Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at the Confederation of British Industry
Thank you for inviting me to address your conference today. It’s a pleasure to be here. And I hope you all enjoyed the warm-up act.
It is right that party leaders come and set out our plans to you directly because this is an election that will shape our country for a generation. And let me just address something right away. It’s sometimes claimed that I’m anti-business.
That is complete nonsense. It’s not anti-business to be against poverty pay. It’s not anti-business to say the largest corporations should pay their taxes just as smaller companies do. It’s not anti-business to want prosperity in every part of our country and not only the City of London.
And I say this to business too: if a Labour government is elected on 12th December you’re going to see more investment than you ever dreamt of. You’re going to have the best educated workforce you’ve ever hoped for. You’re going to get the world-leading infrastructure, including full-fibre broadband you’ve long demanded.
You’re going to enjoy the fast, reliable transport links you’ve always wanted. You’re going to have the certainty of a customs union and access to the single market, as you’ve long advocated.
You and your business have so much to gain from a Labour government. Small businesses will see late payments tackled, whether those late payers are larger companies or government; business rates reformed, because we know the damage they’re currently doing to our high streets and communities; and access to finance improved with a Businesses Development Agency as part of the new Post Bank.
And yes, let’s be frank, Labour will ask those at the top to pay their fair share in tax.We will put an end to the tax tricks that allow the wealthiest individuals and the biggest corporations to avoid paying their way. And we will bring some key services into public ownership. I make no apology for that.
It’s not an attack on the foundations of a modern economy; it’s the very opposite.It’s the norm in many European countries. It’s taking the essential steps to build a genuinely mixed economy for the 21st century. Even the City Editor of the Financial Times called the privatisation of water an “organised rip off.”
So I understand you are cautious about some of our plans but your businesses, your workers and your consumers have been failed by rip-off energy bills and poor rail and bus services. And I think many of you know that because you know things can’t go on as they are.
The Labour Party will be launching our manifesto on Thursday but I see the CBI has beaten us to it. You’ve published your own manifesto.
And you have set out three great challenges for the next government. First, ensuring every young person has the skills they need. Second, reducing the blight of inequality. And third, tackling the climate and environmental emergency.
On the importance of all three, we’re in agreement. All three are central to Labour’s plan to rebuild and transform Britain. And I’m pleased that the CBI has made it clear that to meet those challenges we need change. And you have said that the CBI is ready to play its part.
That’s music to my ears because despite the impression sometimes given in parts of the press, Labour doesn’t believe the state can do that alone.But nor do we think the state can sit back and leave it to the market, either.
In government we’ll set up a Sustainable Investment Board – involving the Chancellor, Business Secretary and Bank of England Governor, and there’ll also be seats for businesses and trade unions. A Labour government will work closely with business because it’s in our common interest to build the high-skill, green economy of the future.
There is no time for complacency. As Carolyn Fairbairn has said, “we simply cannot afford another wasted year of political paralysis, indecision and distraction while productivity and investment suffer.” But I’m afraid that despite what he has said this morning Boris Johnson’s sell-out deal won’t end the damaging uncertainty and it won’t get Brexit done.
It will subject us to years of drawn-out, bogged-down negotiations. “Three years, maybe more,” is how long Michel Barnier said a trade deal on Johnson’s terms would take. And Johnson’s toxic deal with Donald Trump would take even longer.
Labour’s plan, on the other hand, will get Brexit sorted quickly and immediately end the uncertainty for business because we won’t be ripping up our main trading relationship because major British industries like steel will struggle to survive the Trump deal Brexit Johnson has planned.
And now we know that Johnson is preparing to sell out our NHS for a US trade deal that will drive up the cost of medicines and lead to the runaway privatisation of our health service. £500 million a week of NHS money could be handed to big drugs companies as part of a deal now being plotted in secret. Let me say this: a Labour government will exclude the NHS, medicines and public services from any trade deals – and we will make that binding in law, because our NHS is not for sale.
The Tories’ Brexit failure has wasted three years. Enough. Labour has a clear plan to get Brexit sorted within six months. We’ll secure a sensible deal, including a customs union and a close single market relationship and guarantees of rights, standards and protections, that will protect manufacturing and the Good Friday Agreement, and then put that deal to a public vote alongside the option of remaining in the EU. Only a Labour government will take this out of the hands of politicians, and give the British people the final say.
And with Brexit sorted we will focus on delivering the real change our country needs.Labour will get our economy moving in every town, city and region with a record investment blitz, and we’ll boost the devolved budgets in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We’ll upgrade our national infrastructure with £250 billion of investment over 10 years through a Green Transformation Fund. We’ll breathe new life into every community with a further £250 billion of capital for businesses and co-ops.
And we’ll urgently upgrade and expand our schools, hospitals, care homes and housing with a five-year, £150 billion Social Transformation Fund. This is investment on a scale our country has never known bringing good new jobs and fresh growth.
And with a serious economic plan we can prioritise the kind of growth we need. We are facing a climate crisis. We can no longer deny it. We can see it all around us. The recent floods in Yorkshire and the East Midlands were a vivid demonstration. This election is our last chance to tackle the climate and environmental emergency. It is an opportunity to act before it is too late.
Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution will be a central motor of our plans to transform our country and economy, using public investment to create good, clean jobs, tackle the climate and environmental emergency and rebuild held back towns, cities and communities.
This will create huge new opportunities for businesses to expand as well as for workers to take up new, well-paid, sustainable jobs, especially in renewable energy and green technology.
We don’t want anyone, anywhere to feel they’re shut out of these new opportunities.That means everyone, young and old, needs to have access to education and skills training. Labour will create a National Education Service providing free education as a right to all, throughout life.
And we will focus as passionately on technical education as on academic education.Let’s leave behind the snobbery that has made further education and technical colleges easy targets for cuts. To get workers into these new, green jobs we also need to expand apprenticeships.
So today we’re announcing a new climate apprenticeship programme delivering 320,000 apprenticeships in England alone during the first term of a Labour government. These climate apprenticeships will offer training to school leavers and workers looking to change jobs mid-career creating the engineers, technicians and construction workers we need to transition to a green economy.
Two thirds of businesses worry they won’t be able to fill skilled posts in the future.Climate apprenticeships will help address that funded with money you, as employers, already set aside for the Apprenticeship Levy, as well as excess dividends in our planned Inclusive Ownership Funds.
And we agree with you that the Levy needs reform. So we’ll give you much more freedom in how to spend your Levy funds by letting funds be used for a wider range of training, doubling the amount you can transfer to small businesses in your supply chains and giving you more time to spend your levy funds.
In government, Labour will deliver real change. Compare that to the Tories who have failed to invest in our economy, failed to deliver apprenticeships and failed to face up to the climate and environmental emergency.
Our Green Industrial Revolution means that tackling the climate crisis and reducing inequality can go hand in hand because the inequality that scars our society is not inevitable; it’s not an act of God or a law of physics.
It’s the result of deliberate government policy that has made us one of the most unequal countries in Europe both between the billionaires at the very top and everybody else and between the different parts of the UK.
This inequality is unsustainable and immoral. Ending it requires government action so that investment reaches all and people are supported to unlock their talents.
What a Labour government will do is raise the platform on which our whole society stands so that businesses and individuals can build themselves up even higher and reach their dreams.
You know despite people’s differences, there are things we can all agree on. None of us wants to live in a society where we have to step over rough sleepers on our way to work. None of us wants to live in a society where foodbank collection points are needed in every supermarket. None of us wants to live in a society where one in three children grows up in poverty.
I just want to live in a decent society. And I know you do too. It doesn’t have to be an either/or choice because the opportunities created for businesses under a Labour government will be immense.
No more good companies going to the wall because of a dearth of investment. No more towns and entire regions abandoned because government ministers are only concerned with the financial sector. No more talented workers feeling they’ve been thrown on the scrap heap with no opportunity to learn new skills.
So, work with us to make that happen. Work with us to change the way the economy works so that it works for everyone and help save our children and grandchildren from climate breakdown.
Let’s build a country that’s prosperous where business thrives alongside the people and the environment. A country that truly works for the many not the few. That’s the real change Labour stands for.