Hunt steps in to save troubled CBI relaunch summit

The chancellor has agreed to speak at the CBI’s first public event since the business lobby group was plunged into crisis earlier this year.

Sky News has learned Jeremy Hunt will be among the keynote speakers at the CBI’s annual conference in London next week, just seven months after declaring there was “no point” getting involved.

Hunt’s appearance will represent a major boost to the organisation, which came close to collapsing over the summer after being abandoned by major corporate members in the wake of a sexual misconduct scandal.

The CBI’s scaled-down conference will take place next Monday, two days before the Chancellor delivers his Autumn Statement.

In April, he cast doubt on the merits of engaging with it, although in recent weeks he has held private talks with Rain Newton-Smith, its director general.

“There is no point engaging with the CBI when their own members have abandoned them in droves, so we want to engage with a body that speaks for business,” Mr. Hunt in the spring.

“It’s incredibly important for me when I’m building budgets to have someone I can turn to who speaks for British business because we’re a very, very pro-business government.”

The chancellor’s decision to address the CBI summit comes after business minister Kemi Badenoch declined an invitation to attend, citing diary commitments.

Other senior political figures, including Labour’s shadow business secretary, Jonathan Reynolds, will also speak at the event.

The CBI recently secured funding to ensure its survival in the short term after a torrid six-month period in which it teetered on the brink of collapse.

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A sexual misconduct crisis, which included several rape allegations against former employees, sparked an exodus of corporate members, including Aviva and the John Lewis Partnership.

Tony Danker, its chief executive – who was accused of inappropriate behavior but had nothing to do with the more serious allegations – resigned in April weeks after being suspended.

The CBI briefly entertained talks about a merger with Make UK, the manufacturers’ body, but these have now been curtailed.

Created by royal charter in 1965, the CBI’s financial crisis has forced it to cut jobs and close overseas offices.

Both the CBI and the finance ministry declined to comment.

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