Labour continues to retreat from £28 billion green energy pledge

The MP for Stalybridge and Hyde said it was Labour’s ‘ambition’ to carry out the multi-billion pound investment but warned that ‘sometimes circumstances change’

Zoe Grunewald
Thursday 01 February 2024 10:56 GMT
Front-bencher Tulip Siddiq defended Labour’s green plan roll-back

Shadow Business Secretary Jonathan Reynolds has refused to confirm whether Labour will stick to its pledge of investing £28 billion in green energy.

The MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, in Greater Manchester, said it was Labour’s “ambition” to carry out the multi-billion pound investment but warned that “sometimes circumstances change”.

The row-back from Rachel Reeves’ 2021 green prosperity plan has been trailed heavily over the last few months, following reported infighting within the shadow cabinet over the funding of the pledge.

Mr Reynolds told Radio 4’s Today programme that the future of the plan depends on the state of the nation’s finances if they win power.

Sir Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves will address business leaders at an event on Thursday (PA Wire)

Asked if the party was still committed to the plan, Mr Reynolds said it was merely ‘an ambition.’

Asked directly if Labour was still committed to its pledge, Mr Reynolds, a key ally of Sir Keir Starmer, said: ‘That is our level of ambition but how quickly we get there and if we can get there has to have respect to and heed to the overall position of the economy.’

Pressed by interviewer Nick Robinson, Mr Reynolds declined to commit to a figure in the event of Labour rowing back on the full sum.

Shadow treasury minister Tulip Siddiq made a strange comparison on LBC yesterday when trying to explain away the £28bn row back (PA Wire)

His comments follow an equally difficult media performance by his front bench colleague, Tulip Siddiq, who left radio listeners baffled after she compared her party’s economic policies to child murder.

Yesterday, Ms Siddiq said: “It is a commitment depending on the fact it abides by our fiscal rules - everything has to depend on external circumstances.

“It’s like saying to your partner ‘I will marry you but if I suddenly find out you murdered a two-year-old last year, you might not want to’.

“I think that’s what we are saying. If there’s a global financial crisis we need to review our commitments that that time.”

The further watering down of the costly commitment came as Sir Keir hosted a conference for business leaders in the latest part of his campaign to show the party has turned its back on the anti-City rhetoric of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

It also comes days after Labour said it would not reimpose the cap on bankers bonuses scrapped by Liz Truss.

But the party’s commitment to green investment is likely to come under fire as recent polling by the Labour Climate and Environment Forum found that global investors overwhelmingly back the plans.

The survey showed that 78 per cent of global investors think Labour’s Green Prosperity Plan would bring more opportunities to UK businesses than risk, and 73 per cent say government-led investment in renewable resources will spur the same or more private sector investment.

There have been internal disputes within the shadow cabinet over the funding of the green prosperity pledge (PA)

The party is now said to be withdrawing from its spending commitment due to concerns over how it will fund the pledge as the cost of borrowing has increased.

While the Labour frontbench continues to publicly defend the ambition, internal party sources admit there is discussion around scrapping the figure, but that Labour is still committed to investing in green growth and jobs.

Commenting on Tuliq Sidiq’s comments on LBC yesterday, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Laura Trott MP said:

“Labour’s Shadow Treasury Minister has confirmed Labour’s £28 billion is a ‘commitment’, however Labour are saying they will scrap the borrowing but keep the spending. That means thousands of pounds of higher taxes on working people because they don’t have a plan to pay for it.”

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