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Existing rules about cross- media ownership were being made outdated by the new technologies, and Labour is considering basing restrictions on market share, Mr Cook said, although he would not indicate what percentage might be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

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'
art
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voices

News
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee
people

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
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

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - SThree Group - Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: SThree Group has been...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - SThree Group - Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: SThree Group has been...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Computer Futures

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - SThree - £18k Starting Salary

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: SThree Group has been...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London