The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) is still insisting on keeping its prior membership figures under wraps in the wake of a scandal which saw it face a fight for its very future.
CBI director-general Rain Newton-Smith refused to disclose the number of members her organisation had boasted prior to a sexual harassment crisis which rocked the lobby group.
Speaking to a committee of MPs, Newton-Smith declined to confirm the figure when pushed by politicians on whether the group still has “the confidence of the industry as a whole”.
“We’ve lost some members,” she said. “I’m not going to give a total number of the members we have lost, but we are representing 1,200 businesses around the UK.
“We are being transparent now in saying we have 1200 members of the CBI.”
Newton-Smith also said across the 1,200 figure, the group also represents 2.5m private sector employees, with two thirds outside of London, in addition to the 120 trade associations representing 160,000 business organisations.
She said: “On our economic credentials there is a huge amount of expertise… we have a huge range of businesses behind us with a majority of 93pc who support our change.”
The new DG, who came in after predecessor Tony Danker’s dismissal put up a fierce fight for the CBI’s future, following an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) where 93 per cent of the group’s current membership vote in favour of the leadership team’s transformation plan.
However, while members who placed their involvement on pause amid the revelations were permitted a ballot, those big names who had quit entirely had already voted with their feet.
Asked by Labour MP Darren Jones whether the CBI could even survive the “serious allegations” and impact of “significant reputational damage”, Newton-Smith said: “We are very confident that we can recover from the crisis our organisation has gone through.
“It’s been a difficult time for us but we’ve responded and set out a programme of change.”
She pushed back on suggestions the organisation’s governance had failed, saying: “I wouldn’t recognise that the governance was wrong.
“What we have understood is that we needed to improve it; in some instances it was weaker than it should have been; and we weren’t paying enough attention to people and culture throughout our history as an organisation.”