Labour sets out 'business plan for Britain plc': Cook outlines programme to encourage investment and discourage short-termism in industry

Labour yesterday unveiled plans to link every home to a national fibre optic network, to produce tax changes that will encourage long-term industrial investment and to reduce hostile take-overs.

Robin Cook, the party's trade and industry spokesman, said the document, Winning for Britain, set out a 'business plan for Britain plc', as he provided Labour's detailed riposte to the White Paper on competitiveness produced by Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade.

To produce a fully national fibre optic network Labour proposes to remove the bar which at present runs until 2001 on the supply of television and entertainment services by British Telecom and Mercury. In return the telecommunications giants would have to undertake to provide a universal service for subscribers.

Without that, Mr Cook said, the risk is that the benefits of the new communications highways now being installed chiefly by foreign- owned firms will go chiefly to the high traffic and prosperous areas, widening the gap for less developed regions.

Existing rules about cross- media ownership were being made outdated by the new technologies, and Labour is considering basing restrictions on market share, Mr Cook said, although he would not indicate what percentage might be acceptable.

Outlining a 17,000-word programme to encourage industrial investment and discourage short-termism in British industry, Mr Cook said that since 1979 investment in industry has halved from 4 per cent of gross domestic product to barely 2 per cent. Companies have paid higher dividends to keep shareholders and financial institutions happy, investing at half the rate of companies in Germany and Japan. 'If companies don't maintain high dividends and share prices they fall prey to take-overs.'

Labour's answers include shifting the onus of proof for hostile bids so that purchasers would be required to demonstrate that the bid was in the public interest; examining changes in corporate taxation to encourage long-term investment; and possibly altering capital gains tax to provide incentives for people to retain shares for longer periods. Such measures would help provide the stability companies need to invest, Mr Cook said. A business development bank for small businesses would specialise in long-term investment to ease the transition from small to medium-sized firms, while each region would get a development agency.

The document also buries some Labour shibboleths, declaring the debate about whether manufacturing or services are more virtuous to be 'pointless and sterile'. Technology made the dividing line 'increasingly hard to define', and each sector needs the other, the document says, despatching Labour's traditional hostility to the service sector.

The more co-operative approach which the document advocates between financiers and industrialists is needed because 'competitiveness is as much the produce of co- operation as competition', Mr Cook argued and added that Britain could not achieve competitiveness by driving down wages.

Mr Heseltine attacked the proposal to end the bar on BT providing entertainment services as 'opposition politics at its worst'. He said clear guarantees had been given to BT's competitors in order to foster competition and it would be quite wrong for those to be breached.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk