Rachel Reeves has told delegates at the Labour Party’s annual conference in Brighton that a Labour government would put £28bn of capital investment towards the transition to a green economy for each year of this decade.
Addressing the hall of delegates this afternoon, at the first in-person party conference in two years, the Shadow Chancellor declared that “Labour will meet the challenge head on and seize the opportunities of the green transition”.
“I will invest in good jobs in the green industries of the future: giga-factories to build batteries for electric vehicles; a thriving hydrogen industry; offshore wind with turbines made in Britain; planting trees and building flood defences; keeping homes warm and getting energy bills down; good new jobs in communities throughout Britain,” she said.
“In other words: protecting and strengthening our everyday economy. And to make this a reality, to unlock that potential, and protect our planet for future generations.”
She said that delaying in tackling climate breakdown would be the “greatest cost to public finances, as well as to our planet”, and told those watching that she would not “shirk our responsibility to future generations”.
“I will be a responsible Chancellor. I will be Britain’s first green Chancellor. Conference that is what a Labour government will do,” Reeves added.
The Shadow Chancellor also took the opportunity to announce that the party would scrap business rates, telling delegates that Labour would “oversee the biggest overhaul of business taxation in a generation”.
“Our whole system of business taxation is not fair, and it’s not fit for purpose. How can it be, when bricks-and-mortar high street businesses are taxed more heavily than online giants,” she argued.
“High street businesses pay over a third of business rates despite making up only 15% of our overall economy, but when Amazon’s revenues went up by nearly £2bn last year, how much did their taxes go up by? Less than 1%. If you can afford to fly to the moon then you can afford to pay your taxes here on planet earth.”
Reeves declared today that Labour would replace business rates with a system that would reward businesses that move into empty premises, entrepreneurship and investment, and with one in which no council or public service would “lose out”.
She reiterated Labour’s commitment to relieve private schools of their charitable status, which makes them exempt from paying business rates and VAT, and said the policy would save the taxpayer £1.7bn.
Reeves also told delegates that a new ‘office for value for money’ would be tasked with “keeping a watchful eye on how public money is spent and equipped with meaningful powers so no government is allowed to mark its own homework”.
“I do not take lightly the responsibility to see that public money is spent wisely and our public finances kept under control. Let’s be honest. That will involve tough choices – for me and for my colleagues,” she added.
“We will not shrink from those choices. Because growth, strong public services and social justice must be built on firm foundations.”