Attracting high quality, well paid, sustainable jobs to our area is a top priority of mine as Member of Parliament for Llanelli.
Providing hardworking, local people with employment that helps them flourish and contribute to their families and their communities is more important now than ever before. The cost of living crisis, rising energy bills, increased mortgage and rent costs and high inflation have all put pressure on so many households here.
That is why I will continue to fight hard on behalf of local people and stand up for our businesses and industries.
It is also why I am concerned about two recent developments that could affect our local economy massively over the next few years. Firstly on the future of the steel industry in Wales and secondly on failures by the Tory UK Government to capitalise on the potential of renewable energy to provide new careers and livelihoods for our young people.
The UK Government’s deal with Tata Steel continues to cause massive uncertainty for the steel industry across Wales, especially here in Llanelli.
Its Trostre packaging plant remains reliant on steel supplied from the blast furnace process in Port Talbot which is set to be replaced by electric arc furnace steelmaking only in future. I have spoken with the Secretary of State for Wales calling on him to guarantee that this deal will not affect the quality of steel supplied to Trostre and that local jobs in Llanelli are not at risk. I have also raised this on the floor of the House of Commons with other Tory Ministers too.
Listening to management and workers within Trostre, there is a way forward – more research on what can be done with electric arc steel to make it usable for packaging and further work on tapping into the willingness of customers of packaging to accept a different product if they can boast of greener credentials. The UK Government must now sit up and take notice but, so far, the situation has been badly handled.
No consultation with workers, little consideration of alternative technologies and a lack of detail on how Tata Steel and the wider UK industry can move forward is a very worrying precedent.
Like steelmaking, renewable energy and the race to Net Zero has vast potential to generate economic growth across Wales, especially in areas such as ours that are close to the coast.
Off-shore wind projects including those proposed in the Celtic Sea can help slash household bills, increase energy security and provide the basis for us to lead the way in new green technologies. We should be grasping the opportunities for coastal communities right now, training young people to be the engineers of the future and assisting local businesses exploit the full potential of this transition.
Sadly, Rishi Sunak’s lacklustre approach to facing up to climate change is wreaking immense damage, creating uncertainty for investors and strangling our economic development.
I recently took Tory Ministers to task in Parliament on this and raised concerns about the debacle which will now see UK off-shore wind schemes put on hold for at least a further 12 months or even longer because of their mishandling of the generation auction process.
“These results put a great opportunity for economic growth on hold. UK energy bills will be £2bn higher for an extra year, thousands of jobs that would have been created are delayed, £10 billion of investment is delayed” these are not my words but those of Renewable UK. In contrast, the Irish Government took a more proactive approach and are now several steps ahead of us.
Around the world governments are getting ahead in the race for green jobs, securing investment in their renewable industries. Meanwhile the Tories preside over a failed response with a hugely damaging ban on onshore wind in England, and now no new offshore wind farms. Even before this calamity, the UK was already forecast to have the slowest growth in low carbon electricity of the world’s largest eight economies up to 2030.
It is simply not good enough.
We must lead the way on renewable energy, the green agenda and the transition to Net Zero. or face the consequences. Unfortunately, while Rishi Sunak and the Tories sit on their hands, the UK will only fall further and further behind.