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What is waiting in business secretary Jonathan Reynolds’ in-tray?

Jonathan Reynolds’ in-tray is already piling up with urgent issues.
Jonathan Reynolds’ in-tray is already piling up with urgent issues.

Re-elected as MP in Stalybridge and Hyde, by 4.40pm on Friday, Jonathan Reynolds, the shadow business and trade secretary, had been appointed to his cabinet equivalent role.

A self-described ‘Christian socialist’ dad-of-four, who grew up Sunderland, Reynolds is set to become a central figure in a Labour government which seeks to prioritise economic growth, work in partnership with businesses, and improve Britain’s trading relationships.

But it’s clear Reynolds’ in-tray is already piling up with urgent issues. We take a look at a few of the day-one problems facing the new business secretary.

Royal Mail takeover

Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky is hoping to buy Royal Mail and is weighing up whether to give staff a stake in the business if his offer is accepted.

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His firm EP Group has written to shareholders of International Distributions Services (IDS), Royal Mail’s parent company, suggesting “a form of employee participation model” could “potentially” be on offer – and could include “profit-sharing” among staff.

IDS’ board recommends shareholders accept Kretinsky’s offer of 370p per share offer, which is a 77 per cent premium on the closing price before EP Group’s interest was made public.

Labour said in its manifesto that any proposed takeover would be “robustly scrutinised” and ensure “appropriate guarantees are forthcoming that protect the interests of the workforce, customers and the United Kingdom”.

In May, Reynolds wrote to EP Group, saying: “Labour would never accept seeing Royal Mail operated overseas. It is an important British institution with a unique place in our society and infrastructure.”

Thames Water debt crisis

Another tricky issue awaiting the new team is the potential nationalisation of Thames Water.

The water company is struggling with debt issues, and in March, ultimate owners Kemble stopped a £500 payment towards the £3bn it is supposed to inject into the firm.

It came after water regulator Ofwat refused to agree to plans to increase customers’ bills by 40 per cent above inflation for the next half-decade.

Reynolds told a Bloomberg business debate before the election that he “wouldn’t want to see a nationalisation. I think there should be a solution that falls short of that”.

He warned that “investment can involve losing as well as gaining money,” and said “people should not expect the state to bail out bad investments.”

Shein London listing

Fast fashion giant Shein – which has courted controversy via its links to China and alleged forced labour issues – could be set to list on the London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG).

The move has divided opinion with some viewing it as a welcome boon to the LSEG.

Reynolds has previously said Labour would want Shein “regulated from the UK”, ahead of Bloomberg and CNBC reports that the retailer had confidentially filed papers with the UK.

He reiterated his stance on Sunday, telling Times Radio “Where any company is active in the UK, our aspiration should be that we regulate that company from the UK”.

He stressed any firm doing business in the UK shouldn’t have “forced labour in its supply chain” and said that he expected “every company in the UK to pay its fair share of tax”.