Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt will host some of the UK’s most prominent industry leaders on Friday as part of a drive to drum up fresh investment to revive the UK’s struggling economy.
The prime minister, who is expected to attend remotely, and the chancellor will address 200 business executives – including many of the 42 bosses from commerce and industry who sit on the UK Investment Council – with a focus on creating jobs in hi-tech sectors.
Council members include executives from Airbus, HSBC, Nestlé, Nissan and Hutchison Whampoa, which owns the 3 UK mobile telephone network. The head of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, the outgoing Legal & General CEO Sir Nigel Wilson and Liv Garfield, the Severn Trent CEO are also expected to attend.
The government said the event would build on the success of the inaugural Global Investment Summit in October 2021, which brought together more than 170 chief executives “to showcase the UK’s commitment to green investment ahead of Cop26”.
Ministers said £9.7bn of new foreign investment was pledged on the day, “creating over 30,000 new jobs and supporting growth in vital sectors such as wind and hydrogen energy, sustainable homes, and carbon capture and storage”.
Lord Johnson, the investment minister, is expected to make a plea for firms to make the most of the UK’s low business taxes and high-skilled workforce.
Johnson, the former business partner of Jacob Rees-Mogg at his £7bn Somerset Capital Management investment fund, was sacked from his job as investment minister by Sunak when he took over from Liz Truss in November, only to be reinstated 44 days later.
The UK Investment Council was established in April 2021 under Lord Grimstone, the much-respected former Standard Life chair, who quit last summer when Boris Johnson was ousted as PM.
The council exists alongside another Boris Johnson initiative, the Green Jobs Delivery Group, which has been privately criticised by business groups for being a talking shop and lacking strategic direction.
A second investment summit this year is planned for October, which Sunak and Hunt will hope can boost Britain’s poor record of business investment since the 2016 Brexit vote.
Business investment fell in the year to October 2022 to leave the level spending on new equipment, machinery and IT systems 8% below its pre-pandemic level, according to the Bank of England and it is expected to fall again by 5.6% in 2023, the central bank said in its latest economic outlook.
The agenda for the discussion, which will be chaired by Lord Johnson, will focus on “how business and government [can] work together to encourage growth in the current economic climate”.
The meeting will come days after Sunak unveiled a shake-up of Whitehall departments that saw the promotion to secretary of state of Kemi Badenoch, at the newly created department of business and trade.