Courtesy of Press Association
Courtesy of Press Association

Creating the total business environment


Thank you, Rain.

It’s good to be here with you today.


It’s a pleasure to be able to address this audience as the Shadow Business Secretary.


And I want to begin by saying thank you to so many people in this room,

for the engagement, the advice, and the support you’ve given me in this role.


A lot is written in the media about Labour’s improved relationship with business.


Sometimes I look out on a room like this and it feels like I’ve had breakfast at some point with everyone here.


But I am very proud of the relationship we have rebuilt together.

Your advice and expertise has been a huge asset;

And I hope you see that engagement reflected in Labour’s plans.



I said at Labour Party Conference that I believe Labour is the undisputed Party of business.


That’s a big claim.


But what I mean by that, is that I believe we are the ones, genuinely focused on how to create the conditions we need for businesses to succeed.


And more importantly, we are the ones who explicitly recognise that we need to see business succeeding, in order for our wider ambitions to be met.


And that’s why I believe the relationship between business and the Labour Party, is not based on positioning, or trying to win an election, or people reacting to opinion polls.


It comes from a deep-rooted belief that Britain faces some big challenges, that we need to meet together.


It is my absolute conviction, that the major economic issues before us –

low investment, poor productivity, and low growth –

can only be fixed with a better relationship between Government and the private sector.


I see my role as to listen, to engage, to communicate our plans clearly, and to try and solve problems – rather than cause them.


Labour’s mission for the UK to have the highest sustained growth in the G7 is ambitious.


But I do believe if we get this relationship, and the policy environment, right – we have huge potential we could fulfil.


So, what I want to talk to you about today, is how we do that.


And how a Labour Government can provide what I call ‘the total business environment’ to ensure that success.


To start with, I do intend, to give you the number one thing you’re asking for:




It might not sound glamorous.


But you all know what I’m talking about.



The bedrock to economic success has to be certainty and stability.

It has been lacking in recent years.


I have been our Shadow Business Secretary for two years.

In that time, I have shadowed five different people, we have had three prime ministers, we’ve had four chancellors.


In the last thirteen years, we’ve had eleven different growth strategies, and it looks like you’re getting the twelfth one this afternoon.


We’ve seen recently, some vivid examples of the problem I’m talking about.


Take HS2:


What we’ve seen is a national embarrassment;


Billions of pounds have been wasted, business let down, regeneration plans lost;


A flagship Government policy. Gone overnight.


When Parliament wasn’t even sitting, and able to ask the most basic of questions by way of scrutiny.


Or take the changes to the phasing out of new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030:


A major announcement on the headline date, made not at the request of business;


Which hugely undermines investment certainty – but without a corresponding change to the Zev mandate that leads up to 2030.


So you lose the certainty and credibility of keeping the target, but you don’t get the flexibility of moving it either.


You’ve told me, you want: ambition, commitment, and consistency.


I agree.


The first step in doing that is having an industrial strategy.


And our Industrial Strategy won’t just be a PDF on the Government’s website subject to the whim of the current Business Secretary or Chancellor.


It will coordinate the work of the whole Government, not just the Business Department.


It will be permanent – with an Industrial Strategy Council made up of business and union leaders, placed on a statutory footing.


And it will report against the Government’s progress in the same way the committee for climate change does for net zero targets.


It’s about having good, effective policy.


But it’s also about providing confidence that the UK has the institutions to make us a stable and consistent place to invest.


On things like carbon capture, hydrogen, life sciences and quantum computing:


These areas are so exciting;

British innovation is so abundant;

I ask myself how can it be that we have the lowest business investment in the G7?


The answer is neither the Government nor the private sector working alone can achieve what is required.

Private investment is the only way we’ll meet our objectives, but Government has to play a role in market shaping and building the investible case.


And that is what we want to do.


And in the coming months we will be publishing more sector plans,

like our automotive plan launched in September, so businesses have a clear set of policies and priorities a future Labour Government will pursue.


If you take that example of the automotive sector,

you can’t provide what that industry needs,

unless you are simultaneously addressing:

battery capacity, energy costs, charging infrastructure, the rules of origin and consumer confidence at the same time.


So I value your input and thoughts as we put these programmes together.

And I hope they are an example of the partnership working we will pursue in Government.


That desire to increase investment in the British economy, is my fundamental priority.


And I know, it was some time ago,


But under the last Labour Government business investment was higher than it is now


In fact, had the Conservatives matched Labour’s record –


There would be £50 billion a year added to the UK economy from the growth that business investment brings.


I think we can show the public the benefits that would bring on their high streets and in their pay packets.


But boosting that investment won’t come from gimmicks or short-term measures.

As we approach the Autumn Statement this week there will be lots of talk about ‘test balloons’ and ‘rabbits out of hats’.


Now that may make for great news,

but it isn’t the comprehensive plan needed for British business to succeed.


Of course, we will watch what the Chancellor says this week with interest.

But I say to you we don’t need things that generate a few headlines,

we need a long-term plan for national renewal.


And that is the total business environment we are proposing.


And you know, much of the policy that affects your firms isn’t actually in the remit of the Business Department – or even the Treasury.


It requires a whole-government approach.


So, when it comes to your biggest asset – the people who work for you:

Labour’s plan will see you have greater flexibility over the apprenticeship levy you’ve asked for, allowing you to tailor the training to the needs of your company.

It will see more technical excellence colleges, so you have a pipeline of staff whose skills match your needs.

And our new deal for working people is an economic policy – designed to give you a more invested workforce you can retain for longer.


And our Green Prosperity Plan, with its mission to deliver clean power by 2030, represents a huge opportunity.


That plan, and the creation of GB Energy, is about public investment that acts as the catalyst to create the case for the private investment we want to attract.


It’s about crowding in, not crowding out.


We’ve seen some recognition of this from the Government, with the Tata gigafatory, and the green steel announcements, but our policy is explicit, it’s more ambitious, and it’s more transparent.


It’s not just about those businesses directly involved with the transition; exciting as those are.


It’s about an entire economy, where Britain has cheaper and more secure energy, which is never again exposed to the price volatility we saw following the invasion of Ukraine.



And Labour will take on the other blockage in our economy.

It is too hard to build things in Britain – be it a house, a factory or a wind turbine.


So we will fix our broken planning system and get Britain building again –

with key projects, such as gigafactories or labs, given new national policy statements and tough national planning policy to get them built –

and political capital deployed to get the homes built this country is crying out for.


But we also know that one of the single biggest obstacles to getting shovels in the ground is grid capacity.

A Labour government would oversee the largest upgrade to our national transmission infrastructure in a generation:

empowering a Future Systems Operator to take on the role of system architect;

and implementing measures that use our energy system in a smarter way to reduce pressures on the grid.


And we’ll take the grown-up approach to Brexit that this Government has lacked.


We know we can do better

Labour will not be seeking to re-join the single market or the customs union or to reopen the wounds of the past.

But it is right that we get a better deal.


Because even with the additions of the Windsor Framework , and the reassociation with Horizon, there are real improvements we could achieve.


If New Zealand can have a veterinary agreement with our closest neighbours, I do not consider it fanciful that we could too.


The same can be said for the mutual recognition of professional qualifications, touring rights for the creative industries, and easier intercompany transfers.


And we want to unlock the barriers to investment that are holding you back.

Our Start-Up, Scale-Up review proposed ways to strengthen the British Business Bank, and the availability of growth capital,

we will continue to develop those plans following the work of the Capital Markets Industry Taskforce.


And this work is alongside our specific commitments to help small businesses, by tackling things like late payments, to strengthen devolution and the role mayors play in their local economies, and to replace business rates with a fairer system.


This is our comprehensive plan for business – not one-off rabbits for the sake of headlines.


Giving you what you need on skills, energy, trade, finance and taxation.

And we’ll keep adding to that to make it the very best package it can be.


Over the last two years, as well as enjoying this job a great deal,

I have also learnt a lot.


But the most important lesson is that people are crying out for the partner they need.


In 2019, we were not the Party you needed us to be.

The British public saw that and gave their verdict.

To be honest, I think if the Labour Party had been a company, it would probably have gone into administration at that point.


But under Keir we have done the hard work.

We have changed.

And I truly believe we are now the serious partner you need us to be to best serve this country.


And change is required –

Even the Prime Minister thinks so.


I am tremendously proud by the many brilliant things we do here in the UK.


But recognising where we need to do better –

and where the political system needs to do better –

that’s not talking the country down – it’s being confident and excited and serious about the future.


I believe Labour is now the Party of business because we are offering you what you need.

Not a policy check list;

But real, enduring partnership.


I’m afraid I don’t believe that is on offer from the present Government.


What Labour can offer British businesses, is:


A strong economy underpinned by fiscal discipline;

A plan to invest backed up by an industrial strategy;

Britain building again;

Working people secure again;

Skills, transport, infrastructure, energy costs –

All being gripped by a Government with a consistent mission:


To give Britain its future back.


And that future –

The Britain we all want to see –

Cannot be achieved without you.


So yes, there are challenges.

We are up for that challenge.

I know you are too.


And I promise you if I get to be our Business Secretary I will work, every single day, to give you,


And British business,


the future you absolutely deserve.


Thank you.

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