Keir Starmer pledges nationalised Great British Energy firm in conference speech

Sir Keir Starmer, with his wife, Victoria, leaves the stage after his speech in Liverpool - Stefan Rousseau/PA
Sir Keir Starmer, with his wife, Victoria, leaves the stage after his speech in Liverpool - Stefan Rousseau/PA

Labour will set up a publicly-owned energy company to generate green electricity and bring down bills, Sir Keir Starmer has announced.

In his keynote speech to the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, the party leader said Great British Energy would be established within his first year of office.

Sir Keir, who won a standing ovation when he said the new firm would be publicly owned, added that the move was “right for jobs, right for growth and right for energy independence from tyrants like Putin”.

The company, financed by a multi billion-pound injection from a new national wealth fund, would be able to invest in new wind farms, tidal energy, solar power and nuclear facilities.

Sir Keir also unveiled a new home ownership target of 70 per cent, up from the current figure of 65 per cent. He said he would help more working people get on the housing ladder with a new mortgage guarantee scheme.

The Labour leader confirmed that his party has dropped its commitment to freedom of movement and will support the government’s points-based imigration system. He pledged to “make Brexit work”, despite having voted Remain in the 2016 referendum.

He told delegates that the largest onshore wind farm in Wales was owned by Sweden, energy bills in Swansea were paying for schools and hospitals in Stockholm, the Chinese Communist Party had a stake in the UK’s nuclear industry and five million Britons paid their bills to a French-owned energy company.

The role of GB Energy will be to provide additional capacity, alongside the rapidly expanding private sector, to establish the UK as a clean energy superpower and guarantee long term energy security, said Labour.

The party said the announcement builds on its commitment to make the UK a clean energy superpower by 2030 and create a national wealth fund. The energy generation company would be given seed capital from the £8 billion fund, which it would use to invest in green schemes.

The state support would mean it could potentially invest in riskier schemes or more experimental technologies such as tidal power, with the plan for it to eventually become self-funding as a result of the money generated. The independently-run firm could invest in nuclear schemes and even end up exporting energy overseas.

Sir Keir said: “Labour will make sure that the public money we spend building up British industry, spurs on private investment, stimulates growth … and the British people enjoy the returns.”

A Labour spokesman said: “This is not about nationalisation. It’s about introducing a new player into the market that is able to ensure that we are putting every effort that we can into the drive for clean power, for renewables and nuclear.”

Sir Keir promised to make owning a home a reality for another 1.5 million households, saying he wanted to see 70 per cent of households own their own homes and appeared to back more housebuilding.

After years of rising home ownership, he warned that “under the Tories, the dream of owning your own home is slipping away for too many” and said: “My message is this – if you’re grafting every hour to buy your own home, Labour is on your side. Labour is the party of home ownership in Britain today.”

Although he did not detail specific policies, he suggested Labour would look to reform the planning system to increase house-building, saying: “If you keep inflating demand without increasing supply, house prices will only rise.

“We will set a new target – 70 per cent home ownership – and we will meet it with a new set of political choices, a Labour set of political choices.

“No more buy-to-let landlords or second homeowners getting in first. We will back working people’s aspiration, help first-time buyers onto the ladder with a new mortgage guarantee scheme, reform planning so speculators can’t stop communities getting shovels in the ground.”

Sir Keir also categorically ruled out a Labour election pact with the SNP, insisting there would be “no deal under any circumstances”, but failed to say the same about the Liberal Democrats.