The Economy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:34 pm on 8th July 2020.

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Photo of Nick Smith Nick Smith Labour, Blaenau Gwent 6:34 pm, 8th July 2020

This pandemic is hitting Blaenau Gwent hard. Its shockwaves are shaking our south Wales valleys now. An entire shopping centre is under threat. A logistics centre that supplies the drinks industry is facing redundancies. Our small-town high streets are under big pressures. Care workers are under the cosh. These heroes have put their lives on the line to look after our loved ones, but now some of them are seeing their hours cut, and others are losing their jobs completely. The whispers and rumours of redundancies are back, and while things are so uncertain, this will keep on happening.

The valleys have seen this before. People in my constituency remember the 1980s, when pit and steel closures hugely impacted our communities. We know how important early investment is during tough times. In 2018, the Government promised to launch the shared prosperity fund, but we are still waiting for it. That pot of money could help Blaenau Gwent to rebuild following this period of uncertainty. It could help to revive our economy, which is facing the threats of these dark times. It would build vital infrastructure, giving us the good-quality roads and the rail tracks that we need. We have waited too long for this fund. The Government need to step up and give us this detail as a matter of urgency.

We also need to invest in young people. Dubbed “generation covid”, they are facing the toughest job market in decades. The kick-start scheme is to be welcomed. At first sight, it resembles Labour’s successful future jobs fund, and I am glad that it is being revived. In Ebbw Vale in my constituency, Cyber College Cymru offers young people future-proof training in this growing sector. The project links up with major employers, helping young people to gain the work experience they need to get into the jobs market. It is a shining example that should be replicated across the whole country. Young people need these opportunities straightaway. Neither they nor our economy can afford to wait. Blaenau Gwent and its young people need a helping hand now—let’s get on with it.