In anticipation of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, Newgate has asked a panel of experts what they hope to hear from Philip Hammond.
Chuka Umunna MP, Former Shadow Business Secretary
The fact that the Chancellor has indicated that he will move off this predecessor’s inflexible fiscal target provides him with some flexibility to make prudent and smart investments, beyond simply allowing the automatic stabilisers to kick in in the event of unemployment during the choppy post-Brexit years ahead. So how should the Chancellor use this new flexibility to support business, which is key to creating growth, safeguarding and creating jobs?
One of the things he should do is do all that he can to stimulate investment in innovation. Coming up with new ideas, products and services which the rest of the world wants to buy is the best way we can remain internationally competitive post Brexit without seeking to pursue an alternative strategy, advocated by those on the Right, of making our labour markets ever more flexible and embarking on a race to the bottom on people’s terms and conditions at work. Innovation will help improve UK productivity, and help us catch up with our international counterparts in terms of R&D research investment.
He could start by properly funding Innovate UK, which does important work funding and supporting innovative British businesses with a mix of programmes and investments. Established by Labour in 2004, it went on to establish a network of Catapult Centres where scientists and businesses work together to promote innovation and help businesses bring new products and services quickly onto the market. But Innovate UK is simply not properly funded to a scale comparable with similar bodies in other advanced economies. It was my intention to scale up Innovate UK considerably had Labour won last year’s General Election and the CBI, amongst others, is calling for a substantial boost to its resources.
This, combined with increased business investment; improving our creaking infrastructure; ensuring growth is spread across the regions; and committing Britain to remaining in the Single Market, are things the Chancellor should announce in the Autumn Statement to help the UK get through the tough years ahead.”
Chuka Umunna is a British Labour politician who has been Member of Parliament for Streatham since 2010 and was Shadow Business Secretary from 2011 to 2015. He is a founding member of Open Europe and currently serves as a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee.