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Theresa May vows to clean up corporate boardrooms

Theresa May to put customers and workers on company boards, and crack down on unscrupulous directors

Prime minister Theresa May confirmed plans to have both customers and workers represented on company boards at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham earlier today.

“Too often the people who are supposed to hold big business accountable are drawn from the same, narrow social and professional circles as the executive team,” she said. “And too often the scrutiny they provide is not good enough. A change has got to come.”

The “party of workers” will publish its plans for worker representation later this year.

The move was immediately welcomed by the trade union umbrella organisation the TUC as a “good first step towards building a fairer economy”.

May also vowed to crack down on some of the worst elements of UK corporate culture, such as “a boss who earns a fortune but doesn’t look after your staff, an international company that treats tax laws as an optional extra … [or] a director who takes out massive dividends while knowing that the company pension is about to go bust”.

“I’m putting you on warning: this can’t go on any more,” she said.

She called the UK’s vote to leave the European Union on 23 June “a turning point for our country” and confirmed that article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty will be triggered before the end of March.

“Change has got to come because, as we leave the European Union and take control of our own destiny, the task of tackling some of Britain’s longstanding challenges – like how to train enough people to do the jobs of the future – becomes ever more urgent,” she said.

She said the agreement the UK is seeking with the EU includes free trade in both goods and services, giving British companies “the maximum freedom to trade with and operate within the single market – and let European businesses do the same here”.

May also welcomed former John Lewis managing director Andy Street as the Conservative Party’s candidate for next year’s mayoral election in the West Midlands.

She said: “A success in business running John Lewis. An action man in Birmingham, playing his part in transforming this city. A man to get things done, the future mayor of the West Midlands: Andy Street.”

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