Report on the Economic Policy Commission

The economy commission of the NPF held its second meeting of the current cycle in London in January. It heard briefings from the front bench teams, discussed the consultation document and received a presentation of data on employment.

Shadow Ministers’ Updates

John McDonnell outlined the current priorities of the shadow treasury team.

  • continuing to expose the lack of investment and campaign for increasing investment;
  • campaigning on the “insanity” of PFI and privatisation pointing to the costs in jobs and to taxpayers;
  • developing on the 2017 manifesto, with teams working on how policies would be implemented in government and updating the “grey book” on funding our pledges.

Preparations were in hand for the series of regional economic policy conferences including the annual economy conference which will be held in June.

Barry Gardner, shadow trade secretary, is immersed in fighting on the Trade Bill. Key issues are:

  • government procurement rules;
  • TWO tariff schedules, where the government aims to keep the EU schedules and we are pushing for more support for smaller businesses;
  • trade deals where EU trade deals exist; the government want to roll over these deals, but splitting the quotas and adding rules of origin mean these are legally new FTAs;
  • Appointments to a new authority for “trade remedies”; the government want appointments made by the secretary of state, Labour want sectoral representatives.

He also wants to see more transparency on how trade deals are approved with more say for parliament.

The visit of the US commerce secretary made plain that the UK can not keep its regulations aligned with both the EU and the US. Free trade will mean making choices.

Consultation Document

A draft of the consultation document on The Future of Work was discussed and a list of points for inclusion in the revised text was compiled. The document will have four sections dealing with:

  1. context, eg how work is changing and is likely to change;
  2. The future, eg key challenges in the labour market, what we want from modern employment, key sectors etc;
  3. the mechanisms, eg new business models and technologies, the role of unions and labour rights, quality of management;
  4. a bigger picture, eg democratic ownership, financing and investment structures.

Presentation on Employment

The commission were treated to a data rich presentation to provide background for it development of policy on the future of work. The presentation covered the regional and sectoral breakdown of numbers of jobs; job growth, including underemployment, self-employment and the public private split; wages by region and wage growth; gender pay gap and income insecurity.

Key take-aways included the scale of employment in manufacturing which at 2.658 million jobs still outstrips finance at 1.125 million. The UK is the only rich country where the economy is growing and wages are falling. Other countries have falling wages but also falling GDP while other countries where GDP is growing have rising wages.

Next Meeting

There will be a full NPF meeting on 17-18 February.

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