Ed Miliband's speech to the CBI
Monday 10 November 2014
It is great to be here with you, representatives of British business today, celebrating the work that you do day-in, day-out for the people of this country.
You have been at the sharp end of the most difficult times we can remember, but so many of you have come through it because of your skill, ingenuity and determination.
And it is a privilege to have the chance to address you.
I want to start with the tumultuous year it has been for our country.
Including the rise of political forces that we all know about, who want to kick over the traces.
Three days before the Scottish referendum I sat in a meeting with John and Mike, with none of us quite knowing whether our country was going to stay together or split apart.
I will always remember our discussion that day because we agreed that while this particular tumultuous moment was happening in Scotland, its causes were felt throughout Britain.
We are a country with an economy that is at last growing again.
And that is a tribute to your hard work.
We have fantastic businesses creating wealth, profits and jobs.
Some of the best in the world.
And yet, while some people said a year ago that the return of growth would mean the return of confidence, that is not the country I see.
This is a joyless recovery for so many because it is a pay-less recovery for so many.
A recovery without wage growth.
And the problems go much deeper than that.
Beyond one government, one party and one election.
Millions of people believe and have done for some years that this country is not working for them.
They fear deeply for the future of their kids.
They see a Britain that works only for some.
I am sure you come across it, like I do, each day.
As a result, people in Britain are desperate for a new start, a new beginning that might give them the hope in the future that they used to take for granted.
That is, in my view, why we see new answers being presented around us.
In Scotland, the problem was said to be the rest of the United Kingdom and the answer was to leave.
Others say the problem is the European Union and the answer is to leave that: close our borders, turn our back on the world and return to the way things supposedly used to be.
And Britain is not alone in this.
These voices can be heard in democracies across the world.
These voices are loud and insistent.
But they are dead wrong.
And need to be taken on.
There is no future for Britain turning inwards, turning away from the world.
In particular, on our membership of the European Union.
There are some people in our country who advocate exit from the EU.
There are others who flirt with it, thinking they can do so without consequence.
And perhaps with advantage to Britain.
In my view both are equally dangerous.
It is a betrayal of our national interest.
It is a clear and present danger.
A clear and present danger to businesses like yours that trade with Europe every single day.
You know that leaving the single market and stepping away from a trading block that allows us to work with the new economies, like Brazil, India and China, would be a disaster for our country.
It would risk billions of pounds in lost profits, risk millions of jobs and would make Britain weaker, not stronger, in the world.
And giving succour to the argument that the real answer is leaving the EU, or contemplating it, simply drags us closer to the danger of exit.
Every nod and wink to those who want to leave sends a message to potential investors in our country that Britan is not open for business, that our country is a dangerous bet.
We have seen over the last couple of years that, contrary to what some might have claimed, trying to use exit as a threat has simply weakened Britain’s influence not strengthened it.
Making ever-more incoherent demands, ever-more isolated from our partners.
All of this puts us on the conveyor belt towards exit with no idea how to get off.
I will not be part of it.
If I am Prime Minister I will never risk British businesses, British jobs, British prosperity by playing political games with our membership of the European Union.
We have seen it again with the controversy over the EU budget: banging the table one day, then paying up the next.
I have a different approach.
And we will build alliances with others, not burn them, to help bring the necessary change in the way the European Union works.
And there does need to be change.
Completing the single market.
Longer transitional controls when new countries enter the EU.
Protecting the integrity of our benefits system.
And getting on with the long overdue reform of the EU budget.
And as a guarantee to the British people, we have said that under a Labour government, there will be no further transfer of powers to the European Union without the explicit consent of the British people in an in/out referendum.
You see, the way to overcome all of these false solutions is not to pander to them.
Not to posture about finding ways of accommodating them.
Not to make promises everyone knows you cannot keep.
The answer is to address the discontent people feel directly, with big change in our country.
Mine is not an argument for carrying on as we are.
For business as usual.
Doing that will simply make the forces demanding false solutions stronger, not weaker.
My argument and the mission of the next Labour government is to show that we do have a real plan to make this country work again for everyday working people.
And that is the partnership I want to embark on together with businesses like yours.
To do this, we need to understand the sources of the problems we face as a country.
It is not our membership of the European Union.
It is that globalisation, including immigration, brings great benefits but also places huge pressures on our country.
It is that old stable jobs have gone.
It is that the chances for the next generation seem worse than the last.
And it is that people don’t think the country is run in a fair way.
These are issues of inequality that every country is facing.
And so it is no wonder every country is facing discordant voices.
The core of the answer is to change the way our economy works.
Doing more to help you create good jobs at decent wages.
Giving proper opportunity for the next generation.
And building a country that is seen to be fair.
Let me start with the route to decent jobs at good wages.
Of course, it lies through the success of Britain’s businesses, large and small.
But government can help make it happen.
That means maintaining a competitive tax regime.
And we are committed to maintaining the most competitive regime in the G7.
But it goes much beyond that.
Over four years I am proud of the work we have done with you to identify the deep-seated problems that our economy faces.
Problems that hold you back.
You have told me about the failures of decision-making on infrastructure that have bedevilled Britain for decades.
So we will implement John Armitt’s plan for a new Commission on infrastructure so that you can properly plan ahead.
You have told me that you have no voice in important decisions that affect your business.
So we will end the century of centralisation in our country that has hampered economic growth outside London.
And we will devolve economic power, building on Local Enterprise Partnerships, so that you can shape the things that matter to you, from training to transport.
You have told me that you feel the banks don’t work for you.
So we will tackle the decades-long legacy of a banking system that doesn’t serve the real economy.
And we will implement big reform of the banking system so that it is properly competitive and there are banks in every region with the sole purpose of lending to businesses in that region.
And you have told me that you are hampered by the short-termism of our financial system.
So we will change the rules on financial reporting and on takeovers to help businesses take the long-term view.
These are just some of the changes that we will implement to make it possible for you to do what you do brilliantly: create decent jobs for the people of this country.
But to meet the discontent that there is, we need to tackle another historic problem in Britain that you have also talked to me about.
So many of our young people don’t have hope for the future because they feel that there is no career path ahead of them.
The educational priority of the last Labour government was getting more young people into university.
Our educational priority will be different.
If we win the election, our focus will be on a revolution in vocational education and apprenticeships.
Again this is an agenda where we have learnt so much from you.
New gold-standard technical qualifications in schools, so 14 year olds know what they are aiming for.
Proper work experience for all our young people.
University expansion through technical degrees, designed by businesses like yours.
And, for the first time, a real opportunity for you to decide how the public money available for training is spent.
Creating jobs, giving hope to our young people will help us address the discontent people feel.
But as John has said, we also need to restore a sense of fairness in the way Britain works, including in the world of work.
I congratulate the many businesses here who are moving to become living wage employers.
But I know how tough that is for so many businesses.
So we will work with you to make it easier to do so, with new tax incentives.
And we also need a decent legal floor under wages.
That is why we have set out proposals to raise the minimum wage, over the course of a Parliament, giving business the chance to adjust.
And alongside basic fairness in pay, needs to go basic security at work.
That is why working with business, we have set out plans to ban exploitative zero-hours contracts.
Creating decent jobs at good wages, opportunities for the next generation, and fairness and security at work is an agenda to restore the basic bargain of Britain.
And it is an agenda we can work on together.
I want to be clear this is about big reform, not big spending.
Because the next government will face a huge challenge in bringing the deficit down.
It is why we have set out clear fiscal rules, balancing the books, with debt falling, and the current budget in surplus.
There will not be money for the next Labour government to spend.
And we will make tough decisions in a fair way, consistent with the British people’s values.
Before I close, I want to make one final promise to you today.
In everything I do there will be consistent leadership, based on dialogue with you.
I am not going to say it is OK to carry on as we are, with the economy we have.
Because I don’t believe it is.
I am not going to say we should close our borders.
Because I don’t believe we should.
I am not going to play politics with our membership of the European Union.
Because I don’t believe it makes Britain stronger or more confident in the world.
I am clear about the mission of the next Labour government.
To work with you, to ensure our economic recovery works for everyone and not just a few.
An agenda which is pro-business.
That is the way we will meet this challenge.
Making Britain a better place to do business long into the future.
And creating a country that works for everyday working people.
I look forward to doing it together.