Keir Starmer speech unveiling Labour’s mission to cut bills, create jobs and provide energy security for Britain

Keir Starmer speech unveiling Labour’s mission to cut bills, create jobs and provide energy security for Britain:

19 June 2023
Nova Innovation, Leith

Further detail on Labour’s mission to make Britain a clean energy superpower can be found here:

Thank you, Ed. Thank you, Rachel. Thank you Anas for your leadership here in Scotland.

Nobody should doubt it: the tide in Scotland is turning.

That’s why I’m delighted to be here in Leith to launch the Labour Party’s national mission on clean energy. A cause that will create good jobs, well-paid jobs, half a million new jobs, 50,000 here in Scotland.

It will power us forward towards net-zero, generate growth right across the country, end the suffocating cost of living crisis and get Putin’s boot off our throat with real energy security.

A stronger, more secure Britain, once again at the service of working people, with cheaper bills and clean electricity by 2030.

It is an ambitious goal – it would put us ahead of any major economy in the world.
But at the moment, we’re nowhere near the front of the pack and this is a race we have to win.

It’s the biggest opportunity we’ve had in decades to make this country work for working people.

This is always the test for Labour, the purpose of my Labour Party, all the changes we’ve made are for this; to face down an age of insecurity and protect, serve and deliver for the aspirations of working people.

We relish it. We embrace the harsh light of clear accountability, that’s the challenge we choose with mission-led government, and we do it because there are deeper questions here, questions – I’ll be frank – are being asked of all of us and being asked of Britain: can we still achieve great things? Can we unite and move forward? Can we change, can we grow, can we get things done, can we build things? New industries, new technologies, new jobs; will they come to our shores, or will the future pass us by?

You can put it even more starkly. Around the world people want to know, are we still a great nation? If the question is about the British people, the answer is emphatically: yes.

But if it’s about British politics, I don’t even need to answer that, do I?

This is what we’re taking on, the Labour offer at the next election: a new government and a new way of governing, a plan for change, a plan to use clean power to build a new Britain, a plan to get our future back and say, to those who doubt that we can still be great: we are, we can, and we will.

But also – that we must – and that the creative genius of Scotland is critical to our prospects.

I’ll start with the necessity; the unbending urgency of this mission. It’s not just about the imperative of the climate emergency, not just the fundamentals of global economic competition or the race for the jobs of the future.

It’s all of that, absolutely. But it’s also something even more serious.

Make no mistake, we are living in an increasingly volatile world. The twin risks of climate change and energy security now threaten the stability of nations, so we’ve got to ground everything we do in a new insight – that clean energy is now essential for national security.

Our allies, in the White House in particular, have been crystal clear about this, and the war in Ukraine shows the argument with total clarity.

It’s asking deep and difficult questions of all of us, and I fully accept – especially here.

Fossil fuel energy plays a huge role in the Scottish economy and it’s also part of the social fabric. Communities depend on it. The jobs it provides, good jobs for working people, they’re precious.

I’m not going to give you a moral sermon about the urgency of climate change, everyone gets that argument.

No. What I offer is a plan: a new course through stormy waters, a bridge to a better future.

Let me put it this way. I’ve been right across this nation in the past year. I’ve been to Wick, Glasgow, Inverness, Kirkcaldy, Rutherglen, Fife, and Leith, here today.

Throughout all this, I see the contours of three different Scotlands.

There’s the Scotland that the solidarity of working people built, that the Labour movement built. The industrial strength, the sense of community, the social housing, the welfare state, the NHS – all emerging out of the rubble of the Second World War and all providing security for working people, in defiance of a volatile world.

But there is also the scars of a second Scotland. A Scotland born of 1979 onwards, when the Labour Party was turfed out of power, in part – it has to be said – by the SNP, and the Tories got to manage that period of enormous upheaval.

It’s a Scotland where the prosperity oil and gas could have brought was squandered on a political war against that first Scotland.

Where the government saw working class solidarity, across Britain, as a threat, not a source of hope and dynamism, and an economic transition away from Scotland’s main industries was, as it was in Sheffield and Sunderland, Nottinghamshire and Neath: chaotic, unstable and brutal.

But if you come to places like Nova Innovation here, or the hydrogen and carbon capture cluster in Grangemouth, or the marvel of the Whitelee Windfarm outside Glasgow, then you can glimpse a different path. The green shoots of a third Scotland, a new Scotland, a future Scotland.

A Scotland that is once again the beating heart of Britain. Because Britain is once again built for and by the solidarity of working people. So let me say directly to those people in Scotland, nervous about the change this mission requires.

I know the ghosts industrial change unearths. As a young lawyer, I worked with mining communities to challenge the Tories’ pit closure programme but deep down, we all know this has to happen eventually and that the only question is when.

So in all candour, the reality is this, the moment for decisive action is now.

If we wait until North Sea oil and gas runs out, the opportunities this change can bring for Scotland and your community will pass us by, and that would be a historic mistake. An error, for the future of Scotland, as big as the Thatcher government closing down the coal mines, while frittering away the opportunity of the North Sea.

My offer, the Labour offer, is this – a credible plan to manage the change, protect good jobs and create good jobs. No cliff edges.

But at the same time, to harness the wealth that is in our air, in our seas, in our skies and use it to serve the interests of your community.

Because what is true in Scotland, is true right across the grassroots of Britain. We can use the opportunity of clean energy to create jobs to deliver security and bring back hope to communities that got ripped apart by deindustrialisation in the 1980s.

This is a future we can win but I also have to warn you, politicians are saying exactly the same thing to their people in Northern France, Eastern Germany, and the Rust-Belt of America.

We have tremendous advantages here: our coast, our shallow waters, our universities, our creativity, the depth of our skills, the graft of our people, the superpower sciences, the technological edge, and yes – if you can believe it, even our weather.

Financial strength here in Edinburgh and yes, in the City of London too, but nonetheless the world leader for green finance which is a massive advantage for all of us.

Seriously – there are no grounds for the defeatism which says we can’t lead the world on this. That our prospects will always be squeezed out by the US and the EU, that’s declinist nonsense.

But at the same time, we’ve got to get moving. At the moment we’re standing on the side-lines, wringing our hands and falling behind because our government talks about economic stability yet understands nothing of what this requires in times like ours.

When the winds of change are blowing this fiercely, you need a government that gets involved and intervenes, on behalf of working people, to secure stability and growth.

Drift equals chaos. This is about Tory ideology, of course it is. Their impulses are totally out of step with the challenges of the modern world. They still cleave to the set of ideas that came out of the 1980s: the dismissal of industrial strategy, the contempt for active government, the complacency that says only the market decides which industries matter for working people and national security.

You cannot understate this, these ideas are finished. They can’t cope with a world where other countries simply don’t behave in the way market dogma expects.

The world now knows that crucial global supply chains can be weaponised by tyrants. That a sticking plaster approach to investment will only cost more in the long-run and that for working class communities, trickle-down economics means power trickles-up and jobs trickle-out.

As Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security advisor put it – this is the new consensus but Rishi Sunak is blind to it. He’s standing still, stubbornly clinging on to the ideas of the past as the opportunities of the future slip through our fingers.

I won’t let that happen.

This cannot be a re-run of the 1980s. We’ve got to seize the new opportunities, this is the race of our lifetime and the prize is real.

We can cut bills, create jobs and provide energy security for Britain. That’s what a Labour government will deliver.

That means we need to invest, of course it does. I know this comes with challenges – political ones, yes, the British people always need to know they can trust Labour to spend their money wisely.

But also, economic, because there are no shortcuts and no easy escape from the damage the Tories have done to our public finances, the wreckage of the past 13 years.

We’ll need to be ruthless when it comes to our priorities and we must accept, without complaint, the constraints of fiscal responsibility.

It won’t be easy.

But if you look at the fiscal rules that Rachel (Reeves) set out nearly two years ago, they’ve proved, not just resilient to the growing Tory chaos but also far-sighted.

Long before the starting gun was fired, Rachel and Ed Miliband anticipated the race we must win and understood also that this is about protecting our interests.

That if your energy security relies on a volatile fossil fuel market, that leaves you exposed, and that all this must be built on a rock of economic stability.

So I say again: everything in our manifesto will be fully costed. Day-to-day spending will be completely covered by the taxes we collect, and we will get debt as a share of our economy falling by the end of the next Parliament.

These are iron rules and we must accept the consequences, because if you lose control of the economy, it’s working people who pay the price and we cannot let that happen.

This is the bread and butter of responsible government. Our rules are essential, for the British people and investors in our country, and let me be clear, our plans to borrow for the infrastructure of tomorrow come firmly within these rules.

In fact, they will save our public finances money in the long-run. If we fail to move quickly on this, we will increase debt as a share of our economy by 23% – the OBR have said that.

The Tories contest it, but look around the country – this is part of our problem, sticking plasters everywhere.

I’ll give an example: “green crap”. That’s what they said – “cut the green crap”.

And so they scrapped investment in home insulation, stalled nuclear energy, banned onshore wind.

And the result? When the crisis hit last year and when Russia invaded Ukraine, not only did the bills of businesses and working people go through the roof, we had to borrow £40bn with no new infrastructure to show for it. That’s not green crap, that’s Tory crap.

Seriously, it doesn’t fix the leaky roof when the sun is shining, it ignores the roof and hopes it doesn’t rain.

So don’t tell me this is a global crisis hitting every country the same, it isn’t. Time and again, we get hit hardest and sticking plaster politics is why.

So yes, we will borrow to invest and we’ll invest to save, for new jobs, new technologies, new industries in working class communities, for cheaper bills and national security, for a plan that will harness the opportunity of clean energy and make this country work for working people.

This isn’t some kind of sackcloth and sandals message anymore, it’s not a nice-to-have. Clean British energy is cheaper than fossil fuels – three times cheaper, that’s a potential gold-mine for our mission on growth and the benefits flow primarily to working people and working class communities.

I went to the steelworks in Scunthorpe two weeks ago, spoke to the workforce there. They don’t glue themselves to railings but let me tell you, they’re desperate for change. They say ‘we want clean energy, we’ve got the customers, we just need the technology and a government that stands alongside us.’

It’s the same story in Clydebridge, the same story in Port Talbot – these jobs are on the line, so let’s back carbon capture, let’s invest in hydrogen, nuclear, tidal energy, double onshore wind, treble solar power, quadruple offshore wind and insulate 19 million homes.

This is the new foundation for British prosperity.

£1,400 a year off energy bills for working families, just imagine the difference that would make in a cost of living crisis.

But to truly maximise the economic benefits, we need to go beyond investment. We’ve got to roll up our sleeves and start building things and run towards the barriers – the planning system, the skills shortages, the investor confidence, the grid.

If the status quo isn’t good enough – we must find the reforms that can restart our engine.

I’m not going to accept a situation where our planning system means it takes 13 years to build an offshore wind-farm. I’m not going to let slow connections to the National Grid hold back £200bn worth of projects, and I’m not going to allow other countries build the British infrastructure of tomorrow, when those jobs belong in our country.

No, we’re going to throw everything at this: planning reform, procurement, long-term finance, R&D, a strategic plan for skills and supply chains, a new plan for a new settlement, a clear direction across all four nations, pulling together for a simple, unifying priority. British power for British jobs.

People are going to be sceptical about this, I get that. Especially here in Scotland people say ‘we’ve got the windfarms, we’ve got the hydro-electricity, we’ve invested in clean energy, that’s all good, but the jobs boom we were promised, it never came.’

There’s no denying this, it’s a fact. The Tory-SNP era has failed miserably.

Less than a quarter of the jobs that the SNP promised have materialised. The simple reason for this is they don’t have a plan and never had a plan. In the case of the Tories, they don’t believe in plans.

But at a deeper level, neither of them are truly invested in Scotland’s success. For the SNP, any Scottish triumph in Britain is a threat to the ultimate prize, while the Tories welcome such division because they think it works for them politically.

Look at them both now and look hard. The soap opera that continues to demean Britain’s reputation.

What do they have to say to the investors who tell me: ‘this is great political comedy, but we don’t see Britain as a stable investment anymore’.

They aren’t serious.

To win this race, we need new institutions, new infrastructure, new investors and above all, a new mind-set. We need a relentless determination to unlock the pride and purpose of the whole country.

So today, three new steps, all in the first year of the next Labour government, the building blocks of our plan for a new Britain.

One, we will harness the bounty of clean energy and do exactly what the Tories failed to do with North Sea oil and gas, a new National Wealth Fund.

This will crowd-in investment for the projects that are critical for growth, the battery gigafactories, the clean steel plants, the ports that can finally handle large off-shore wind parts and crucially, will give the British people a stake in the returns and businesses the stability they need.

I spoke to the people involved in the projects at Grangemouth last week. They’re ambitious, clear about the benefits of carbon capture, but frustrated by the speed of progress and they were clear about the missing ingredient – political clarity of thought from government.

This is what the government doesn’t get. Public investment crowds in private investment and provides long-term certainty. This partnership, this is the game-changer.

There are billions upon billions waiting to be unlocked, opportunities to create jobs right across the country in manufacturing and in services, but we’ve got to move fast.

So today we go further. The competition for clean energy investment is fierce and will only get fiercer. All around the world, our competitors are developing new frameworks to attract it, and you better believe it – they are rewriting the rules of their economies to make sure it delivers good jobs.

The American Inflation Reduction Act is setting the pace. In seven months they’ve created more jobs than we have in seven years, but they’re not the only ones and in truth, we’ve never been on this pitch.

Britain has the second largest offshore wind capacity in the world – a close second only to China, yet across the North Sea in Denmark, they’ve got three times as many jobs.

How do you explain that? How do you explain Scottish wind turbines, built in Spain, in Holland and Indonesia, as the workers in the fabrication yards in Fife – working people who would be proud to build something great in their country – look out of their window and watch others putting them up in the Forth.

There is no justification. But mark my words, this ends with a Labour government.

We will transform the way we set the price for investors in clean energy. The Contracts for Difference auctions must deliver jobs as well as investment.

We will set new rules – as a condition of entry – on good work, decent pay and union recognition.

But we will also create a new incentive, a direct response to the quickening pace the world is setting on the jobs of the future: a British Jobs Bonus that will attract new investment, new jobs, new supply chains into our deprived industrial heartlands and will reward companies that back working people, unlock the pride of the builders and bring security and hope back to Britain’s grassroots.

And finally, the centre-piece, the embodiment of our new priorities and values, a new home-grown energy company. A benefit so many of our competitors enjoy – like Ørsted in Denmark and Vattenfall in Sweden.

The argument is simple: if there is money to be made from our resources – it must serve the British people, must invest in our communities, and create British jobs.

Right now Malaysia and Munich – the city of Munich – own more of our offshore wind assets than we do, and this makes it so much harder for us to turn clean British power into good British jobs.

No more.

We will set up a proper national champion, Great British Energy. We will grow the industries of tomorrow here. The clean energy projects – in every community – so that we can win the race for the future.

And because it’s right for jobs, because it’s right for investing in our communities, and because it’s right for national security, GB energy will be publicly-owned.

And let me also be clear, GB Energy will be a shared project owned by all four nations on these islands.

So we will set up a governance structure that will protect its long-term future. Whoever is in power in Westminster; whoever is in power in Holyrood. This will be the driving force for a new Britain.

It’s offshore wind in Scotland yes, but also in Teesside, North Yorkshire, Grimsby, all the way down our East coast.

It’s tidal energy here and in South Wales. It’s clean hydrogen energy in Yorkshire, Merseyside and Grangemouth.

A national institution, a common cause, that’s the benefits of clean energy: owned by the British people, shared by the British people.

And because the skills are here, because this belongs to all of us and because of Scottish ingenuity, we will base GB Energy right here in Scotland.

This is our plan, our national mission, a down-payment on a new Scotland, a new Britain, a united Britain.

A Britain built, once again, by the solidarity of working people, right across these islands.

It won’t be easy. There are tough battles ahead on planning, on the grid, on technology.

Prioritising the right investment at the right time, in the right place – that’s easy to say but hard to do.

And the world is dynamic. We will need to run fast to catch up, faster still to get ahead, faster again to stay there, but do not underestimate the power of pride and the purpose people feel when they’re building a legacy for their community.

Working people in Scotland, working people across Britain, are looking at us again. They want to know if we get this and want to see if the fire of change still burns inside the Labour belly, and this is our chance.

The race of our lifetime for jobs, for growth, for protecting our planet, national security, the aspirations of working people, getting our future back and uniting our country again.

Some nation is going to lead the world in offshore wind, why not this one?

Some nation will win the race for new hydrogen power, why not us?

Some nation will become a clean energy superpower, why not Britain?

Thank you.