Kemi Badenoch, the UK’s business secretary, has declined an invitation to address the annual conference of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). This decision comes as a setback to the business lobbying group’s efforts to rebuild its reputation.
Officials from Ms. Badenoch’s office have cited diary clashes in the lead-up to next month’s autumn statement, preventing her from speaking at the summit in central London. With less than a month until the event, the CBI now lacks a confirmed senior government minister as a speaker.
The CBI recently secured funding to ensure its short-term survival following a turbulent period that saw it teeter on the brink of collapse. A sexual misconduct crisis, including several rape allegations against former employees, led to the departure of corporate members such as Aviva and John Lewis Partnership.
The CBI’s director-general, Tony Danker, who was briefly suspended due to accusations of inappropriate behaviour unrelated to the more serious allegations, resigned in April. The organisation briefly considered a merger with Make UK, a manufacturers’ body, but those discussions have been halted.
Rain Newton-Smith, Mr. Danker’s successor, recently had a meeting with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, marking the first bilateral meeting between the CBI and a senior minister since the crisis.
The CBI declined to comment specifically on Ms. Badenoch’s invitation but stated last month that it is bringing businesses together for an event to set the economic agenda ahead of an important election for the country. Established by royal charter in 1965, the CBI has had to cut jobs and close overseas offices due to its financial crisis.