February 12, 2014 7:17 pm

Head of Labour policy review hits out over foreign takeovers

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MP Jon Cruddas©Getty

Jon Cruddas MP

Foreign takeovers of British assets have left people “powerless”, Labour’s head of policy has stated, in a blast against globalisation.

Jon Cruddas, the MP leading the opposition party’s policy review, used a speech on Wednesday to criticise the sell-off of “top-end houses” and business assets to foreigners.

He referred to takeovers of “our football clubs, power generating companies, airports and ports, water companies, rail franchises, chemical, engineering and electronic companies, merchant banks”, and complained of “people left powerless”.

Mr Cruddas, speaking at the New Local Government Network think-tank, did not spell out any specific policies to deal with the trend.

The idea of preventing overseas takeovers was anathema to New Labour, and is likely to be shot down by Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, who takes a pragmatic approach to the City and big business.

But the comments by Mr Cruddas are a vivid symbol of the intellectual debate taking place at the top of the Labour party.

“At the heart of our cost-of-living crisis is the question of how the country is run and who it is run for,” he said.

The Tories, by contrast, have welcomed overseas investment, with David Cameron saying recently: “No country in the world is more open to Chinese investment than the UK.”

While some MPs have called for a “public interest test” for foreign takeovers, Labour’s approach has been more gentle in recent months.

Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary, has backed a “more grit in the machine” approach that would involve changes to company law to tackle short-termism, without political intervention. These measures would include limiting the voting rights for certain shareholders to encourage longer-term investing.

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