Last updated: November 2, 2010 10:43 pm

Lambert to join trade envoys

Richard Lambert is to become a British trade ambassador under a revamped scheme to promote the UK among leading overseas trading partners.

The CBI director-general is set to be among a number of recruits to be announced by David Cameron, the prime minister, before or during an important trade visit to China next week.

Downing Street’s plans are expected to reshape the business ambassadors’ programme launched by Gordon Brown, former prime minister, two years ago.

The new scheme may dispense with about half of the group of more than 25 people originally recruited from business and academia, according to Sky News, which first reported the story, but new names will be added.

The appointment of Mr Lambert, due to step down from the CBI employers’ group early next year after a successful term in office, is likely to be viewed positively. The new group is also expected to have some representation from small businesses.

Paul Skinner, former chairman of Rio Tinto; Sir John Sorrell, chairman of the London Design Festival; and Dick Olver, chairman of BAE Systems; are among those from the original line-up who may stay on, according to Sky.

The announcement will end speculation about the future of the business ambassadors’ programme. The expectation was that the heavyweight figures involved would hold meetings to promote the UK when they were on business overseas.

The original group appointed by Mr Brown included Lord Browne, former BP chief executive; Sir John Bond, Vodafone chairman; Sir Philip Hampton, Royal Bank of Scotland chairman; and Marcus Agius, Barclays chairman.

However, there have been concerns about whether the scheme has been worthwhile.

Sir Andrew Cahn, chief executive of UK Trade and Investment, is thought to have taken the lead in recruiting the ambassadors for the revamped scheme. The posts are unpaid and non-political.

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