Last Saturday, I joined the climate change demonstration outside the Senedd in Cardiff, and today I stood alongside trade union colleagues outside Parliament at the launch of the SOS for jobs campaign. These two actions are inextricably linked. In the 1980s, under a previous Tory Government, my constituency of Cynon Valley suffered terrible job losses. We do not want to see this repeated. It is estimated that at least 2.5 million people in the UK will be out of work by the end of 2020, unless Government action is taken to prevent this.
The job retention scheme has shown what an active Government can do in a crisis. We now need a strategy for job protection and upskilling, as proposed by the TUC. Our workers want to move forward and see the change that is needed. As one of my constituents said to me recently, “We want to be manufacturing, and if that means changing the way we work, learning new skills, we’re ready for it. We want to be productive.”
There is a golden opportunity here to repurpose industry to address climate change and to support our public services. There have been 100,000 redundancies in local government in the last 10 years. We need more social care and NHS workers. What are the Government doing to address this? We could create 1.24 million jobs in two years, given adequate investment to develop the green economy. At the heart of this are workers and their families, and as one of our local innovation workers said, “I’ve always been prepared to learn new skills. I come from a mining background, but there are no pits left. That’s the past, but I now fear for the future.” That is the human cost of not investing.
Westminster can seem remote to the people of Wales, and we need to be where the people are. At the same time as caring about individual constituents, we are aware of the bigger picture. Wales’s aerospace generates £1.47 billion of gross value added for the Welsh economy. The UK has the largest offshore wind power generation network in Europe, but we do not manufacture a single wind turbine here in the UK. What a disgrace! When will the Government finally agree to establish a national council for recovery, involving Government, industry and unions to work together to develop a green industrial strategy?
To quote a previous Tory Prime Minister,
“You turn if you want to.”
Well, U-turns are something this Government are very adept at, and we need a U-turn from them now: extend the furlough scheme, trial a four-day week, invest in green energy and in our public services, and work with others to prepare an economic plan for jobs that gives our workers, their children, their communities and this planet hope for the future.