Greg Clark rebukes Cabinet colleague Liam Fox over ‘lazy and too fat’ business jibe

Posted On: 
13th September 2016

Greg Clark has slapped down his Cabinet colleague Liam Fox after he accused British business of becoming “too lazy and too fat”.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox
PA Images

The Business Secretary said he was yet to meet a “lazy business person”, singling out his own father as evidence and arguing British firm works hard every day of the week.

Dr Fox, the International Trade Secretary, stoked fury among the business community last week for his outspoken comments during a Conservative Way Forward event.

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He also accused UK businessmen of hitting the golf course on a Friday afternoon, when they should be making money.

“This country is not the free-trading nation that it once was. We have become too lazy and too fat on our successes in previous generations,” the Times reported him saying.

“What is the point of us reshaping global trade, what is the point of us going out and looking for new markets for the United Kingdom, if we don’t have the exporters to fill those markets?”

Speaking in the Commons this morning, Mr Clark, the Business Secretary, was asked by MPs to condemn his Tory colleague for his remarks.

The minister said:  “I’ve yet to meet a lazy business person, starting with my own father who was up before dawn every morning running his small business.

“My Right Honourable Friend is right in reminding us that across the whole country, every business needs to work hard as it does every day of the week. That is the secret of our competitive success and that is the way that we will continue to prosper as a nation.”

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw highlighted the “great anger” felt by Britain’s businesses following Mr Fox’s comments last Thursday, and queried how Prime Minister Theresa May was looking to contain “the damage”.

Mr Clark replied: “All I would say is that, my Right Honourable Friend has been vigorous during the summer in going round the world promoting the case for British business, as is his job, and members opposite will have the support of everyone in this House if they join the efforts that we are making to promote the great opportunities already in this country and the further opportunities to come.”

Yesterday Downing Street refused to endorse Dr Fox’s assessment of UK business.

“I think the Prime Minister wants to make sure the government is looking at how we can create opportunities for British businesses overseas, taking forward some of the work done by the last government,” the Prime Minister’s spokeswoman said.

“We will be looking at how we work up and down the country to identify with businesses where their opportunities are, to look at how trade missions overseas can work and ministerial engagement.

“I think this government is clear there are opportunities ahead and we should be approaching that in a positive manner.”