Rachel Reeves has refused to commit to Labour’s pledge of investing £28bn in green technologies if her party wins the next election.
Asked 10 times by Sky News’ political editor Beth Rigby if the policy remained in place, the shadow chancellor appeared to dodge the question.
Instead, she pointed to increasing government debt and “the Tory damage to our economy”, promising she would “never play fast and loose with the public finances” were she to take the keys to Number 11.
Ms Reeves first announced the £28bn pledge at the party’s 2021 conference, saying there would be “no dither or delay” in spending to tackle the climate crisis – and encouraging private sector investment into green projects in the process.
But she watered down the policy last summer, saying the figure would instead be a target to work towards – and blaming rising interest rates and the “damage” the Conservatives had done to the economy for the change in direction.
The costly pledge has long been used by the Tories to attack Labour’s fiscal responsibility, following Rishi Sunak’s decision to scrap a number of the government’s own green pledges.
And in recent weeks, it has appeared to be hanging by a thread, with some Labour figures calling on the party to drop the plan altogether rather than leave themselves open to government criticism.
But on Sunday, shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds insisted to Sky News it was still the “ambition”, even if the timetable could fall back.
Asked by Beth Rigby to be “straight with voters” over whether she could commit to the £28bn investment plan, Ms Reeves said: “Well, the Conservatives crashed the economy and sent mortgage rates and the cost of government borrowing soaring. And that does change what will be possible for an incoming Labour government.
“But there’s going to be at least one more budget on 6 March, possibly another one later in the year, before we get those final numbers of what I hope an incoming Labour government, if we win the election, would inherit.
“And I’ve been really clear that all of our policies will be subject to the fiscal rules to get debt falling as a share of GDP.”
Pushed to answer the question again, Ms Reeves repeated her concerns about the cost of debt and borrowing, and hinted at moving away from the pledge.
“If there’s one thing that I hope voters know about me it is that I will never play fast and loose with the public finances, because when you do, you play fast and loose with family finances and you affect businesses as well,” she said.
“I will never do that. The fiscal rules will come first and all of our policies will be subject to the iron discipline.”
The shadow chancellor did name certain green projects Labour wanted to invest in, including green hydrogen, carbon capture and offshore wind.
But she again cast doubt on the policy, saying: “We want to make those investments alongside business in the opportunities of the future. But everything has to be affordable.
“I think what people can hear loud and clear is that all of our policies will be fully costed, fully funded and subject to fiscal rules.”
Asked to acknowledge if Labour will not hit the £28bn figure, Ms Reeves replied: “What I absolutely acknowledge is the state of the public finances… the Tory damage to our economy is very different from when we first set out our ambitions.
“And the governments have sent interest rates soaring because of their recklessness and irresponsibility with the economy. And that does affect what an incoming Labour government would do.”
The shadow chancellor concluded: “All of our policies, and I know, I will just repeat it one more time, are subject to the fiscal rules and the Green Prosperity Plan is no exception.”