Keir Starmer is set to join First Minister Mark Drakeford in calling on Tory MPs and Members of the Senedd in North Wales to back Labour’s campaign to save Welsh jobs and prevent a “jobs squeeze”.
On his first trip to Wales as Labour leader on Thursday, Starmer will visit an aerospace research and manufacturing facility with Drakeford and Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds as part of Labour’s ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ campaign.
He is expected to issue a joint challenge from the leaders of UK Labour and Welsh Labour for Welsh Conservative MPs and members of the Senedd to oppose Rishi Sunak’s blanket withdrawal of the furlough scheme from all sectors.
The Labour leader will describe this as a “major test of the Conservative Party’s commitment to Wales”, and will call on Welsh Tories to put pressure on the UK government to rethink its approach to the job retention scheme (JRS).
Commenting ahead of the visit, Starmer said: “Labour is fighting for jobs across the country. The UK government’s blanket withdrawal of the furlough scheme is a historic mistake which threatens Welsh jobs.
“The devastating job losses announced at Airbus show how high the stakes are. We face a jobs crisis on a scale not seen for generations. But it is not too late for the government to act.”
1,700 job losses were recently announced at Airbus UK, 84% of which will be in Broughton in North Wales. Aerospace is worth £1.47bn to the Welsh economy and supports 11,700 jobs, but has been badly effected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Labour leader added: “The Welsh government has done a huge amount to support struggling businesses, but the action needed on the furlough scheme can only come from Westminster.
“Welsh Conservative MPs must also play their part in getting their Chancellor to change course. This is a major test of the Conservative Party’s commitment to North Wales.”
Labour in Wales has announced a £1.7bn package to support struggling businesses – which the party has highlighted as the most generous scheme in the UK – but the furlough scheme is controlled by the Tory government in Westminster.
On the measures taken in Wales, Drakeford said: “The Welsh Labour government has provided the most generous and comprehensive package of support to business anywhere in the UK. We will go on doing all we can to protect Welsh jobs.
“Coronavirus is still with us and it will continue to impact on our economy in Wales for a long time to come. The vast majority of people in Wales have followed the rules and made significant sacrifices to help us get coronavirus under control.
“I believe they would expect the UK government to support the economy and make sure people have jobs to go back into.”
Labour has repeatedly urged the Chancellor to change course on withdrawing Covid support, and has demanded an end to what it calls a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to government support across the economy.
Part of Labour’s Uk-wide campaign to save jobs is a call for the government to match the commitment made by the Welsh administration and set up a £1.7bn ‘fightback fund’ to “prevent firms going under and save our high streets”.
The UK government is winding down the support businesses can claim through the JRS to support employees. The first changes came in on August 1st and the plan outlined by the government will see the scheme shut down by the end of October.