It was wonderful to speak at the ABPI‘s Conference yesterday about Labour’s plans to grow the economy and deliver a healthier society. Our industrial strategy will give sectors like life sciences the stable and consistent policy framework they need to create prosperity in all parts of the country

You can read my full speech below: 


Thank you Richard for that kind introduction, I am so pleased to be able to join you today. I’d also like to thank you for all the work you have done engaging with me and the shadow team over the last few years. The opportunity to meet industry leaders, to visit working labs and the forum you organised for Wes Streeting and I, mirroring the Government’s Life Sciences Council has been invaluable and much appreciated.

So it is wonderful to be here. I will admit, however, you are a slightly intimidating audience. Firstly, because some of the things you are working on, some of the opportunities that I know exist in this sector, have the potential to transform not just healthcare but the quality of life for millions of people. Secondly, because the kind of relationship I believe we need between business and government, to unlock prosperity across a wide range of areas, has its most high profile example in this sector – which of course, is the Covid vaccine.

What I want to talk to you about today, is how a future Labour Government can be the partner you need, and I think want – to achieve that potential.

I truly believe the vision we have outlined for the economy is something you can not only get behind, but be part of shaping. And I hope you’ll see from what I have to say that we see a vibrant, competitive life sciences industry working in partnership with Government and the NHS, as essential to delivering our missions. I want to be clear the issues Labour is focused on, reflect the level of engagement we’ve already had, and will continue to have, with you.

Earlier this year Keir Starmer laid out Labour’s missions. They are to have the highest economic growth in the G7; to make the UK a clean energy superpower; safer streets; opportunity for every child; and an NHS fit for the future

These aren’t short term, retail policy announcements. They are the foundation of the transformational Labour Government we hope to be. If you’ve had a chance to meet Keir, you will know he is absolutely fixated on making a difference to the persistent long-term problems the UK faces.

Turning the UK from the worst performing major economy to the best is the only way we’ll deliver the living standards and public services the British people expect. I know it’s hugely ambitious, particularly when you look at how economic growth, and productivity and wages have fared for the last 13 years. But this sector is an example of something in Britain that is world class and it’s not the only sector we could say that of.

The vaccine was a huge example of that. I will never forget the huge excitement and relief of getting my vaccine for the first time and I was struck by the incredible feat of science, manufacturing and delivery that brought us to that point

But I worry, that rather than learn the lessons of that success, too often in politics that success can lead to complacency.

In this room, you know what it took for that vaccine to happen. The result of years of building the right ecosystem that could produce it. The product of collaboration between industry and our brilliant universities. The investment that came from businesses with deep roots in the UK, but which are integral players in a global industry. And supportive Government policy – including a national health service – to get it to people.

That to me is what industrial policy is. It’s how the total business environment is shaped and created by Government and industry, in such a way as to give businesses in the UK the maximum chance to succeed. Because when we get it right – incredible things can happen. And I want us to get it right more often

And I know there is already much to be proud of in the UK life sciences sector. You add nearly £40 billion to our GVA. You employ over 400,000 people and those are good jobs, skilled jobs with wages you can raise a family on to every part of the country. And most importantly, you counter disease and prolong and improve quality of life for millions of people. I saw for myself at GSK in Stevenage the focus you have on talent and investment in young people and the workforce

So it’s right to hold up this sector as a success story. But when I see success like that, and I reflect on the overall economic performance of the UK, I want to know how we can make that success go further. How can we do even more?

In an increasingly competitive global market, there must be the political will to keep that delicate ecosystem evolving and thriving or we risk investment and jobs being sent abroad. And I have to tell you, that too often I do find myself in meetings, where people tell me they did want to invest in the UK, but in the end another country had a more compelling offer.

And the valuable lessons of the pandemic, seem more in danger of being lost than being used as the basis for a new formula for success.


As a sector you’ve been candid with us about the challenges as you see them. Some of those, I’ll be frank are concerns held by a lot of businesses across the UK, such as: a lack of political and policy stability in the last few years, and the challenge to UK competitiveness from the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act in the US.

But some are very specific. I know we once were a world leader in clinical trials, but worryingly they have almost halved in recent years. Medicines manufacturing was a huge strength, yet since 2009 production capacity has dropped by almost a third, with the associated jobs and skills losses that go with that

But I believe fixing these problems are more than possible, and doing that as part of a serious, consistent, and committed industrial strategy is the best way to grow the UK as a global life sciences hub.

There are many parts of our plans which I think will be of benefit to you. Reform of business rates is about fairer business taxation. Changes to the apprenticeship levy to give you the flexibility you need to train your talent. Big changes to the planning system, so you can actually build something in the UK.

But, what our industrial strategy really starts with – is stability. That is the number one thing businesses ask of me. And they don’t just mean can we please get though a calendar year without changing the Prime Minister…

What they mean is a need for clear, consistent framework that gives them the confidence fundamental government objectives, or policies, won’t be torn up overnight. I know to increase investment we’ve got to tackle that instability head on

That’s why we’ll put our Industrial Strategy Council on a statutory footing. It will play a role in public life similar to the Committee on Climate Change – providing institutional independence, rigour, and transparency where we need it. It will no longer be possible for a Minister to announce an eye-watering target for the future – without any plan for how industry can actually get there. And where there are things worth keeping – such as the Life Sciences Council – they will be retained and incorporated into this new landscape.

One of the priorities of our Industrial Strategy, will be how can harness the power of data across sectors. In life sciences that means learning the lessons of the pandemic and using that to ensure people can get access to the kind of treatments they need. Take that example of clinical trials in the NHS. Clearly, the trust by trust approach is not working. The National Health Service should be a competitive advantage in clinical trails. We should be the world leader in this area not falling behind and that will be our goal.

It’s hard to imagine any plan for the life sciences industry that doesn’t include reassociation with Horizon. That is exactly what we intend to do. I know there are some people who would like us to relitigate the whole Brexit debate, but I don’t that’s practical or realistic. But we can substantially improve the deal we’ve got, and Horizon for us is a priority. The Government say they agree with this and I hope they deliver it.

But if they don’t, we will.

And greater investment in research and development is also crucial. We want to see investment increase, but we also want to see the innovative capacity of every part of the UK strengthened. That means ambitious targets on R&D spending, long term funding settlements and supporting spin outs and start ups to take products to market quicker

Crucially, if we are to meet the challenges facing us, we need a vision of the future that sees the success of this sector as being integral to the success of the NHS, and vice versa.

The NHS at the moment is in a very difficult position. It’s something that worries me, personally, a great deal.

Our shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, has talked very frankly about this and been clear on his ambitions. And he’s been pretty brave – in saying that we cannot just always believe more public money is possible or the only answer. I have the good fortune of calling Wes a friend and he is a passionate champion not just of the NHS but of the life sciences industry. He gets it, and I believe the understanding and relationship between our Business and Health we have is the kind you would like to see the Government have

I can promise you Labour knows that you are crucial to building an NHS fit for the future and that ensuring the supply of new medicines, new medical technologies and how we apply them is as essential to turning around the NHS, as questions around workforce or funding.

Finally, I wanted to say that as we head towards the general election understandably, there has been more interest in the prospect of an incoming Labour government. And I want you to know, sincerely, events like this, being out and about speaking to business, aearing your concerns and ideas, feeding those into our policies isn’t just about good stakeholder engagement, or effective political messaging. It’s integral to how we see a future Government succeeding or failing.

Those missions, from Keir, on the economy and the NHS, cannot be achieved without you. If we do form the next Government, we will not succeed unless you succeed. And that’s why I sincerely believe we can be the partner your industry needs to grow and prosper here in Britain

You will, understandably, want to test that and engage further to get a sense of how deep that commitment is. We’d love you to do that. Many of you already are. Most of all, I am excited by the conversations we have.

We have a shared agenda around good jobs, and transformational healthcare, for millions of people.

Thank you for what you already do for this country.

But let’s keep working together, in the months and years ahead, so we can deliver even more.

Thank you

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