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Reeves says she hopes CEOs see their ‘fingerprints all over’ Labour manifesto

The shadow chancellor told business chiefs some of her party’s reforms came from meetings over a ‘smoked salmon and scrambled eggs breakfast’.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has said some of Labour’s reforms were shaped by issues raised at a “smoked salmon and scrambled eggs breakfast” as she told business chiefs she hoped their fingerprints could be seen all over the party’s manifesto.

Labour has sought to push its business and economic credentials since the beginning of the General Election campaign, focusing its manifesto on “growth”, limiting specific tax rises, and this week announcing that a billionaire former Tory donor would be giving Labour his vote.

But the party has clashed with its union backers and the traditional left, who criticised a weakening of Labour’s package for workers, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) think tank said its promised public service spending increases are “tiny, going on trivial”.

Shadow chancellor of the exchequer Rachel Reeves speaking during the Times CEO Summit in London
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves at the Times CEO Summit in London (Jack Hill/The Times CEO Summit/PA)

Ms Reeves was speaking at the Times CEO Summit, where industry leaders from some of Britain’s highest valued companies were gathered.

Speakers included Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the billionaire head of Ineos; Allison Kirkby, the new boss of BT; CS Venkatakrishnan, Barclays’ chief executive; and Dame Emma Walmsley, the GSK chief executive.

Ms Reeves told the summit that Labour had “campaigned as a pro-business party, and we will govern as a pro-business party”.

She said: “My mission is to make Britain the best place in the world to invest or to start and grow a business, and that’s why I hope when you read our manifesto, or see our priorities, that you see your fingerprints all over them.

“So, the reforms about planning, that’s not something that we came up with in our office, that’s something that was probably first mentioned to me at the first smoked salmon and scrambled eggs breakfast that I had three-and-a-bit years ago where that was raised as an issue, and then raised countless times.”

The shadow chancellor added: “I’m not going to be able to create wealth and prosperity from the Treasury, but you are going to be able to create that.

“What is my role is to remove as many of the barriers that are stopping you from investing as I possibly can.”

Ms Reeves also told the gathered business chiefs in London that they have “nothing to worry about” in Labour’s plans for workers.

The shadow chancellor was asked if Labour was under pressure from unions to provide a more generous package for workers, including banning zero hours contracts.

She said: “I would say to businesses, you’ve got nothing to worry about from Labour’s new deal for working people and our plans to make work pay.

“If you look at the details that we’ve published, we will ensure that if you work over 12 weeks and you do regular hours, that at the end of that period you have a right to a contract based on those hours, but if the employee wants to keep that flexibility at zero contract they are entitled to and it won’t stop employers being able to offer short-term contracts.”

Ms Reeves also said that a Labour government would host a “major global investment summit” in its first 100 days “to send a simple message – Britain is open to business”.

She added: “I want to bang the drum for Britain and for all the great potential that we have as a country.

“One of the privileges of this job, shadow chancellor, is I’ve had the opportunity to go and visit countless businesses around the country, including during this election campaign.

“I see the potential everywhere we go.”

When asked about Labour’s plans to add VAT to private schools, Ms Reeves said they would make “efficiencies”.

She said: “Over the last 14 years state schools have had to make huge efficiencies because of the cuts to real-terms funding over the last few years and I strongly believe that private schools as well will be able to make efficiencies, some private schools have already said they won’t pass on the fees on the increases in VAT, or they certainly won’t do it all in one go, and I welcome that.”

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