Below is the full text of the speech delivered to the Labour Party conference by Shadow Business Secretary Jonathan Reynolds in Liverpool today.
Conference, thank you for the chance to address you today. We meet at a time when the challenges facing our country feel very grave indeed. When you’re worried about how your communities and your families will get through the months ahead.
I know it is hard to feel optimistic when things are so tough. But serving in this role has given me cause for hope. I believe a fresh start with Labour can rebuild this country. I’m thinking of the steelworkers I met in Port Talbot who are ready to make the green steel customers want. The automotive workers in my hometown of Sunderland who have the skills to make the electric cars we need. The scientists I met at Imperial College who have the ideas to solve some of our greatest challenges.
We’ve got some brilliant people in this country. But what we don’t have is a government committed to a domestic steel sector or to building the battery factories we need. We don’t have a government who values the collaboration of scientists across Europe. We simply don’t have a government on people’s side.
That is what we must change. There was a time when the Tories believed they were ‘the party of business’. Now they are just in the business of parties. After twelve years of misrule, they have failed British business. On their watch business investment is the lowest in the G7, economic growth is set to be the lowest in the G7. We’ve had the worst squeeze to real wages of any country in the G7.
Don’t just take make my word for it. Ask them. They admit it. The new Chancellor said they have presided over a ‘vicious circle of stagnation’. The new Prime Minister said our public services are in a state. Frankly, when the Tories find out whose been running this country for the last 12 years, they are going to be furious!
This is now the big choice in British politics. Everyone agrees the last 12 years have been awful. The difference is we choose to look to the future while the Conservatives are dusting off the failed policies of the past. In the face of an energy crisis, a business investment crisis, a climate crisis who do they pick to meet these challenges? Jacob Rees-Mogg! One newspaper said he was better suited to running a museum than the business department. Frankly, museums are far too important for that.
Now the Tories want to claim they’ve got the answer to the problems they created – higher bankers bonuses, cuts to corporation tax, ‘deregulation’, picking fights and divisive politics. It won’t work.
George Osbourne’s cuts to corporation tax didn’t increase business investment, and we all know what ‘deregulation’ is code for. Cuts to working people’s rights, cuts to environmental standards so more sewage ends up in our rivers and a race to the bottom which good businesses and working people never win.
Now I agree with the Tories on one thing – the last 12 years have been a disaster. But while they want to double down on their mistakes we’ve got a real plan to make it better.
Conference, I am pleased to announce today that we are launching Labour’s industrial strategy, and it’s a real industrial strategy – with ambition and the means to achieve it. Our industrial strategy will deliver clean power by 2030, taking the action needed on the climate emergency and keeping good jobs in Britain for decades to come.
We will harness data for the public good ensuring it isn’t just held by corporate gatekeepers but used to benefit us all. We will bolster our national resilience ensuring our supply chains and working people are never again left so exposed to global shocks.
Finally, we will value the care sector for what it is – an essential part of our economy, ending the job insecurity too often associated with this vital work.
Policies like fair pay agreements will be to the next Labour government what the national minimum wage was to the last one. And conference, I pledge to you now, there will never, ever be a scandal like P&O Ferries, under a Labour government.
Because a proper industrial strategy, our new deal for working people, our reform of business rates, our targets for greater spending on research and science. These provide the real alternative the country needs. Labour knows that is how you grow the economy. Not on the backs of working people or rewarding bad practice. But through vision, leadership and real partnership to make economic success a reality.
No-one can deny Britain faces significant challenges. But rather than shrink from these challenges, the role of government is to meet them head on. Many of you lived through the 80s when Tory governments left people on their own in the face of massive industrial change.
We cannot – and we must not – allow this generation of Tories to do the same in response to the challenges we face today. Good work, good wages. A fairer, greener future. That is what we can deliver. And I ask for your support, to make it happen. Thank you, conference.
Jonathan Reynolds is the Labour and Co-operative MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, and Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
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