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"Britain needs a new business model" Kier Starmer tells CBI conference

22 November 2022
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The leader of the Labour Party told a packed CBI conference hall that 'Britain needs a new business model", and got a longer applause from the audience than the Prime Minister did yesterday.

Speaking with the confidence and gravitas, Kier Starmer said that "our country can grow in a way that serves working people, that higher productivity can come from unlocking their potential."

"Working people want growth from the grassroots – jobs that are well paid and secure, communities standing on their own feet, public services strong enough to help them succeed."

He said that Labour will care as much about raising productivity everywhere, as it has done in the past about redistribution.

But he also said that Labour wouldn't ignore the need for workers to come to this country, but that any movement in the UK's points-based migration system will come alongside new conditions for business.

And he warned businesses: "We will expect you to bring forward a clear plan to boost skills and more training, for better pay and conditions, for investment in new technology. We can talk about how this is done – dialogue is at the heart of partnership but negotiation with trade unions will be part of it."

"The days when low pay and cheap labour are part of the British way on growth must end."

But he wouldn't be drawn on how UK businesses would plug the immediate skills gap, or how many workers could come to work in the country.

The three big priorities for a Starmer-led Labour Government, are: economic stability, higher skills and green growth.

He also proposed a new Industrial Strategy Council that sits outside the political cycle and promised a new industrial strategy, criticising the government for archiving the one launched by Teresa May in 2017.

He also promised a revamp of the apprenticeship levy to make it more flexible.

"You need more control over what training your levy can buy, with Labour that’s exactly what you’ll get. And we’ll devolve the power and money on adult skills budgets as well."

His Green Prosperity Plan was also mentioned. "A plan to make Britain a green growth superpower – to invest in wind, solar, nuclear, hydrogen, green steel and carbon capture; new opportunities for plumbers, electricians, engineers, software designers, technicians, builders; insulation for 19 million homes; and Great British Energy – a new national champion that will take advantage of the opportunities in clean British power and turn them into good, secure, well-paid British jobs.

He said: "Every business in this room has a strategy for growth, a nation needs one too. Because the headwinds we face – climate change, artificial intelligence, caring for an ageing society, mean that a hands-off approach just isn’t fit for purpose anymore. And I’m not going to give up on growth that easily."

Responding to Kier Starmer's speech, Brian McBride, CBI President, said: “Business welcomes Labour’s pledge to establish a modern industrial strategy focused on new technology and green opportunities around the UK.

“The commitment to looking at skills and migration together is also very welcome and exactly what the CBI has called for now for more than a year.

“We look forward to hearing more detail on how we can deliver a proper workforce strategy for Britain. Labour shortages are fuelling inflation and preventing growth and all parties must come forward with solutions.”

Nicky Godding is editor of The Business Magazine. Before her journalism career, she worked mainly in public relations moving into writing when she was invited to launch Retail Watch, a publication covering retail and real estate across Europe.

After some years of constant travelling, she tucked away her passport and concentrated on business writing, co-founding a successful regional business magazine. She has interviewed some of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs who have built multi-million-pound businesses and reported on many science and technology firsts.

She reports on the region’s thriving business economy from start-ups, family businesses and multi-million-pound corporations, to the professionals that support their growth and the institutions that educate the next generation of business leaders.

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