[Picture: Official Parliament Portrait.]
In a speech to the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool today (9 October), shadow trade and business secretary Jonathan Reynolds set out his agenda for government, creating a number of dividing lines between himself and the incumbent Conservative administration.
Reynolds said that Labour would face the biggest set of challenges for any incoming government, including the transition to net zero carbon emissions and dealing with relations with the EU post-Brexit.
He described net zero as “key to rebuilding this country”, adding that it can and should lead to more jobs, cheaper energy bills and greater security for the UK.
At the previous Labour conference, Reynolds launched the party’s industrial strategy. In Liverpool, he has now argued that the last twelve months show why the UK needs one:
“I simply do not accept that we should have the worst business investment of any major economy, I do not accept that we cannot build enough clean energy to protect us from dictators and energy crisis, and I do not accept that we cannot build the infrastructure that Britain needs.”
He said that businesses could not invest if they could not rely on the government’s word, promising consistency from any Labour administration and saying that net zero was a chance to build a better economic future.
Adding that Labour’s industrial strategy “will stretch every sinew of government to deliver for working people”, he said this plan would bring together previously announced policies such as changes to planning, modifying the apprenticeship levy and Labour’s proposals to change the relationship with the EU to support exporters.
Great exports, EU trade
Referencing his upbringing in Sunderland, where friends obtained work at car factories at which they are still employed, Reynolds unveiled Labour’s plan for the future of the UK’s automotive industry:
“We will deliver battery factories on our shores, reliable charging networks for every part of the country, secure supply chains and 80,000 highly skilled jobs.”
He said the strategy would give the “automotive industry its future back”.
He promised that “decarbonisation” would never mean “deindustrialisation”, saying he would be committed to the steel industry, criticising the Conservative government’s rescue plan for the Port Talbot Steel plant:
“Labour supports green steel, but we know the workforce are our greatest asset in delivering that.
“Any plan for green steel must cover the whole industry, must be open to all the tech available, and fundamentally be a story of new jobs, new opportunities, new exports and new economic strength, rather than outsourcing our emissions and saying ‘that is progress’.”
The shadow business secretary hailed his party’s new relations with business, calling Labour the natural home of business.
“Industry and workers, hand-in-hand to face the future, rebuilding Britain, cannot wait another day.”