Begging bowl

When those who seek to dismantle the welfare state are asked what will happen in future to the most destitute, they reply with calm reassurance that a return to the good old days of private charity is in order. As part of this tendency. Sir Hector Laing, chairman of United Biscuits, has been busy trying to persuade some of his fellow multi-millionaire business colleagues to join him in throwing some scraps at the hungriest among their class enemy. These are the workers whose normal poverty has been exacerbated by Sir Hector and his friends, who threw them on the scrap heap as they were not generating enough profit to make their further exploitation worthwhile. No doubt it was Sir Hector’s presidency of the company that makes McVitie’s Digestives which made him especially suitable as chief crumb- thrower. The company, which is also responsible for Wimpy hamburgers, KP nuts and many other cultural delights, has been kind to old Hector: in 1984. for example, his shares entitled him to a dividend of over £3,000 every week, in addition to his salary and the steady increases in the value of the shares themselves.


Laing founded the Percent Club two years ago with the support of Margaret Thatcher. It is a grouping of businesses with pledge to donate at least half of one per cent of their profits to the local community and it is linked to another organisation called Business in the Community. Interviewed in the Guardian on 8 December last, Laing explained that “industry” (by which he means the capitalistic class) has to take on the role of the old charitable wealthy families or “city fathers”, especially since the government began to take “a big step back from industry”. He ended with a resounding confirmation of our long-held view of such begging bowl routines. It is not, he says, a question of conscience:


A decaying society means decaying profits. What’s in it for us is a better society, more people in jobs, more entrepreneurial flair in communities, and therefore more chance of making worthwhile profits.


Clifford Slapper