Five things we now know Labour will do if the party gets into power

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves giving her keynote speech at the Labour Party conference at the Brighton Centre. Picture date: Monday September 27, 2021.
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves gave her keynote speech at the Labour Party conference in Brighton on Monday. (PA Images) (PA)

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has laid out Labour's vision should the party be elected when voters next go to the polls.

In a punchy speech at the Labour Party conference in Brighton on Monday, she said "the Tories have lost control" amid the fuel crisis, empty shelves in supermarkets, NHS rationing blood tests, and the government having to "issue reassurances that it can even keep the lights on".

Citing her experience as an economist at the Bank of England, where she worked for a decade, Reeves criticised the government's economic performance and claimed it had missed "every one of the debt and deficit targets they had set for themselves".

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But what would Labour offer?

Workers rights

As a party strongly linked with trade unions, it is unsurprising that Labour have proposed a series of changes to workers' rights – calling it a "new deal".

Reeves said a Labour government would end zero hours contracts; outlaw fire and rehire; increase sick pay; ensure maternity pay, parental leave and flexible working is available to workers from day one; and introduce a higher living wage with "fair pay agreements".

Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rachel Reeves with Labour Party leader, Keir Starmer after addressing the Labour Party conference in Brighton. Picture date: Monday September 27, 2021.
Reeves, pictured with Keir Starmer, said the government had "lost control" of the challenges facing the country. (PA Images) (PA)

"The government is out of touch," she said. "And they have no respect for the people who've got us through this pandemic and keep our economy going."

However, just hours later, shadow employment rights and protections secretary Andy McDonald resigned, claiming Labour was not doing enough to protect workers because it would not agree to a £15 per hour minimum wage.

Watch: Labour conference: Jeremy Corbyn reveals he spoke to quitting shadow minister Andy McDonald - but denies 'Machiavellian plot'

Tax and business

Reeves pledged to review hundreds of tax breaks, announcing that she would introduce sweeping reforms elsewhere bringing the tax system into "a laser focus".

"We will look at every single tax break," she told Labour members. "If it doesn’t deliver for the taxpayer or for the economy then we will scrap it."

General view of The Royal Exchange, Bank of England and City of London on an overcast day. (Photo by Vuk Valcic / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Labour said it would abolish business rates. (PA Images) (SIPA USA/PA Images)

Reeves said Labour would abolish "indefensible" private equity bosses' lower business rates, saying at present the companies work in stripping the assets of British business while paying less tax than the average British worker.

The party also said it would scrap business rates overall and replace them with a system that would boost investment.

"And here is our guarantee: the system we replace [business rates] with will incentivise investment, promote entrepreneurship, reward businesses that move into empty premises."

Reeves also called on the government to freeze business rates to increase the threshold for small business rates relief, and to pay for them by increasing the Digital Services Tax to 12%.

Private schools

Reeves said that under Labour, the government would end the exemption for private schools that allows them to claim charity status and therefore exemptions from VAT and business rates.

"Here's the truth: private schools are not charities," she said.

Pupils wait see Queen Elizabeth II as she visits Eton College in Berkshire to mark the 150th anniversary of the school.
The shadow chancellor said £1.7 billion could be raised by removing charitable status for private schools. (PA Images) (PA)

"And so we will end that exemption and put that money straight into our state schools."

Labour claims this would raise £1.7 billion each year, which the party said it would pump into supporting state schools.

Closing tax loopholes for private schools was also part of Labour's 2019 manifesto.

No return to austerity

While Reeves said that Labour would "raise living standards and opportunities across Britain", she expressed the party "can't tolerate waste".

"We cannot have a return to the failed approach of austerity," she told the conference. "It wouldn't deliver growth and it would be a disaster for our public services."

She added: "But we can't tolerate waste when it comes to public spending."

Labour party leader Sir Keir Starmer and Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Rachel Reeves chat with nurse Lisa Newell during a visit to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London, to thank the NHS staff for their work as the country marks the one year anniversary of the first national lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Picture date: Tuesday March 23, 2021.
Reeves said she would use the money raised from tax reforms to invest in public services. (PA Images) (PA)

Reeves also said that a Labour administration would examine every government "failed contract" and "claw back every penny of taxpayers' money we possibly can".

"During the pandemic, £2 billion was spent on government contracts awarded to friends and donors of the Conservative Party," she said.

"To those who have secured COVID contracts and have not delivered, I give you notice. We expect that money back."

Reeves said she intended to use the money brought by tax reforms to spend money on the NHS, schools, and the police.

"That money belongs to our police," she said. "It belongs to our schools, and it belongs to our NHS."

Earlier this year, former health secretary Matt Hancock was found to have acted unlawfully by a high court judge after he failed to publish COVID government contracts within the legally mandated 30 days.


Perhaps Reeves' most significant announcement was that on climate change, claiming she would be Britain's "first green chancellor".

Labour has pledged an additional £28 billion in investment for "our country's green transition for each year and every year of this decade".

General view of a turbine at a wind farm at Siddick in Cumbria. The government is publishing its Energy White Paper, which is expected to send a strong message of support fof up to 20% of electricity to be produced by renewable energy.   * Campaigners had been hoping that the Government would stick to previous aims of ensuring that 10% of energy would be generated by renewables by 2010 increasing to 20% by 2020, but Energy minister Brian Wilson said he was less interested in setting targets than in creating the conditions which will help renewable energy take an increasing share of the market.    14/7/03: It has been announced hundreds of offshore wind turbines are to be built around the coast of Britain after an 'historic' move by the Government to speed up the development of green power. Three areas of the country will be opened up to offshore wind farms which could be powering one in six households by the year 2010. Campaigners described the move as the dawn of a new clean energy era. *22*10/03: The Government gave the go-ahead for four new windfarms which will generate enough electricity to power 230,000 houses. The windfarms will be built up to four miles off the coast of Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Essex, with each site made up of 30 turbines. Energy Minister Stephen Timms said the new developments would help the Government reach its target of producing 10% of electricity from renewable sources by 2010.  Windfarms could power up to one in six UK households under Government plans to boost renewable energy.The new windfarms will be built at Lynn, off the coast of Skegness; at Inner Dowsing, north of Skegness; off the coast of Cromer; and at Gunfleet Sands, off Clacton-on-Sea.   *13/05/04: Cherished beauty spots are at risk from thousands of proposed new wind turbines, a new report claimed. Country Life magazine said Ramsbury in Wiltshire, Bradworthy in North Devon, Saddleworth Moor in Lancashire and Romney Marsh in Kent were among areas 'under threat' from the expansion of wind power.  20/09/04: Nearly three-quarters of the population agree that wind farms are necessary to help meet current and future energy needs in the UK, despite a vocal protest against their expansion, it is reported Monday September 20 2004. Now a campaign from the British Wind Energy Association will unite those in favour of wind farms and challenge myths that they are unpopular, noisy and a blot on the landscape.
Labour has pledged £28 billion per year for the rest of the decade to tackle climate change. (PA Images) (PA)

"I will invest in good jobs in the green industries of the future," she said. "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."

The announcement was warmly received by Greenpeace UK.

Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at the organisation, said: "Tackling the climate crisis has to be at the heart of what the Treasury does."

However, despite the large sum of money, it is still far off Labour's 2019 manifesto pledge of £400 billion for a 'National Transformation Fund' to tackle climate change and decarbonise the economy.

Watch: Labour shadow chancellor claims she 'will be UK's first green chancellor'