Summer Adjournment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:11 pm on 25th July 2019.

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Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport) 4:11 pm, 25th July 2019

It is an honour to follow my hon. Friend Anneliese Dodds on the issue of the climate emergency. A climate emergency is not a headline to hide behind; it is a call for action. After the hyperbole we heard earlier today, I fear the lack of detail and strategy to address the really important issues that face us as a nation at this time. In fact, I found the whole experience this morning chilling in respect of the direction our country is going in.

It not about a performance, as Government Members highlighted, but about solving the real crises that we face in our country at this time. That is why I turn to the issue of jobs in my constituency. We are at a crossroads in York. Unless we get things right, the future generation in my constituency will not have the opportunities that past generations have had. We have been so fortunate that, throughout the decades and the centuries, York has been a place of good employment. We know from the evidence in Jorvik that back in the Viking days York was a centre of trade. Throughout the Anglo-Saxon years York was a real nucleus for the people who came to our city. We are about to do the biggest excavation in the country, that of Roman Eboracum, to look into the history of our city, knowing its importance back in those days. In the medieval period, York was, after London and Norwich, the third largest city, with trade again at its heart. The railway industry brought high-quality jobs to York. The chocolate industry employed 18,000 people at its peak and served the world.

Today, York is marked by so many insecure, low-paid jobs, particularly for women and for the women who work part time in our city. York has one of the lowest-waged employment offers for people, including in the hospitality and retail sector that dominates our city. I stand here today because I want to see good inward investment in our city. Shamefully, the local council and the Government are not calling in the decision on the York Central partnership, with the opportunity having been put on hold.

In the HS2 debate the other day, I heard of the opportunities that the project is bringing to my colleagues in Birmingham: 33,000 jobs at Curzon Street station alone; and 77,000 jobs at the Birmingham Interchange. York Central sits on the route of HS2, the east coast main line, the trans-Pennine route and cross-country routes. It will be a major transport infrastructure interchange in the north, and yet the planning is for only 6,500 jobs, most of which will be consolidating jobs that already exist in our city.

We have the biggest brownfield site development opportunity in the whole of Europe. It covers 400,000 square metres, only a fifth of which will be dedicated to an enterprise zone. This is about shutting off the opportunities for inward investment in the growth areas of our city, such as the biotech industry, the railway industry and digital railway for the future. There is also the digital, media and creative sectors, of which York University is a lead player. It is vital that we lift the aspirations of young people in our city so that they can see the opportunities that are there for them, instead of shutting off the inward investment that our city urgently and desperately needs.

Some 2,500 homes will be built on that brownfield site. To buy one of those homes will cost between 11 and 19 times somebody’s wage. For the people in my city, that is completely unaffordable, so we know that those homes will be bought by outside investors and by people who will use them as second homes because York is such a lovely place in which to live—I have already described its history. But York must be about the local people and about giving them the very opportunities that their predecessors have had in our city.

There is so much to attract people to our city, but unless we get the infrastructure right, make the right decisions on the economy and create jobs for local people, our city will remain out of kilter and one of the most inequitable cities in the United Kingdom. My plea to Government is to pause planning decisions and put the economic opportunities of our local communities at the heart of every planning decision, so that we can rebuild our country for the people that it is there to serve.