Sir Keir Starmer is defending Labour’s U-turn on its pledge to spend £28 billion a year on green projects amid criticism from environmental groups, unions and energy industry figures.
The Labour leader said the party has been left with no choice than to scale back the financial policy in the face of a “very broken” economy presided over by the Tories.
He insisted the ambitions behind Labour’s flagship green prosperity plan remain the same and recommitted to his mission to achieve clean power by 2030.
But the party’s plan to insulate homes is set to be one casualty of the climbdown, with five million expected to be completed in the first five years rather than the 19 million initially promised.
“I don’t want to have a row about the size of a cheque. I want to have a row about the outcomes.”
The spending pledge was first made in September 2021 and Labour has blamed Tory stewardship of the economy and higher interest rates since then for the reversal.
But the rowback sparked an immediate backlash from green campaigners, as well as warnings from trade union allies, figures in the energy industry and some within the party ranks.
Emma Pinchbeck, chief executive of trade association Energy UK, warned that “business needs to know that politicians won’t pull the rug from under them”.
The Tories had seized on the original pledge as a key attack line in the run-up to an election this year, claiming Labour would ultimately have to raise taxes to meet the “unfunded spending spree”.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the “uncertainty about what a Labour government would do is a real risk to our country’s future” following months of confusion over the fate of the policy.
“Labour’s pledge – in their own words – has a £28 billion price tag and now they have admitted there is no plan to pay for it,” he said.
Labour MPs Clive Lewis and Barry Gardiner both voiced concerns about the impact the rowback would have on the party’s ability to act on its green ambitions.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) warned that Britain faces a “race against time” with global competitors offering significant financial incentives, but added that the UK’s pitch “must now be how it can outsmart, not outspend, its competitors”.