creation were “at the heart of society”. “I think they know the right words, they know what they should do, but they don’t actually do it. Regulations have been growing faster than the economy for years and years.”
” From snubs to misguided, out-of-touch policy proposals and endless tinkering, this government is no friend to our industry”
Adam Leyland, Editor
So what is the government up to? The latest wheeze, according to newspaper reports this weekend, is to ban wine multibuys. The industry is divided on minimum pricing. But how can banning multibuys possibly help anyone? If you’re having a party, or committing to a particular retailer, why shouldn’t you be rewarded, and benefit from the obvious economies of scale a retailer enjoys by selling at volume? And what is the harm if the minimum price is adhered to?
The fact that Majestic’s share price didn’t budge suggests shareholders don’t believe this initiative will happen, and minimum pricing also looks like a distant prospect as suppliers continue to fight proposed legislation in Holyrood and Westminster, as we revealed last week.
But as we’ve seen with tobacco, the government can’t wait to examine the impact of one piece of legislation before introducing another. Such constant tinkering is hugely disruptive to business. What we need is a stable platform for growth. Instead, it’s erected a platform made of jelly. And keeps sticking its spoon in it.