Corbyn’s 2018 ‘Build Britain’ Birmingam Speech
This is the full text of Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘Build it in Britain’ speech at the EEF Technology Hub.
Thank you all for coming here today. This is the launch of our ‘Build it in Britain’ campaign, Labour’s campaign to ensure a stronger future for industry with better jobs and opportunities here in Birmingham and in every part of Britain.
While the finance sector has continued to grow, a decade after the bankers’ crash and the super-rich have grown still richer. For too long, many of our communities have lost out in the global economy free-for-all. The few have succeeded, but at the expense of the many.
I want to thank John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, for all the work that he has done over the last three years to change the economic debate in this country, away from the dogma of austerity and cuts without end, and winning the argument to focus instead on the need for investment if we are to succeed in the future.
I would also like to thank Rebecca Long-Bailey, our Shadow Business Secretary, for developing Labour’s plans for a real industrial strategy that will transform the shape of our economy and ensure prosperity is shared by every region and nation of the UK.
Because while the Conservatives are continuing as they always have done – kowtowing and skewing policy to the narrowest interests in the City of London while ignoring the needs of the vast majority in their bungled Brexit negotiations – Labour is setting out a genuinely new economic direction for our country.
With Theresa May lurching from one government U-turn and ministerial resignation to the next her long-heralded Brexit White Paper was in shreds within a week, as the hard-right of the Conservative Party push us ever closer towards a disastrous ‘No Deal’ Brexit that will send us crashing out of the EU and risks deepening our economic problems.
No amount of desperate attempts to cosy up to President Trump would compensate for the damage done by getting this wrong. Now is the time to put people’s jobs and living standards first.
So that is why Labour is launching this campaign today, because we want to see well-paid jobs in the industries of the future, fuelling the tax revenues that fund our public services and the NHS, rebuilding communities and increasing living standards for all.
For too many of our people today the spread of insecure work, low pay and zero hours or temporary contracts is causing stress, debt and despondency.
It could not be clearer that change is needed, we must aim for something better.
Our new economic approach is necessary because for the last forty years a kind of magical thinking has dominated the way Britain is run.
We’ve been told that it’s good, even advanced, for our country to manufacture less and less and to rely instead on cheap labour abroad to produce imports while we focus on the City of London and the financial sector.
While many economics professionals, politicians and City types insisted this was all a strength the banking crash confirmed it was in fact a profound weakness. A lack of support for manufacturing is sucking the dynamism out of our economy, pay from the pockets of our workers and any hope of secure well-paid jobs from a generation of our young people.
That is why Labour is committed to turning things around.
It must be our job in government to reprogram our economy so that it stops working for the few and begins working for the many.
That is why we will build things here again that for too long have been built abroad because we have failed to invest.
Doing this will allow us to have greater control over the economy, giving us the chance to boost people’s pay and to limit the power of the unearned wealth of the super-rich in our society.
Because Labour is committed to supporting our manufacturing industries and the skills of workers in this country we want to make sure the government uses more of its own money to buy here in Britain.
The state spends over £200 billion per year in the private sector. That spending power alone gives us levers to stimulate industry, to encourage business to act in people’s interests by encouraging genuine enterprise, fairness, cutting edge investment, high-quality service and doing right by communities.
But to ensure prosperity here we must be supporting our industries, making sure that where possible the government is backing our industries and not merely overseeing their decline. Take the example of the three new Fleet Solid Support Ships for the Royal Fleet Auxillary. Why is the Government sending a £1 billion contract and all the skilled jobs, tax revenues and work in the supply chain to build those three ships overseas when we have the shipyards to build them here?
There are workers in Liverpool, Belfast, Rosyth and Plymouth who are keen to do that work but when I visited some of those shipyards I learned something else too – there are not enough workers being trained here in the UK to meet the potential demand.
On Brexit, Theresa May is very fond of saying “we will take back control of our laws, our money and our borders”. At the moment her first priority should be taking back control of her Cabinet. But if she’s so serious about taking back control why has her Government offshored the production of our new British passports to France? Workers in Gateshead were making them and that work has been taken away from that community.
Unsurprisingly the French aren’t queuing up to have their French passports made in Britain. We have plenty of capacity to build train carriages in the UK and yet repeatedly over recent years these contracts have been farmed out abroad, costing our economy crucial investment, jobs for workers and tax revenues. Carrying on like this is simply not sustainable. If we want to reprogram our economy so that it works for everybody, we must use powers we have to back good jobs and industry here.
Between 2014 and 2017 Network Rail awarded contracts worth tens of millions of pounds to companies outside of the UK while the NHS awarded contracts worth over a billion. In the same period the Ministry of Defence awarded contracts elsewhere worth over £1.5 billion pounds even though we are under no obligation under either European or international law to open up defence contracts to overseas bidders.
Labour is determined to see public contracts provide public benefit using our money to nurture and grow our industries and to expand our tax base. The next Labour government will bring contracts back in-house, ending the racket of outsourcing that has turned our public services into a cash cow for the few. And we will use the huge weight of the government’s purchasing power to support our workers and industries.
This will be done using a three-pronged approach:
- Changing how we buy things with new procurement rules so that government supports jobs and industry.
- Investing in infrastructure to support companies here in Britain to keep goods flowing efficiently and costs low.
- And increasing investment in education, skills and lifelong learning through the National Education Service that we will create – and I want to pay tribute to the work done by Angela Rayner in this regard.
We must also be doing much more to support our small and medium sized enterprises. That is why Labour will look at how to further support SMEs to participate in the tendering process instead of them being dominated by faceless multinationals. Too often, we have been told by Conservatives, who are ideologically opposed to supporting our industries, that EU rules prevent us from supporting our own economy. But if you go to Germany you’ll struggle to find a train that wasn’t built there, even though they’re currently governed by the same rules as us.
When the steel crisis hit in 2016 Italy, Germany and France all intervened legally under existing state aid rules but our government sat back and did nothing. We have made clear we would seek exemptions or clarifications from EU state aid and procurement rules where necessary as part of the Brexit negotiations to take further steps to support cutting edge industries and local businesses. But whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, we will use the powers we have to the full. Where there is a will there is a way and if we need to support our manufacturing sector we will find a way to do it.
What’s more we will include public interest into these big public contracts, as was done with the contract to build the High Speed 2 railway. When there are billions of pounds of public money and thousands of skilled jobs at stake we cannot just focus on saving a quick buck when awarding these contracts. It is a totally false economy. Instead by considering public interest such as job creation and the supply chains, we can grow our economy in a way that works for everybody.
Just today a cross-party committee of MPs has said that the stated reasons for contracting out services to save taxpayers money and to encourage innovation in delivery are too often simply not being met. In the words of the Public Accounts Committee “there has emerged a small group of large companies which are expert at winning contracts but do not always deliver a good service”. Nobody knows for sure when the next election will be or where we will be with Brexit when it comes, but one thing is certain the next Labour government is committed to creating high quality jobs in every region and nation of the UK, to develop new industries and support good domestic businesses – large and small.
We should also look at extending the rights of local authorities in parts of the country worst hit by forty years of industrial decline to be exempt from some World Trade Organisation rules, as some US states are, and therefore be able to require provision for local suppliers and jobs in public contracts. This would help the regeneration of areas long forgotten by those in Whitehall or Westminster who claim to know what’s best.
The next Labour government will not just sit back and manage the ongoing decline of swathes of our economy. We can and must make a difference. That’s why we will use the state to actively intervene in the economy, to create as much wealth as possible and, crucially, to ensure that wealth is shared fairly between everybody in our society. Experts call this an industrial strategy. It means we will have a joined up plan to keep our industries, old and new, humming with activity.
It stands in stark contrast to what this Government has done. Take just one example of this, the solar industry. Once innovators, we are now falling back as the industry takes off across Europe. And why? British solar firms were hit by cuts to subsidies in 2015 and 2016 and changes to business rates for buildings with rooftop panels. Why did the government do this? To save a few pounds in the short term, yet it has cost us jobs and innovation. As a result between now and 2022 France is forecast to add five times as much solar capacity as the UK, Germany ten times. Our strategy will help us upgrade industry to secure good jobs, win public contracts and compete on the international stage. It will help us build a clean, green 21st century economy, right here in the UK, building solar, wind farms and tidal lagoons to help us tackle climate change.
It will focus on creating clusters to boost domestic supply chains to develop the virtuous cycle, where the success of one industry or company helps others. We’ll give support to the sectors that we need to deliver the public contracts, to radically upgrade our creaking infrastructure, a core part of our industrial strategy.
But our investment plans aren’t just for infrastructure and industry, they are for our people too, equipping them with the skills we need to thrive. It is why we are committed to a National Education Service, which will provide both academic and vocational education on an equal footing to anybody that wants it, from cradle to grave. We cannot continue to see education as a commodity to be bought and sold, it must be there to give people the skills they need to flourish throughout their lives. This is all part of Labour’s plan to reprogram our economy, so that it works for every town, city and village in the country.
It must be said however that wanting to build it in Britain is not turning away from the world, nor some return to protectionism or Trump-style trade wars. It is about changing course so that people feel real control over their local economy and have good jobs that produce a consistent rise in pay and living standards, in every part of the UK. That’s why we are so determined to help companies in the UK that export their goods. And unlike the Conservatives, we know that after Brexit the single biggest assistance we can give our exporters is securing full, tariff free access to our biggest export market, the European Union. It’s so important that we seek to negotiate a new, comprehensive UK-EU customs union, with a British say in all future trade deal and arrangements. By now, the message should be clear – but the Conservative Government refuses to listen.
BMW, Airbus, and companies after company has warned of the real and damaging effects of Conservative customs chaos. Theresa May and her warring cabinet should think again, even at this late stage and reconsider the option of negotiating a brand new customs union. This decision needn’t be a matter of ideology, or divisions in the Tory Party. It’s a matter of practical common sense.
It’s not often that the Labour Party and the Institute of Directors, the CBI and the TUC agree, we need to negotiate a new customs union. What will help our manufacturing industries? The companies themselves are giving us a clear answer. The government should listen to it. But the Prime Minister seems more willing to listen to Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson. Never before has a Prime Minister discarded the interests of the country so recklessly in favour of the interests of their own party or their own self-preservation.
If our businesses are supported to sell abroad they’ll also be stronger to sell here and build here at home. A botched Tory Brexit will sell our manufacturers short with the fantasy of a free trading buccaneering future, which in reality would be a nightmare of our public services sold to multinational companies and our country in hock to Donald Trump whilst we all eat chlorinated chicken.
It is why we are offering a real alternative to this dangerous Tory Brexit. A Labour Brexit could provide real opportunities as well as protections for our exporters. It’s not just that our new customs union would provide the same benefits that we currently enjoy in the EU’s customs union but our exporters should be able to take proper advantage of the one benefit to them that Brexit has already brought – a more competitive pound.
After the EU referendum result the pound became more competitive and that should have helped our exporters. But they are being sold out by a lack of a Conservative Government industrial plan which has left our economy far too reliant on imports. The rise of finance is linked to the demise of industry. Between 1970 and 2007 finance sector output grew from 5 per cent to 15 per cent of total economic output. Manufacturing meanwhile decreased from 32 per cent to 12 per cent. The next Labour government will rebalance our economy so that there is prosperity in every region and nation.
We will do this by setting up a national investment bank and a network of regional development banks to provide capital to the productive, real economy that secures good skilled jobs.
We will focus relentlessly on ending the housing crisis caused by the Conservatives and their uncompromising commitment to the free market.
We will build homes for the many not investment opportunities for the few and with them will come a new generation of zero carbon homes, creating new training opportunities and skilled jobs.
And we will chase dodgy money out of the financial system so corrupt oligarchs find it harder to rip-off their own people and skew our economic priorities at the same time.
Getting the dirty money out of the City of London won’t just help the people of the countries it has been stolen from. It won’t just help those struggling to afford a place to live with over inflated asset prices helping fuel a housing crisis. There’s nothing productive about more and more of people’s incomes going to landlords as rent or to banks as mortgage payments.
It will also help rebalance our economy, stabilising our currency and our house prices. And we will shift taxation to disincentivise financial speculation, for example with our financial transaction tax. All of this will help us, help you, build it in Britain again. In line with our values so that we all share in the wealth we all create. We want an economy with high wages, high levels of trade union representation for workers and high levels of educational opportunities for everybody.
That’s why we’re offering a new deal for businesses that want to get on. The very richest companies must pay a bit more tax and pay their workers better and in return we will train our people to have the skills our economy needs, upgrade our creaking infrastructure and provide the planning and support to help industry compete on the world stage. And those companies that we do business with as the government will have to be at the forefront of best practice to create social as well as economic value. Firms our government does business with will have to: properly pay their taxes, respect workers rights, provide equal opportunities, protect the environment, train their workers, pay their suppliers on time and end boardroom excess by moving to a 20-1 limit on the gap between the lowest and highest paid. That is the deal that we want to make with businesses, it’s one that will benefit our whole economy.
We can get rid of the magical thinking of the free market that has led to a minority becoming extremely rich at the expense of everybody else. And we will replace it with a new economy, transformed so that it’s run for and by the many, not the few. And we will forge a new relationship between workers, manufacturers, communities and the government to end the unregulated bankers’ rip off which has dehumanised our values and our economy while allowing a few to profit at the expense of the many. Labour will reprogram our economy so that it works for the people of Britain and not against them. And we will build this economy, this future fair for all, right here in Britain