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Red Wall Tory MPs Insist Green Jobs Are Vital To Levelling Up Success

Wind turbine production could be a source of Red Wall jobs, the report said (Alamy)

4 min read

Dozens of Tory MPs have backed a new report calling for the creation of green jobs in so-called 'Red Wall' areas to become the government's "core focus".

The major new report from the Onward think-tank has called on the government to take "urgent action" to attract green industries to the Midlands and the north or risk losing local jobs to foreign competitors.

Analysis by the group found that 250,000 jobs in carbon-intensive industries currently based in the area were at risk of being lost because of the transition toward Net Zero and the creation of new green technologies, but believed they could be replaced with new jobs in green industries.

The report warned that Government has an "urgent five year window" to secure the benefits, or risk failing in their ambition to 'level up' parts of the country.

MPs backing the plan said a renewed push from ministers was vital to their constituents, and the party's electoral hopes of retaining the former-Labour seats at a future general election.

John Stevenson, the Tory MP for Carlisle and chair of the party's Northern Research Group, said attracting new green industry was "vital" to the government's aims to level up regions at risk of being left behind by the Net Zero transition.

"It is vital that the industry’s and businesses of tomorrow are part of that rebalance and in many cases are based in the north," he said.

"The north has the ingredients to make this happen and green industrial jobs will be an important part of that."

The report's analysis added that many voters in the Red Well were "increasingly aware" of the risk that a global push for Net Zero could mean for local jobs and were pressing for further action to attract new green jobs to the area.

"For either party to win the next election, it is essential that they win many of the Red Wall seats taken by the Conservatives in 2019," the report concluded.

"If the Net Zero transition results in negative outcomes in these areas this could be politically damaging for whichever party is in power."

With a general election due to be called before the end of 2024, Onward said ministers should set out their ambitions for the region immediately by offering targeted tax breaks for green firms, and matching cash incentives offered by the EU and US to firms building battery "gigafactories".

They also called for British steel producers to be protected from being undercut, by introducing a new carbon border tax on products coming from countries like China and India which have lower environmental standards.

Responding to the proposals, former cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom, said: "The UK's green sector could become the jewel in the crown if we play our cards right. The 300,000 jobs in green industries today could become upwards of 3 million by 2030 if business and government show the right level of ambition."

She added: "The huge advantage is that those jobs would be spread right across our economy and our country."

The report is likely to put further pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to expand his plans to deliver Net Zero by boosting the UK's green industry, something which he has previously claimed he is "absolutely committed" to doing.

But he is likely to face opposition from some members of his party who have become increasingly critical over the financial impact of delivering Net Zero during a period of high inflation and low growth in the UK economy.

Writing for The House magazine earlier this year, Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay, who chairs the Tory Net Zero Scrutiny Group warned that being an "early mover" on green technologies could lead to "wasteful costs" and insisted the energy crisis triggered by Russia's invasion of Ukraine had prompted the need for a package of "realistic and effective solutions".

But responding to the Onward report, Barrow and Furness MP Simon Fell said there was a "constant frustration" in his community that green projects were not being given sufficient support.

"As a constituency MP for an area that has offshore and onshore wind, solar, nuclear, emergent projects in Green hydrogen and CCS, and the natural geography required to explore tidal range and geothermal technology, it is a constant frustration to look just over the horizon at what we could be achieving," he said.

"This report makes a cogent and achievable argument for how to deliver against such promise."

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