When the CBI task force assembled, there were many reasons advanced by individual members as to why they wished to give of their time and talents to the study. Some felt that it could not be healthy for the mass of the population not to understand and take part in the wealth creation process; that concentration of power in any democracy should be discouraged and concentration of the power of ownership of business reduced; that private shareholders have longer time horizons for their investment decisions than those fund managers who are pressurised by their customers for short-term performance; that the low level of savings in the UK, which is part of the persistent problem of inflation, could perhaps be helped by increased personal share ownership.
Like me, some members of the task force had seen the positive power of employee share ownership. Attitudes had changed, efficiency improved; change itself had been more accepted by the employees in our own companies. It is disappointing that employee ownership has not spread in the way that we had hoped.
There is much to be done by government to encourage the private investor through tax incentives which are at least as favourable as those given to collective investments, ie pension funds, unit trusts and insurance companies. The Stock Exchange and the share distribution industry must simplify and cheapen the share dealing systems. Educationalists must introduce into the school curriculum a course explaining the choices available for the individual to wisely allocate his savings, bearing in mind the risk of differing investments. Finally, all company chairmen must be convinced that employee share ownership and staff involvement will be of benefit in creating a more productive workforce. They must actively encourage the process in their own companies.
If this happens, the task force's vision of a country where the majority of its citizens are part owners of the companies that create the wealth that we all enjoy may emerge. Not only will they own their own houses, have their own pensions, bank/building society accounts, life assurance policies and unit/investment trust holdings, but they will also have a portfolio of shares which they personally have selected. Among their selection will be shares in the companies for which they work. They will study and follow the performance of the management of those companies in which they have invested. They will thus become more aware of, and feel more involved in, the system by which wealth is created.