Stephen Kinnock MP: Heathrow expansion promises opportunities for the whole of Wales including up to 8,400 new jobs
Welsh Labour MP Stephen Kinnock writes ahead of the Commons vote that "Backing Heathrow expansion is a statement from Britain’s political leaders that they will not give up on Wales’s workers and vital industries like steel".
For Wales, the steel industry represents a special part of our heritage. Once at the heart of our national economy, the sector remains a crucial driver of growth and employment for communities across the country. From Port Talbot to Deeside, steel production supports entire towns of Welsh workers and families.
Nobody needs reminding of the struggle faced by the industry in recent years. A fall in international demand for steel, coupled with rising production rates in China, has driven prices down globally, impacting thousands of livelihoods across the UK, with Wales particularly affected. Meanwhile, the uncertainty of the UK’s trading future after Brexit has left the industry still vulnerable, despite its recovery from the 2015 crisis.
And while the UK government has pledged to protect this vital industry as part of its new industrial strategy, it remains to be seen what this will look like exactly. That is why projects like Heathrow expansion are so important.
As one of the largest construction projects in Europe, expanding Heathrow will require tens of thousands of tonnes of steel. This means a major and welcome boost for the industry. And for Welsh steel workers, it means plenty of new job opportunities. This will be timely relief for those of our communities that have been living with the threat of plant closures and job losses.
These new jobs are just a drop in the ocean compared to the benefits that a new runway will bring. Expansion will mean tens of thousands of new jobs across the UK, most of which will be outside of London and the South East, including up to 8,400 for Wales. For Welsh industries – large or small; thriving or in need of protection – a major infrastructure project such as this, and the opportunities it will bring during and after construction, represent a unique and meaningful opportunity for growth.
Heathrow has long demonstrated its commitment to its employees and wider supply chain. Now a fully certified Living Wage employer, Heathrow has pledged to extend this to its entire supply chain. Meanwhile, the airport has committed to following the Government’s public procurement rules for steel – advertising requirements for steel in the UK and taking into account the socioeconomic impact of the steel sourced across all major future projects. Heathrow has also demonstrated its commitment to leaving a legacy of skills for the UK. In 2016, it set up its Skills Taskforce under the leadership of Lord Blunkett, to cultivate the skills it needs to build Britain’s new runway and will report back soon.
Backing Heathrow expansion is a statement from Britain’s political leaders that they will not give up on Wales’s workers and vital industries like steel. It is a signal that they will support businesses and employees of these crucial sectors, for better or worse. And it is a message that they will stand by their sides, while helping shape a modern and sustainable future for Welsh steel.
This is one of the many reasons why business groups, Chambers of Commerce, unions and politicians up and down the country support expansion, and the many benefits it will bring for Wales and the wider UK. And through the Statement of Intent signed in March 2017 between Heathrow and the Welsh Government, the airport will ensure that in building the new runway, opportunities for the whole of Wales are unlocked and maximised.
As the time comes to vote on this crucial national infrastructure project, I urge my colleagues to back this new runway for Wales’s future.
Stephen Kinnock is the Labour MP for Aberavon