Today’s statement on the economy is a clear opportunity to confront some of the vulnerabilities that covid-19 is exploiting, including rising unemployment and the ever-present climate emergency. Without greater and targeted intervention, both those intertwined crises will exacerbate class inequalities and severely damage living standards.
After borrowing “Jobs, jobs, jobs”, the Government’s latest strap line is “Build, build, build”, but that is not enough. We also need to “Make, make, make”, with a hands-on, interventionist approach to manufacturing to stimulate growth in our communities. We need bold, innovative solutions to reinvigorate a greener job market.
Two predominant sectors in my constituency of Luton South are aviation and automotive, and they would both benefit dramatically from a targeted economic strategy that roots a green recovery in our communities to ensure that local people reap the rewards of growth in their area. A 21st century industrial strategy requires an end to economic short-termism and a greater focus on the creation of quality, unionised green jobs.
I am a member of Unite the union, the recent report of which, “Manufacturing Matters”, evidences the need for strategic state investment to reinvigorate the UK’s manufacturing base and create new sustainable employment and education opportunities in our communities. In Luton, this could be represented by additional support for Vauxhall to help its transition towards the manufacture of electric vehicles. Such an approach is not radical; the French Government have already adopted a similar strategy.
Green economic growth must be built into inclusive local economies. Anchor institutions must drive the green transition. Local authorities must be empowered to construct green local infrastructure, including clean local transport systems and electric vehicle charging points. This would create skilled green jobs that are fit for the 21st century.
The Government have a unique window of opportunity to accelerate a green transition in the aviation sector. A targeted economic package would protect thousands of jobs and stimulate a sectorial transition towards net zero. Commitments attached to economic support could include strict time-bound decarbonisation expectations and obligations to adopt cleaner fuels and low emission technologies. A green aviation package would save jobs in Luton during the pandemic while creating a thriving, sustainable job market for future generations.
The UK needs an economic strategy that directly lifts people out of economic insecurity, gives them secure, quality jobs and protects our climate for future generations. This will be achieved only through a state-driven industrial strategy; the market will not deliver it. I urge the Government to put people and their living standards first.