Labour will be 'more pro-business than Tony Blair', shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves vows

25 April 2024, 09:12 | Updated: 25 April 2024, 23:10

Labour will be 'more pro-business than Tony Blair', shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves vowes
Labour will be 'more pro-business than Tony Blair', shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves vowes. Picture: Alamy

By Christian Oliver

Labour will be 'more pro-business than Tony Blair', shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has vowed.

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The MP for Leeds West said the party's "number one mission" under Sir Keir Starmer's leadership is to grow the economy.

Speaking to The Times, Ms Reeves said she believes her pro-business approach will be "the way to improve living standards and to achieve our potential" as a nation "by unlocking private business investment".

"If I become chancellor, the next Labour government is going to be the most pro-business government this country has ever seen," she said.

"More pro-business than Tony Blair’s administration, because I genuinely believe the way to improve living ­standards and to achieve our potential is by unlocking private business investment.”

"I recognise that is different from the Labour parties that went into the last few general elections. But this is the best way to grow the economy and lift living standards."

Labour's Sir Keir Starmer and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves meet construction workers at Panorama St Paul’s, the new headquarters of the HSBC offices, March 7
Labour's Sir Keir Starmer and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves meet construction workers at Panorama St Paul’s, the new headquarters of the HSBC offices, March 7. Picture: Alamy
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown at the Labour Party conference in May 2001
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown at the Labour Party conference in May 2001. Picture: Alamy

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The shadow chancellor, who would lead the Treasury under a Labour government, said she plans to revamp the business sector and boost the UK economy. She stressed that she wanted the UK to become the fastest-growing economy in the G7.

"We're not going to grow the economy by having the best civil servants and the best ministers involved. We're going to grow the economy by understanding business," she said.

As well as a boost for the business sector, she also hinted at a possible improvement in workers' rights. The Times suggested that an announcement from Labour could be made within weeks.

Such employment rights on the table may include offering employees rights from their first day of work and an end to all zero-hour contracts.

Giving workers such rights has prompted criticism by some business groups as inflexible and potentially counterproductive. However, Ms Reeves said Labour intends to work with businesses to find an appropriate solution for all.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves ahead of the spring Budget, March 5
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves ahead of the spring Budget, March 5. Picture: Alamy

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Ms Reeves said: "We've been out of power for 14 years. We want to make a difference. But we want all of our policies to work, and that means they've got to work for businesses and working people as well.

"Of course, we'll consult. We're doing that in opposition, and you can see that with the amount of time we put into the business engagement.

"That always makes policy better when you do that."

Ms Reeves said the consultative and business-friendly approach would be replicated across Whitehall, with ministers working with key leaders to cut through public sector red tape.

She was speaking before the first meeting of Labour's national wealth fund task force whose members include former Bank of England governor Mark Carney and Barclays bank chief executive CS Venkatakrishnan. The task force will design a scheme ahead of the general election.

Part of her policy includes leveraging private sector investment into green technologies. Labour would commit £7.3 billion of public sector funding to the scheme. This would, in turn, attract a further £22 billion of private sector investment, they say.

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