Our commitment to business: Labour

On May 7, voters face a real choice about the future direction of our country. Labour's vision is of a Britain that works for all. It is a Britain where people from every background can succeed, and the next generation does better than the last. It is a Britain of thriving businesses – large and small – improving lives with new products and services, and creating the jobs of the future.

This is the route to sustainable growth and rising living standards. This is the way we will beat the competition in the global economy and deliver the better-paid, higher-skilled, more secure jobs people need to build a life on.

To achieve this, we must give our firms the conditions they need to thrive, access to markets at home and abroad, and the support that enables them to succeed more easily. This starts with a stable macroeconomic foundation. Labour will cut the deficit every year, get the national debt falling and ensure a surplus on the current budget as soon as possible in the next Parliament. For every commitment we make, we will tell you where the money is coming from. None of our commitments require additional borrowing.

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Our commitment to fiscal discipline is part of our broader objective to lock-in a long-term perspective. Our most successful businesses take a long-term view and we must support them to do so through reforms to corporate governance, such as ensuring institutional investors prioritize long-term growth over short-term profits for the companies in which they are investing.

Chuka Umunna, Shadow Business Secretary
Carl Court | Getty Images
Chuka Umunna, Shadow Business Secretary

Government should also be properly focused on the long-term. That's why we will follow John Armitt's recommendation to set up an independent National Infrastructure Commission. It's why we will establish an Energy Security Board to ensure our nation's long-term energy needs are being properly addressed. And we will introduce a new long-term funding policy framework for science and innovation to provide the stability and continuity that our companies, universities and research institutes need.

As we seek to rebalance our economy and raise living standards, Labour's industrial strategy will support the growth of jobs of the future in our leading sectors, and raise productivity right across the economy. We will work to make Britain a world leader in low carbon technologies and services over the next decade, creating a million additional green jobs.

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We will tackle skills shortages by ensuring all young people study English and maths until the age of 18 and by introducing a gold standard vocational route, including a plan to create thousands of new apprenticeships. We will give employers more control of money and standards, but in return expect more high-quality apprenticeship opportunities to be created. It is all part of the sectoral approach we will take to back the sectors where we are strong and raise productivity right across the economy.

The finance gap for small business has been a long-standing problem and it is time it was properly addressed. Labour will act to ensure there is greater competition within banking, but also greater competition to banking by supporting the development of alternative funding sources. We will put in place a proper British Investment Bank, supporting a network of regional banks supporting the growth of businesses in their area

We will address rising business costs by maintaining the most competitive Corporation Tax rate in the G7, and cutting and then freezing business rates for more than 1.5 million small business properties. And we will get serious about the scourge of late payment - with small firms effectively bankrolling those they supply to the tune of around £40 billion ($60.7 billion) or around £38,000 a firm on average - by acting to end the unfair treatment of small business and suppliers.

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We will bring support for small firms together by establishing a Small Business Administration, inspired by the successful U.S. example and called for by the Federation of Small Businesses to put the voice of small business at the heart of government.

And finally, we will not play fast and loose with Britain's membership of the European Union (EU). It is the destination for around half our exports and the key that unlocks the door to emerging markets beyond. We must lead reform to get the EU economy moving, to complete the single market, and as a platform for leadership in the world -- because Britain is best when it looks outwards to the world, not in on itself. It is best when it looks forward to opportunity. And Britain is best when it leads. This is the choice on May 7. Choose Labour for thriving businesses, rising living standards and an economy that works for all.

Chuka Umunna is Labour's Shadow Business Secretary.