Labour frontbencher tells Norfolk businesses that Britain needs to maintain an “open and outward approach to the world”

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna at NUA in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna at NUA in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith

Tuesday, May 20, 2014
7:03 PM

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna told businesses in Norwich that Britain needed to maintain an “open and outward looking approach to the world” by maintaining a strong role in the EU.

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Cutting edge

Students at Norwich University of the Arts paraded their cutting edge digital skills to shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna.

Mr Umunna was met by NUA vice chancellor professor John Last and spoke with students and staff about how best to encourage jobs and growth in the creative industries and how they can benefit Norwich and Norfolk.

Joining him were Labour’s Norwich South perspective parliamentary candidate Clive Lewis, and Norwich North candidate Jess Asato, and MEP candidate Richard Howitt, who is in the final stages of campaigning for the European Parliament elections on Thursday.

Mr Lewis said the students’ “creativity, ingenuity and fresh thinking encompass many of the qualities our city will need for future jobs and sustainable growth.”

Prof Last said: “During their visit to our fashion studios, design studios and Media Labs, our staff and students provided an insight into how professional practice and business skills are integrated into all our courses. We hope they came away with the sense that Norwich University of the Arts is at the centre of the city’s burgeoning digital creative industries and our graduates are providing a highly employable resource for the future of creative business in the region and the UK.”

Speaking during a visit to Norwich to address businesses at a Norfolk Chamber roundtable event hosted by Knowles Syfer Technology at Arminghall, Mr Umunna, who also visited students at Norwich University of the Arts, said his message to business was that Labour would focus on decentralisation, and innovation while also seeking out sectors which will “deliver gold medals” for the UK economy, while remaining in the EU. He also said he favoured an industrial policy which was “active not interventionist”.

And he also supported the idea of a new EU growth commissioner.

With voters set to go to the polls for the European Parliament elections on Thursday, Mr Umunna who was flanked by Labour MEP candidate Richard Howitt and Clive Lewis, prospective parliamentary candidate for Norwich South, and Jess Asato, prospective parliamentary candidate for Norwich North, met with businesses across a range of sectors including energy, construction, manufacturing, engineering and professional services.

He said: “It’s quite clear that the mainstream Conservative Party would be entirely relaxed about exiting the EU. I am passionately of the view that we have got to stay in the EU, but not just the status quo.”

He said Labour would pursue an industrial policy that was “active not interventionist” and his instinct was to keep Local Enterprise Partnerships such as New Anglia, though he questioned whether 39 was the right number.

During the closed-door session, businesses raised a number of issues from the need for a national infrastructure policy to issues with red tape in Europe.

Mr Howitt said he had previously supported measures to assess the impact of red tape on Brussels legislation.

“What that means is before any EU law is passed, the impact on business is understood and the benefit has to outweigh the costs,” he said.

Caroline Williams, Norfolk Chamber, chief executive, said: It was a great opportunity for the Norfolk business community to highlight the needs of business to the Opposition. The local business community and Norfolk Chamber members are working hard to drive towards economic growth for our County and need stability and focus from central Government to help them to achieve this.

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