Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has pledged to use the full weight of the Treasury behind Labour’s plans to shift the balance of economic power in the UK if the party wins the next election.
In a speech to the party’s annual conference in Liverpool yesterday, McDonnell, who has been shadow chancellor since 2015, said that the party would “reprogramme the Treasury” to support greater democratisation of the economy.
Labour would create a new Public and Community Ownership Unit in the department to implement both the party’s pledge to bring the Private Finance Initiative back into government ownership and its plans to nationalise utilities such as water companies.
“People have had enough of being ripped off by privatisation,” McDonnell told the conference. “That’s why we’ve said no more PFIs and we’ll bring the PFIs back in house. Through our public ownership programme we will set up a ‘Public and Community Ownership Unit’ in the Treasury. It will bring in the external expertise we will need.
“Let me make it absolutely clear that the full weight of the Treasury will be used to take on any vested interests that try to thwart the will of the people. Some said our manifesto was a fantasy or a wish list, attractive but ultimately not deliverable. I’m telling you today that we are planned, ready and prepared – not just to fight another election campaign but to implement our programme when we win.”
He confirmed that the party was committed to renationalisiing water companies, but insisted this would “not be a return to the past”.
“We don’t want to take power away from faceless directors to a Whitehall office, to swap one remote manager for another,” he said. “We are also setting out our plans for a new publicly-owned water system that puts this essential service back in the hands of local councils, workers and customers.
“There will be an unprecedented openness and transparency in how the industry will be managed. We are ending the profiteering in dividends, vast executive salaries and excessive interest payments.”
McDonnell also pledged to make changes to the Treasury’s Green Book guidance, which sets out the rules and standards by which government appraises and evaluates policies, projects and programmes.
The shadow chancellor said that for too long, the “establishment has used the Treasury as a barrier against putting power back into the hands of the people”. Rewriting the Green Book would make the Treasury more open to investing across the whole of the UK, he said. “And we’ll make sure it assesses spending decisions against the need to tackle climate change, protect our environment, drive up productivity and meet the investment challenges of the fourth industrial revolution.”