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Wednesday, 1 November, 2000, 17:17 GMT
What and who is the CBI
CBI Conference 2000
The Confederation of British Industry was founded in 1965.

It is a non-profit making, non-party political organisation, funded by its member companies which employ about four million people between them.

High profile

The CBI has the highest profile of the UK's various organisations representing the business community.

Part of the reason for that is that its membership includes most of the UK's largest businesses, who also have a tradition of supplying a high profile president.

The most closely comparable organisation is the British Chambers of Commerce, which tends to have a stronger voice within regions than it does nationally.

By contrast the CBI's membership and agenda means that it is more influential nationally than it is on a local or regional scale.

The CBI's stated aim is "to help create and sustain the conditions in which businesses in the UK can compete and prosper".

It seeks to do this by using its membership power to lobby on behalf of business to ensure their interests are considered in the formulation of government policies and laws, both nationally and internationally.

Union battles

The CBI also fulfils a quite separate role as a forum for members to exchange views, skills and experience and to make new contacts.

In the past the CBI's battles with the union organisation, the TUC, reflected the polarisation of the UK political system.

The TUC supported the Labour Party while the CBI was closely associated with the Conservative Party.

As the political landscape has changed, that position has modified, with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown setting out in the mid-1990s to win the support of business.

The CBI styles itself as the voice of British business - justifiably, given the long list of senior Labour and Conservative politicians lining up to address members at its annual conference in November.

Its top brass

Its current director general Digby Jones, took over from Adair Turner at the start of the year.

His early initiatives included toning down the CBI's strongly pro-euro campaigning - always a controversial issue to members - to other issues such as improving transport, the merits of which united business large and small.

This November's conference will be the first as CBI president for Sir Iain Vallance, chairman of British Telecom. His predecessor was Rentokil's Sir Clive Thompson.

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