Protection of Jobs and Businesses

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:48 pm on 9th September 2020.

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Photo of Mark Tami Mark Tami Opposition Pairing Whip (Commons) 2:48 pm, 9th September 2020

The aerospace industry employs well over 100,000 people in the UK, in mainly very well-paid and highly-skilled jobs. Aviation has been one of the hardest hit sectors and will be one of the last to recover, taking years to get back to where it was before the pandemic started. At Airbus in Broughton, we are experiencing the consequences of that downturn, with 500 Guidant agency workers losing their jobs, to be followed by nearly 1,500 direct employees under a voluntary redundancy scheme. I pay tribute to Daz Reynolds, the Unite convenor, who has done an incredible job in very difficult circumstances.

That is a massive hit on the local economy. If we add in the calculation that, for every job lost in a prime such as Airbus, four or five jobs will be lost in the supply chain, we see that the scale of the crisis we face is stark. The furlough scheme has helped lessen the impact for now, but we need the Government to step up to the plate and bring forward a package of measures that will help to secure the sector not just now or in the medium term, but for the long term as well.

The French, Germans and Americans have all recognised the need to implement support longer term, and a key measure should be implementing a shorter working week, where the extra time freed up would be used to upskill the workforce. Government financial support would not only secure employment, but it would also deliver value for money for the taxpayer, because people would continue to work, spend and pay taxes.

Support for airlines should be linked to a requirement for them to update their fleets and scrap older, less-environmentally friendly aircraft. More than 70 aircraft that currently fly out of the UK are more than 15 years old, and they should be replaced. Suppliers and SMEs need the Government to support an investment fund to help them to restructure and face up to new challenges, and we must support apprenticeships, which are vital for the future. As I have said, other countries have recognised the need for a sector-specific scheme, and if we do not, the danger is that future investment will go elsewhere. The Treasury does not like sector-specific schemes or to pick winners, but aerospace is already a winner. We are a world leader, and if we do not protect that, we will lose our position in the world, and we could lose the jobs that go with it.