John McDonnell has promised that a Labour government would “rewrite the rules of our economy” as he announced radical reforms to business regulation that he said would help workers to “take back control”.
In a speech that made a series of attacks on corporate excess, the shadow chancellor also ruled out imposing a windfall tax on oil and gas companies – a policy Labour had been seriously considering in recent days.
But he outlined a series of changes to the “regulatory architecture” that governs how Britain’s businesses can behave.
“We aim to take on the excesses of the shareholder model, and lay some of the foundations of a stakeholder economy,” he said.
“Today’s business model of shareholder domination is increasingly proving to be incompatible with not just the fair and respectful treatment of workers but also with the responsibilities associated with any organisation operating within a democracy,” he said.
He said a Labour government would establish a series of new commissions to oversee corporate behaviour.
An overarching business commission would contain within it three separate watchdogs – a companies commission, a finance commission, and an enforcement commission.
Answering questions afterwards, McDonnell confirmed that he would like banks to be included in the new system, in what could be the biggest shakeup of financial regulation since 1997, when Gordon Brown made the Bank of England independent.
McDonnell outlined a series of faults with the way shareholder capitalism worked, including short-termism, the lack of bargaining power for workers, and the “cartel” behaviour of the big four accounting firms.
He said Labour would rewrite the Companies Act, to ensure firms were responsible to employees and customers as well as their shareholders, and insist that one-third of board members were staff.