Labour pledges to create publicly owned energy company to ‘cut bills and create jobs’

Keir Starmer has announced that a Labour government will create Great British Energy – a new, publicly owned company that will generate renewable sources “to cut bills, create jobs and deliver energy independence”.

The role of GB Energy will be to provide additional capacity alongside the private sector, to establish the UK as a clean energy superpower and guarantee long term energy security, the Labour leader said.

Many European, Asian, and American countries have public generating companies, like EDF in France.

Delivering a keynote speech at the party conference in Liverpool, Sir Keir said the largest onshore wind farm in Wales is owned by Sweden, so “energy bills in Swansea are paying for schools and hospitals in Stockholm”.

He added: “The Chinese Communist Party has a stake in our nuclear industry. And five million people in Britain pay their bills to an energy company owned by France.

“Labour will set up Great British Energy within the first year of a Labour government.

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“A new company that takes advantage of the opportunities in clean British power, because it’s right for jobs, because it’s right for growth, because it’s right for energy independence.”

A Labour party source told Sky News the hope is that GB Energy will “eventually be an EDF”.

The announcement builds on Labour’s commitment to make the UK a clean energy superpower by 2030 and create a National Wealth Fund to invest in British industry.

Sir Keir said Labour “will make sure that the public money we spend building-up British industry, spurs on private investment, stimulates growth… and the British people enjoy the returns”.

He added: “Labour won’t make the mistake the Tories made with North Sea oil and gas back in the 1980s, where they frittered away the wealth from our national resources.

“The road to net zero is no longer one of stern, austere, self-denial. It’s at the heart of modern, 21st century aspiration. Technology has turned everything on its head.

“Green and growth don’t just go together – they’re inseparable. The future wealth of this country is in our air, in our seas, and in our skies. Britain should harness that wealth and share it with all.

“British power to the British people.”

Conservatives ‘have ripped out the foundations of Britain’

The Labour leader’s speech came after days of financial market uncertainty driven by Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget – something which he said the public should “not forgive and not forget”.

Sir Keir accused the Tories of chocking the aspirations of working people with their trickle-down economics approach, saying they crashed the pound and lost control of the economy “to give tax cuts to the rich”.

He said the Conservatives have harmed the UK over the last 12 years. “They used to lecture us about fixing the roof when the sun was shining,” he said.

“But take a look around Britain, they haven’t just failed to fix the roof, they’ve ripped out the foundations, smashed through the windows and now they’ve blown the doors off for good measure.”

British Labour Party leader Keir Starmer speaks at the Britain's Labour Party annual conference in Liverpool, Britain, September 27, 2022. REUTERS/Phil Noble
Sir Keir Starmer

He said the problems don’t stop with the economy, saying there is “raw sewage in our rivers” and “backlogs everywhere”.

Sir Keir went onto paint a picture of what the UK would look like under a Labour government, saying the cost of living crisis will be over, “clouds of anxiety have lifted”, services are where they are needed and the economy is stable while the NHS is “back in good health”.

Referencing a woman he met in Grimsby, he said people in the UK are surviving, not living, but under a Labour government, they would be “thriving not surviving”.

‘Party of homeownership’

In another policy announcement, Sir Keir said Labour wants to increase home ownership and will set a target of 70%, offering a new mortgage guarantee for first-time buyers to help more people get onto the housing ladder.

He also promised to make Brexit “work” – saying that is something won’t get from the Tories or SNP.

His condemnation of the SNP was well-received by the audience.

Sir Keir said Scotland’s success in the UK “is met with gritted teeth”.

“We can’t work with them, we won’t work with them, no deal under any circumstances,” he said.

He pledged to make a “fairer greener more dynamic Scotland” – in a “Labour Britain”.

‘Party of the centre ground’

Sir Keir finished his speech by echoing former leader and prime minister Tony Blair.

He said Labour is “the party of the centre ground – once again the political wing of the British people”.

He said: “Britain will get its future back, a country where aspiration is rewarded, where working people succeed.

“A force for good in the world, a clean energy superpower, a fairer, greener, more dynamic nation.

“This is my commitment to you. The national mission of the next Labour government.”

Sir Keir Starmer won no fewer than 10 standing ovations during his confident and assured 50-minute speech.

Speaking afterwards, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner told Sky News’ political editor Beth Rigby that the speech showed how passionate he is, after suggestions from some quarters that he is boring and perhaps lacking in personality.

The buoyant frontbencher was a supporter of former leader Jeremy Corbyn and is generally seen as more to the left of the party than Sir Keir – but she was insistent Labour is now the party of the centre ground and the party that can win an election.

“I think he’s exactly what we need in this country at the moment, someone who’s got very clear ideas, very good ethics,” she said.

And in a message to the Tory government, she added: “Do not completely trash our country before we take it over.”

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