A Labour Government would focus on six key industries including the automotive sector in an attempt to create jobs for today’s youth, Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna has revealed.
Speaking to regional newspapers at Westminster, Mr Umunna set out Labour’s five-point-plan for economic growth, with a particular focus on improving vocational skills and increasing the take-up of science, maths and engineering courses among students.
He was speaking as Labour's relationship with business is in the spotlight, with some employers such as Boots boss Stefano Pessina claiming the party is anti-business.
But Mr Umunna has launched a tour of the English regions, which Labour is calling the Future Jobs of Britain Tour, to explain how the party would back employers if it wins the General Election on May 7.
Labour is also attempting to present a positive vision of life under a Labour government, following its long-running campaign highlighting the “cost of living crisis”.
Mr Umunna said a Labour government would focus on sectors where the UK leads the world and which could provide jobs for the future. These are the aerospace sector; the automotive sector; creative industries; chemicals; business and professional services, and green technologies.
He said: “We know there are a number of sectors where we have a competitive edge and are world beating.
“What we need to do is to grow them.”
That would include finding ways to ensure larger manufacturers obtained parts from within the UK rather than relying on supply chains overseas, he said.
“The large companies that operate in these sectors are really important but we’ve got to grow their supply chains, because often the large companies are getting their parts and using a supply chain that lies outside the UK. We want to make sure a lot more of that is done within the UK.”
Labour’s economic plan had five key components, he said. They are:
- To “Sort out technical and vocational education”. This includes creating more apprenticeships and requiring large companies taking on big government contracts to provide apprenticeships as part of the contract.
- “Transforming higher education through the introduction of new technical degrees, which will be co-designed and delivered by Higher Education institutions and businesses themselves.” This is designed to help businesses recruit staff with science, technology, engineering and maths skills.
- “Establish the British Investment Bank with a regional network to allow businesses to get access to the finance they need.”
- “Use Government procurement to back British jobs and industry”. Labour will ensure government departments “take into account the impact of local growth and jobs” when they make procurement decisions.
- “Devolution of power to the cities, counties and regions, in particular in England and particularly to combined authorities working together with the Local Enterprise Partnerships”.
The final policy is similar to proposals backed by Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, although Labour stresses that unlike the Tories it is not trying to pressure combined authorities to create directly-elected mayors.
Labour plans to devolve £30 billion of funding over five years - including funding for housing, transport, business support, employment and adult skills – to combined authorities.
A Labour Treasury will also allow city and county regions which come together in combined authorities to keep 100 per cent of extra business rates revenue generated by additional growth, the party says.
Tell immigrants to learn English instead of translating documents
Mr Umunna attacked the way UKIP talked about immigration, accusing the anti-EU party of deliberately setting out to “divide communities” - but stressed that Labour was also tough on immigration.
The Shadow Business Secretary said he wanted to see an end to the translation of official documents into foreign languages.
“In so far as UKIP is concerned, I believe in a fair and firm immigration policy with proper controls as to who comes in and out of our country, proper enforcement of our labour market rules so people are not exploited who come here and people who are here are not undercut.
“And we ensure that people for example learn English and we are not translating documents for them.
“But I don’t believe we should be using the issue of immigration, as I believe UKIP do, to scaremonger and set different groups against each other.”
There are too many Government ministers
Mr Umunna went beyond the official party line - by suggesting that there was also a case for reducing the number of Ministers based at Whitehall.
He said: “We’re for too centralised here.
“And there’s too much that goes on in Whitehall - frankly there are probably too many Ministers doing things here.”
Business should back Labour because it supports EU membership
The Shadow Business Secretary stressed Labour’s commitment to remaining in the EU, arguing that Conservative plans to hold a referendum on quitting the EU were a threat to the economy.
“Continuation of our membership of the European Union is a key part of our industrial strategy.
“It is something that is absent from any claimed plan that the Conservatives may have.”