Belfast Telegraph

Labour MP urges party 'pro-jobs' stand by backing projects needing steel

Labour must make "pro-jobs, pro-steel choices" rather than simply "attending marches and wearing badges", one of the party's MPs has warned.

Tom Blenkinsop said the Opposition under Jeremy Corbyn is offering the "false comfort of the moral high ground" by the positions it has adopted on major infrastructure projects, including fracking, Trident and a new runway at Heathrow.

He insisted Labour should be shaping the fracking industry rather than "ignoring it for our own satisfaction."

Mr Blenkinsop said his party's leadership lacks a settled position on Heathrow, cast doubt on its commitment to Trident and wants to ban fracking, adding this is " not the action of a government in waiting which intends to deliver for steelworkers".

Speaking during a Westminster Hall debate on the steel industry, Mr Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) said: "As a party we have been vocal in campaigning to save our steel and that is something we should be proud of.

"However, if our party is to help revive the steel industry in the UK - as I hope it will - and not merely be its pallbearer, we must stop cutting off potential demand for British steel by opposing or sitting on the fence over major infrastructure projects.

"Heathrow requires 370,000 tonnes of steel and could support hundreds of jobs in the industry.

"Labour does not seem to have a settled opinion. I know mine. But as a party we need to be clear.

"Trident, which will support British jobs in the steel industry and defence industry - despite the fact that the Government has allowed French steel to be used in the hulls of the vessels.

"Labour's own leadership cast doubt on our commitment, despite party policy and a consensus among the party at party conference and amongst our trade unions to accept it."

Turning to fracking, the Labour MP said: "Our party has vowed to ban the practice.

"The GMB called the decision ridiculous, nonsense and madness and Community, my union, said the decision was rushed and didn't fully consider the evidence.

"Both unions have since signed a memorandum of understanding with the UK onshore oil and gas industry.

"Two proud unions with large private sector bases and affiliated to our party are asking the party to back a proposal which will provide jobs... across the UK - and not just jobs, but secure, well-paid jobs which will help stop our reliance on autocratic nations for our energy.

"It'd offer people, not least the thousands of offshore oil workers being made redundant, well-trained, highly-skilled, long-term roles and we have denied them that option."

Mr Blenkinsop said it would also cut energy prices for the steel industry and other sectors.

Referring to fracking, he went on: "The industry is moving ahead without the Labour Party.

"We should be shaping the shale gas industry, not ignoring it for our own satisfaction - making sure it's safe, making sure it uses British steel, and making sure energy price cuts are passed on to steel producers, organising its workforce so it can collectively bargain and secure benefits for local communities.

"Such languid opposition to infrastructure projects may offer the false comfort of the moral high ground but is not responsible and fails to make these choices, and not the action of a government in waiting which intends to deliver for steelworkers.

"As a party we must start making pro-jobs, pro-steel choices - not just attending marches and wearing badges."

Mr Blenkinsop said he hopes his party will start choosing jobs over the other "fashionable and flawed" approach.