Policy Commission on the Economy Gets Down To Work

The Economy, Business and Trade Policy Commission held its first meeting on30 January in Westminster. The Commission covers the responsibilities of the Treasury and the departments for Business and Industrial Strategy and International Trade.

John Mc Donnell briefed the meeting on the work of the shadow Treasury team. Of the “structural reviews”, a first paper had been produced on HMRC and further work was developing on tax evasion laws and international agreements. A first paper was ready to go on the review of the Treasury and would be launched soon. The review of the Bank of England had fallen behind after the leading economist, David Blanchflower, had withdrawn from the project.

A series of regional conferences was in preparation, including the second “State of the Economy” conference in May. Work was a progressing on the National Investment Bank and the emphasis now was on regional economic plans.

Barry Gardner reported from the shadow international trade team. He outlined the difficulties of new trade agreements. A US deal would need to deal with difficult issues like food safety standards (chlorine washed chicken, beef growth hormones, GMOs etc.) and could have negative impacts on UK car and agriculture sectors. He criticised Dr Fox for inconsistency in wanting to be free of international courts while signing (without parliamentary approval) the Canadian deal, CETA, which includes an investor court system.

In discussion, it was made clear that Labour should avoid appearing to be anti-trade even if rejecting specific deals.

Chi Onwurah, shadow minister for industrial strategy spoke about the consultation on a new industrial strategy launched in January. Already over 800 responses had been received and the deadline for submissions is 18 February.

The strategy would focus on:

  • responding to challenges (eg climate change and aging society)
  • setting ambitious “missions” to engage public and private actors;
  • driven by values, distinctively Labour values.

The Commission discussed the focus of future work including its themes and proposals of whom to invite to give evidence. The next meeting in February would consider a first draft of the consultation paper with a view to its launch in March. The spring would then be used to receive and consider submissions from CLPs affiliated bodies and interested parties. An updated document would be prepared for the NPF meeting in the summer.

Next meeting 21 February.

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