Labour Shifts Focus: Green Investment Plans Evolve for Election Year

A senior Labor leader has confirmed the party has abandoned its pledge to spend £28 billion a year on green investment programs if it wins this year’s election.

Darren Jones, the Treasury’s deputy chief secretary, said on Friday that Labor would decide how much to spend on environmental programs once it comes into government, depending on individual programs and the state of the economy.

The comments mark the first time a shadow minister has publicly admitted the party is no longer aiming for the £28bn figure, which has become a symbol of the party’s green ambitions but also the subject of repeated attacks from the Conservatives is.

The Guardian revealed on Thursday that party leader Keir Starmer had decided to abandon the pledge and instead focus on the party’s pledge to have clean electricity by 2030.

Jones told Sky News: “The number we will achieve when we are in government will depend on two things.

“Firstly, it will depend on the economic situation. We know we will inherit a bad economy from the Conservatives, but we have plans to change that and of course we hope we can. But it also depends on a case-by-case basis whether I have to step down as chief minister of the Treasury in the next Labor government.”

He said the amount spent will “depend on the nature of the projects, the nature of partnerships with the private sector and also our ability to implement these projects in the market and in our country.”

“The number will actually change,” he said. “It will depend on the strength of the economy – we will only invest if it is affordable – but also on a case-by-case basis in collaboration with the private sector.”

Party officials have been debating for weeks what to do with the £28bn pledge made by shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves in 2021, but which has since been steadily scaled back.

Last year Reeves said the target would only be hit in the second half of the parliament, and even then, only if the party could fulfil its economic promise to have debt falling as a share of economic output by the end of a five-year period.

However, in recent weeks Starmer has continued to stick to the £28bn target, even as it has been downgraded from a “promise” to an “ambition”. Asked by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg earlier this month whether the pledge would be included in the party’s manifesto, Starmer said: “In the way that I have just described, then yes, of course.”

A party spokesman told the Guardian two weeks ago: “We are committed to Labour’s green prosperity plan to drive growth and create jobs, including our plan to increase annual investment to £28 billion in the second half of Parliament, subject to our budget rules.”

However, Jones’ comments on Friday reflect a new strategy by the party to drop the £28bn figure and instead focus on plans already announced, including the rollout of home insulation and a new public energy company. However, these programs amount to just under £10 billion a year, meaning the party’s ambitions have now effectively been cut by two-thirds.

 

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