Rachel Reeves pledges to 'rebuild Britain' and is backed by Mark Carney in Labour conference speech

9 October 2023, 13:30 | Updated: 9 October 2023, 13:32

Rachel Reeves has Labour wants to "rebuild Britain”
Rachel Reeves has Labour wants to "rebuild Britain”. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has said the party will "rebuild Britain” during a speech at the party conference in Liverpool.

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Mr Reeves said the party is “ready to lead” and it would stick to “iron-clad fiscal rules” if it wins the next election - an apparent reference to Liz Truss’s disastrous mini-budget that tanked the economy.

In a wide-ranging speech, she also promised to introduce a "genuine living wage", an inquiry into the aborted HS2 project, and to make private schools pay VAT.

The choice at the next general election is "five more years of the Tory chaos" or a "changed Labour Party", she said.

The shadow chancellor told the Labour Party conference "there is no hope without security", adding: "You cannot dream big if you cannot sleep in peace at night, the peace that comes from knowing that you have enough to put aside for a rainy day and the knowledge that when you need them, strong public services will be there for you and your family.

"The strength that allows a society to withstand global shocks because it is from those strong foundations of security that hope can spring.

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Sir Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves at the event in Liverpool
Sir Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves at the event in Liverpool. Picture: Alamy

"The choice at the next election is this: five more years of the Tory chaos and uncertainty which has left working people worse off or a changed Labour Party offering stability, investment and economic security so that working people are better off. It falls to us to show that Labour are ready to serve, ready to lead and ready to rebuild Britain."

She added: "In chess, you learn to think several moves ahead but even I couldn't have predicted the mayhem that we have seen, week after week, year after year from this Conservative government."

On the economy, the shadow chancellor said: "A Labour government will not waver from iron-clad fiscal rules. nor play the Tory game of undermining our economic institutions.

"The last Labour government granted operational independence to the Bank of England. I started my career as an economist at the bank and I saw the lasting contribution that that made to Britain's economic success.

"So, we will protect the independence of the bank, the Office for Budget Responsibility and our civil service. And, as chancellor, I will put forward a new charter for budget responsibility, a new fiscal lock guaranteeing in law that any government making permanent and significant tax and spending changes will be subject to an independent forecast from the Office for Budget Responsibility."

She insisted "never again", adding: "Let me address directly those who say that to make hard choices is to make the same choices as the Tory Party. To them I say economic responsibility does not detract from advances for working people. It is the foundation upon which progress is built: hard choices, but Labour choices.

"The choice to back our high streets and small businesses by requiring online tech giants to pay their fair share."

She also reiterated Labour's intention to abolish the non-dom tax status, telling delegates: "If you make your home in Britain, you should pay your taxes here too, and with Labour you will."

Ms Reeves said her first budget would see her end the "tax loophole" exempting private schools from paying VAT and business rates, adding: "We will put that money into helping the 93% of our children who are in our state schools.

"I tell you, if Rishi Sunak wants a fight on this, if the party that has herded our children into Portakabins while our school roofs crumble wants a fight about who has the most aspiration for our children, then I say bring it on."

After her speech, former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said: “Rachel Reeves is a serious economist. 

“She began her career at the Bank of England, so she understands the big picture. 

“But, crucially she understands the economics of work, of place and family. 

“And, look, it is beyond time we put her energy and ideas into action.”