Ipswich MP, Sandy Martin reports from Conference:
On Tuesday, Rebecca Long-Bailey MP laid out Labour’s plan for jobs, businesses and prosperity. And that focus on jobs and our economy ran all through the Labour Conference. Is it any wonder? – the Labour Party was founded by working people to fight against unemployment and low wages and that will always be one of our fundamental strands.
The first thing we need to do if we’re going to have a vibrant economy in the future with British people doing fulfilling well-paid jobs is to solve the skills crisis. We are already seeing more and more of our young people improve their prospects with the invaluable work being done by the University of Suffolk and the two new colleges in Ipswich – Suffolk New College and One. But young people need the whole range of academic and vocational training available to them, they need to know those colleges and training establishments are being properly resourced, they need to be freed from the burden of debt that is currently being imposed via tuition fees, the lack of a standard maintenance grant, and very little help for young people in vocational training.
To add insult to injury, the government is now thinking of currying favour with students by suggesting that some tuition fees should be reduced a little, but with no alternative source of finance for the universities involved, so that smaller, newer universities like the University of Suffolk could be hit hard just as they are beginning to flourish.
What Labour proposes is to fund all our colleges and universities properly from the centre, and to abolish tuition fees, so that the courses on offer and the resources put into them match the best interests of the students and of the country as a whole, and are not dependent on a broken student loans system. And Labour will re-open training from the cradle to the grave, as we did before, so that when people do need to learn new skills they will not be held back by being unable to afford the courses.
And we need to ensure the affordable, secure and environmentally friendly energy that our industry and businesses need, too. Now that renewable electricity generation is so much more efficient than it was just a few years ago, it makes no economic sense to row back from investment – especially in off-shore wind farms. Labour will boost the investment in renewable energy, but the Conservative Government, having found that the latest round of wind-turbines in the North Sea is going to cost barely a third of what they had been expecting, is considering putting the remaining half a billion pounds back into the pot instead of using it to fund more renewable energy schemes. This is not window-dressing any more – we already generate more than 1 ½ times as much electricity by wind as we do by coal. Renewable energy is the future, but the Tories don’t seem to have noticed that yet.
And we desperately need investment in transport too, not just in roads to reduce congestion, but also in rail and in particular rail freight. For far too long freight has been the poor cousin of the rail industry – a first-rank port like Felixstowe warrants a first-rank freight line to the Midlands, which would reduce congestion on the A14 and also make the port, and the goods that are being transported through it, more competitive and their journey less polluting. A dual track, electrified line from Felixstowe to Birmingham with properly laid out junctions at Haughley and Ely and Leicester would enable a step change in how we transport our goods in this country, and help our children breathe clean air again.
And of course, capital spending on power generators, transport, houses, colleges, will all employ British people and firms, including local firms such as Needhams of Ipswich that provide so much of the construction industry in this country.
Labour will stand up for British businesses and industry, with a comprehensive Industrial Strategy. Labour will provide support to businesses for Research & Development and ensure that they have the trained workforce they need. Labour will set up a national investment bank and regional development banks to help unlock £250 billion of investment. Unlike the Conservatives, Labour believe that the government and the public sector have a vital role to play in stimulating the economy and investing in our infrastructure.
When we have the opportunity to put those policies into practice we will prove that we are right.