What's in a name?

May 10 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Business groups have ridiculed the government's decision to rebrand the Department of Trade and Industry, with one describing it as "utterly pointless" and a waste of taxpayers' money.

The Institute of Directors (IoD) said that the rebranding Ė to the Stalinist-sounding "Department for Productivity, Energy and Industry" - left key questions about the role of the Department unanswered.

"The change in the Department's name is utterly pointless, wastes taxpayers' money and lacks the support of business," said Richard Wilson, the IoD's Head of Business Policy.

Moreover, he pointed out, the changes at the department mean that there is now no minister with responsibility for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

"This is an extraordinary omission given that SMEs make up 99 per cent of the entire UK business population. It is also unclear who is responsible for science and innovation and yet this area is set to consume the lion's share of the Department's budget by 2008!"

The previous Minister for Small Businesses in the last administration at the Department of Trade and Industry was at Parliamentary Under-secretary of State level, the lowest ministerial rung.

The renamed department will be headed by former trade union official and Pensions Minister, Alan Johnson.

"The new Secretary of State needs to clarify the status of the Department of Trade and Industry's Five Year Programme that was published just last year and explain where the focus of the newly named Department lies," Wilson said.

"Above all, the new Secretary of State needs to deliver - along with the rest of the Government - on reducing the burden of regulation and taxation on businesses - these are the principal concerns of UK firms."

Sir Digby Jones, CBI director general, said the name change "smacks of old-fashioned corporatism, or 1960s trade unionism" by adopting a name which was "harking backwards, not forwards".

And Stephen O'Brien MP, the Conservative's industry spokesman, said: "It would be nice given its new name if the old DTI had showed any sign of production, energy or industriousness in the past. British business needs a Department for Business to deregulate and stay out of business's way."