To tackle both climate change and inequality we need a Labour government
The net-zero transition must go together with a just transition protecting jobs, training workers, and helping communities
As the Labour chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, I’ve spent the last year holding Tory ministers to account and putting forward proposals on the big issues of the day. From the need for a Green New Deal and protecting workers’ rights to highlighting the significant failings of Brexit and stepping up support for workers and businesses during the pandemic.
I’ve also been holding powerful interests outside of parliament to account. From the collapse of Greensill Capital (with Lex Greensill and David Cameron cashing in their money while businesses fail around them) to the private equity managers buying up businesses to make a quick profit while sacking workers and the scandalous use of fire and re-hire by big business bosses.
I’m grateful to the many trade union leaders who have appeared before my committee – from Unite and the GMB to Prospect and Equity – as well as the many voices from businesses who were often in sync with the unions, from the CBI to the Federation of Small Businesses. Our inquiry on the impact of Covid on workers and business was more the richer for their contributions.
Conference discussions about the future economy happened in the shadow of the upcoming COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. As the lead parliamentarians scrutinising the government’s delivery of COP26, we need to be clear that the net-zero transition must go together with a just transition: protecting jobs, training workers, and helping communities find new work when fossil fuel-based employers change or leave town. The Tories don’t agree that the state has a role to play in helping ordinary working people – be it after the closure of the pits or the demise of steel in Teesside – and only a Labour government can deliver a Green New Deal that works for the environment and for workers. Our net-zero delivery inquiry will be looking at these issues.
Only a Labour government can deliver a Green New Deal that works for the environment and for workers
That’s why I’ve been leading inquiries on the future of the steel industry and heat decarbonisation – how we make low carbon steel and how to change our gas boilers are big complex issues that need to be managed carefully.
It’s also why I’ve led inquiries on industrial policy and "levelling up". The Tories scrapped the Industrial Strategy and failed to replace it – because they think the government just needs to “get out of the way”. And for all the promises to level up, my inquiry concluded that the Prime Minister has failed to define what it is, how he’ll pay for it and what it will mean for people across the country.
And let’s be clear what commitment the Tory government has to its new “Red Wall” constituents. My inquiry on the pensions of former miners and their families was rejected by Tory ministers. For decades, ministers have siphoned off profits from the Miner’s Pension Scheme to the tune of billions of pounds. My committee demanded they give it back to the miners, but the Tories refused.
Through all the inquiries and questions and proposals I lead and put forward I could not be clearer that Britain desperately needs a Labour government. A government that understands the state has a role to play, a government that understands the scale and pace of change required to tackle the climate emergency, a government that puts people first. I will continue to play my part in holding the government to account but, together, our primary goal is making sure that the next government is a Labour one.
Darren Jones is Labour MP for Bristol North West and chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee
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