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Shadow chancellor John McDonnell says a Labour Government would renationalise railways in its first term

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

A LABOUR Government would renationalise the railways in its first term, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said yesterday.

Speaking as Labour gathered in Liverpool for its annual conference, Mr McDonnell said he was already working on plans to take advantage of break clauses as franchises expire and put them in public hands.

The ScotRail franchise expires in 2025 and the Scottish Government has committed to allowing a public sector bid to run the country’s railways, but Labour wants the current deal with under-fire operator Abellio axed at the break-clause point of 2020.

Asked whether the rail franchises could all be publicly owned in the first term of the Labour government, Mr McDonnell said: “I think that’s possible. That’s why we’re working through the detail now of how that can be done.

“If you look at what’s happened over time a number of these franchises have been handed back anyway.

“I think we are in a situation now where I think that is certainly possible. We want to get to within the first term of a Labour government an integrated railway system.”

Under his plans, Labour would establish a public ownership unit within the Treasury and develop legal and financial plans to renationalise industries.

“We will have new structures of government. I’ll be ready on day one going into government to be able to bring forward the legislation, to implement the policy,” he said.

Chancellor Philip Hammond said Mr McDonnell’s plans would mean a £176 billion “borrowing binge”.

“Ideological renationalisation would lead to less choice and poorer services. It would put politicians in day-to-day control of our vital services, meaning nowhere for people to turn when things go wrong,” he said. “Labour aren’t fit to govern and working people would pay the price if they ever got the chance.”

Meanwhile, leader Jeremy Corbyn, who laid a wreath at the memorial to the Liverpool fans who died at Hillsborough, has acknowledged shortcomings in the party’s handling of allegations of sexual harassment and abuse.

Addressing Labour’s Women’s Conference yesterday, he admitted: “We have not always met necessarily the highest standards, which rightly are demanded of us.

“I am absolutely determined our party and our movement will always have the very highest standards so everybody is safe and secure in our movement and sexual harassment has no place whatsoever in our movement.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard will make his first speech of the conference today and pledge a UK Labour government will deliver £70bn of investment to Scotland.

He will say that an interventionist industrial strategy with a “Macora law” – which allows workers to buy their companies when they go up for sale or face closure – will revive the country’s economic fortunes.