Jeremy Corbyn attempted to calm business fears about a Labour government today, insisting they had ‘much to gain’ if he takes power in December.
The opposition leader said it was ‘complete nonsense’ to say that he was anti-business as he addressed the CBI annual conference in London this morning.
His address came the day after the trade organisation’s director general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn had warned that his election plans would ‘crack the foundations of our economy’.
Labour has outlined to nationalise key industries, including broadband, water, railways and the Royal Mail.
Mr Corbyn told assembled captains of industry: ‘It’s not anti-business to be against poverty pay.
‘It’s not anti-business to say the largest corporations should pay their taxes just as smaller companies do.
‘It’s not anti-business to want prosperity in every part of our country and not only the City of London.
‘And I say this to business too: if a Labour government is elected on 12th December you’re going to see more investment than you ever dreamt of.
Mr Corbyn told assembled captains of industry: ‘If a Labour government is elected on December 12 you’re going to see more investment than you ever dreamt of’
Labour has outlined to nationalise key industries, including broadband, water, railways and the Royal Mail
Dame Carolyn Fairbairn described Labour’s plan to provide free full-fibre broadband for all by taking parts of BT into public ownership as ‘bolt from the blue’
‘You’re going to have the best educated workforce you’ve ever hoped for. You’re going to get the world-leading infrastructure, including full-fibre broadband you’ve long demanded.
You’re going to enjoy the fast, reliable transport links you’ve always wanted. You’re going to have the certainty of a customs union and access to the single market, as you’ve long advocated.
You and your business have so much to gain from a Labour government.’
He also outlined steps to cut down on tax avoidance, saying he would ‘put an end to the tax tricks that allow the wealthiest individuals and the biggest corporations to avoid paying their way’.
Addressing the party’s nationalisation plans he said: ‘We will bring some key services into public ownership. I make no apology for that.
‘It’s not an attack on the foundations of a modern economy; it’s the very opposite.
‘It’s the norm in many European countries. It’s taking the essential steps to build a genuinely mixed economy for the 21st century.’
And he attempted to woo businesses over Brexit, saying they would be better off under Labour because they would stay more closely aligned to Brussels.
Mr Corbyn said the Prime Minister’s deal will lead to ‘damaging uncertainty’ and ‘it won’t get Brexit done’.
He added: ‘It will subject us to years of drawn-out, bogged-down negotiations. ‘Three years, maybe more’ is how long Michel Barnier said a trade deal on the Prime Minister’s terms would take.
‘And the toxic deal with Donald Trump would take even longer.
‘Our plan, on the other hand, will get Brexit sorted quickly and immediately end the uncertainty for business and our communities because we won’t be ripping up our main trading relationship because major British industries like steel will struggle to survive in a deal with the USA promoted by President Trump.’
Speaking on the eve of today’s annual conference, Confederation of British Industry director general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn said Jeremy Corbyn’s nationalisation programme would stop investment in the country.
Asked if the Labour leader was a ‘friend to business’, she told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme: ‘We look at the policies on the table and we have real concerns that they are going to crack the foundations of our economy.’
After Mr Corbyn’s speech today, she added: ‘It’s time to see Labour open the door to real and lasting partnership with business, not stick with outdated ideologies that would close it in their face.
‘The challenge is not what Labour want to achieve, it’s how. Firms share many of the same ambitions, on skills, climate change, delivering high paid jobs and making sure that the proceeds of growth are felt across the country – but those challenges need a joint response.
‘Some of Labour’s proposals do open the door to partnership. Greater flexibility on the Apprenticeship Levy is something firms have long asked for. A step up in all forms of vocational training for school leavers and those switching careers offers opportunities and works for the economy.
‘Reskilling the economy to achieve net zero and adapt for increased automation is critical, and apprenticeships can have a big role to play in this.
‘But false instincts for mass nationalisations and forcing inclusive ownership schemes onto thriving businesses does little more than frighten off investors from backing the UK, with pensioners and savers having to foot the bill.
‘A high-growth, fair mixed economy is within our grasp, but only if business is welcomed and supported as a provider of opportunity, not falsely portrayed as the root cause of inequality.’
Speaking on the eve of today’s annual conference, the Confederation of British Industry director general said Jeremy Corbyn’s nationalisation programme would stop investment in the country (Mr Corbyn pictured on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday)
She said: ‘That will freeze investment. I have talked to businesses who are already sitting there thinking ‘maybe we’re next’. So we do say again to Labour – work with business, work out different answers to these problems. But this programme that is appearing to value none of the contribution that business makes will simply shut investment out of our country.’
Last night Chancellor Sajid Javid said: ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour would spend recklessly, damage our economy and hit people in the pocket. He will put up taxes by £2,400 a year for everyone to fund his spending spree.
‘Corbyn’s Labour would also subject us to another two referendums causing more uncertainty and delay.
‘A vote for the Conservatives is a vote to get Brexit done and to keep our economy strong.’
The attacks on Mr Corbyn came as Labour promised free dental check-ups for everyone in England at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds a year.
Labour health spokesman Jonathan Ashworth unveiled plans to scrap charges for a check-up, scale and polish, and X-rays.
The British Dental Association estimated the policy will cost £450million per year.
Boris Johnson’s Conservatives said Labour’s spending plans would mean tax rises and hit people’s wallets (PM pictured in Southall on a visit to the Sikh temple)
Mr Corbyn said many people are put off visiting a dentist because of the cost, and argues that this can mean cancers are detected later.
But the Conservatives pointed out that check-ups are already free for those who don’t have the means to pay for them, as well as for children, pregnant women and new mothers.
And they said that under Labour’s plans for a four-day week, it would be even more difficult to get an appointment. Of 39million courses of dental treatment delivered in England per year, about 21million are charged for.
A Conservative spokesman said: ‘Dental check-ups are already free for those who don’t have the means to pay.
‘Labour’s plans will force taxpayers to foot yet another bill amounting to hundreds of millions pounds, simply to extend provision to people who can already afford it.
‘Labour’s proposals for a four-day week and uncontrolled immigration would cripple our NHS, leaving it understaffed and underfunded, and we would waste all of next year with two chaotic referendums under Corbyn.’
Labour announced plans to nationalise broadband last week, pledging to take parts of BT into public ownership.
The party costed the policy at £20billion – but the chief executive of BT said it would cost taxpayers at least £100billion.
It is the latest in a series of policies to nationalise utility companies, including water, energy and the railways.