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Use autumn Budget to address long-term weaknesses in our economy, says Rebecca Long Bailey

Shadow business secretary warns the country must invest to overcome serious shortcomings

PHILIP HAMMOND must use his autumn Budget to turn around Tory stagnation and tackle the north-south divide, Labour said yesterday.

A new report by the independent industrial strategy commission says the government should combat regional inequalities with a pledge to offer all Brits a minimum level of transport, schools, hospitals and digital access.

Earlier this year the government put out a green paper for consultation on providing an industrial strategy for Britain.

But PM Theresa May has faced criticism for taking so long to make progress in the policy area, having made a hoo-ha about a new focus on industry when she took office in July 2016.

Labour shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey said: “This report highlights the scale of the challenges facing the UK economy — and the action needed to address them.

“Yet, after seven years of Tory austerity, productivity is stagnant, wages are falling, investment is low, we have vast regional inequality and the largest current account trade deficit on record.

“And they are still sitting on their industrial strategy white paper.”

Ms Long Bailey said Labour’s “bold industrial strategy” would “tackle the key challenges of our age,” including raising research and development spending to 3 per cent of GDP.

A Corbyn government would also launch a “transformative investment programme to deliver high-quality infrastructure” in all parts of the country, she said.

She added: “The Chancellor must use the forthcoming Budget to do the same.”

The commission, which was created by the government after the launch of the green paper in January, also said Brexit was likely to exacerbate historic weaknesses in the British economy.

The government must also plan for “decarbonisation” and a beefed-up social care system, it said.

Commission chair Dame Kate Barker said a new strategy could mean that “sometimes it will be right to choose equity and long-term-gains over short-term efficiency.”

Train drivers’ union Aslef said investing in transport infrastructure would be “essential” for Britain’s economic success.

“Everyone in this country, no matter where they live, should have access to the quality of infrastructure that at the moment only some people enjoy,” the union’s general secretary Mick Whelan said.

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