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M&S boss Stuart Machin blasts the government as he says leading a business in the UK is ‘like running up a downwards escalator with a rucksack on your back’


The boss of Marks & Spencer has said that doing business in Britain is ‘like running up a downwards escalator with a rucksack on your back’.

As Chancellor Jeremy Hunt adds the finishing touches to tomorrow’s Budget, Stuart Machin has blasted some of the Government’s business policies as ‘economically illiterate’ and said they were ‘stymying growth’.

The supermarket chief called for three main changes in the Budget, including fixing a ‘broken’ business rate system, reshaping funding to train young people, and restoring tax-free shopping for tourists.

The Mail has been campaigning for an end to the tourist tax, which was introduced in 2021 by Rishi Sunak when he was Chancellor. 

CEO of Marks & Spencer Stuart Machin. The supermarket chief called for three main changes in the Budget

CEO of Marks & Spencer Stuart Machin. The supermarket chief called for three main changes in the Budget

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak leaves from 10 Downing Street

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak leaves from 10 Downing Street

Shoppers said M&S was 'a bit pricey', but gave five stars for its own-label and fresh products, staff availability and helpfulness, store appearance, and overall customer service (File Image)

Shoppers said M&S was ‘a bit pricey’, but gave five stars for its own-label and fresh products, staff availability and helpfulness, store appearance, and overall customer service (File Image)

Mr Machin is among more than 500 business leaders – including the bosses of Primark and John Lewis – who have written to Mr Hunt calling for a change of tack.

His criticism went further as he lambasted Government policy for making the running of his business, which employs 65,000 people, ‘really hard’.

He posted on LinkedIn: ‘Government policy makes being an employer of people and running stores – which the same MPs vaunt in their constituencies – really hard. It’s like running up a downwards escalator with a rucksack on your back.’

Mr Machin said ‘a longer conversation’ was needed ‘about how the Government must do more to understand the importance of the retail sector to the economy’, pointing out that the industry employs more than 3million people and pays £17billion in taxes every year.

The M&S boss – who has run the company since May 2022 – called for ‘decisive action’ to halt an increase to business rates, the taxes paid by retailers on their stores.

The increase is pinned to September’s 6.7 per cent inflation level – despite inflation dropping to 4 per cent in January.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt (pictured) adds the finishing touches to tomorrow¿s Budget

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt (pictured) adds the finishing touches to tomorrow’s Budget

The M&S boss ¿ who has run the company since May 2022 ¿ called for 'decisive action' (File Image)

The M&S boss – who has run the company since May 2022 – called for ‘decisive action’ (File Image)

He said a sharp rise in business rates ‘at a time when the Government is looking to tackle inflation… and people are struggling with the cost of living, is economically illiterate’.

Mr Machin also said that ‘overly restrictive requirements and bureaucracy’ were holding back firms like his from being able to train apprentices.

The M&S boss, who stacked supermarket shelves as a teenager before rising through the retail world, said his company contributes £5.6million to an apprenticeship levy per year but can use only a third of it due to red tape.

His final demand was for the axing of the tourist tax, which he said has been ‘felt way beyond retail’.

The levy is costing the UK’s economy £11billion in lost growth, according to figures from the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

Last week M&S won a High Court battle to demolish and rebuild its flagship store near Marble Arch, which Mr Machin said came amid ‘the sad plight of Oxford Street’.



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