A growing number are urging Government to move support from the Trident project and arms export industry to other sectors that meet real needs and use highly skilled workers for constructive purposes, designing emission-free rail, road and waterway vehicles, advancing renewable energy, particularly wave and tidal energy, engineering low emission new-build housing and retrofitting much of the housing stock.
- On the Lucas Plan website, following its 40th anniversary, we read that one of Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn’s excellent reports, released during his 2015 election campaign, has put arms conversion firmly back on the political agenda.
- Following this, Steve Schofield, who is arguably the country’s leading authority on arms conversion, wrote “Defence Diversification or Arms Conversion? Why Labour needs a programme for nuclear and conventional disarmament“.
- The Campaign Against Arms Trade’s 2015 case study “Arms industry in the Clyde and renewable energy options” examined an arms dependent area in depth.
- The Unite trade union, withits dual commitment to world peace and disarmament and to the protection of its members’ jobs published “Defence Diversification Revisited” in March 2016. This looks at the history of “defence diversification” in the UK and elsewhere. At its July policy conference Unite committed itself to campaigning for a serious government approach to “defence diversification”, condemning the failure of successive governments to grapple with the issue after the Cold War.
- In 2016, MEP Molly Scott Cato commissioned a report “Devonport: Trident alternatives”, an overview of green employment potential.
In October this year, Andrew Smith cited a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute which put the cost to tax payers of government support for the arms trade at more than £100m a year, adding, “This is to say nothing of the huge levels of political and logistical support that the arms companies are offered”.
Widely accepted figures from the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) are that arms exports only count for 0.2% of UK jobs and around 1% of exports. According to the MoD, 65,000 British jobs depend on arms exports and as the total number of jobs in the UK is just over 30 million the arms trade accounts for a tiny fraction of total employment.
And this manufacturing sector is not flourishing – the ‘defence’ industry now represents only 10% of all manufacturing.
A range of housing has been built on the Royal Ordnance site in Euxton, where the land is so contaminated that vegetable growing is forbidden. Last month, BAE, major employers in the area, announced that it will be cutting up to 750 jobs Warton and Samlesbury plants in Lancashire and up to 400 people will be made redundant in Brough, East Yorkshire.
The Trades Union Congress, passed a motion in October calling for the Labour Party to set up a shadow defence diversification agency to engage with plant representatives, trades unions representing arms industry workers, and local authorities. The agency would listen to their ideas, so that practical plans can be drawn up for arms conversion while protecting skilled employment and pay levels.
GND: “At the high skilled end (engineering and electronic) design; though to medium and unskilled work making every building energy tight, and fitting more efficient energy systems in homes, offices and factories . . . putting in place a new regional grid system, ranging from large-scale wind, wave and tidal electricity to decentralised energy systems that increase domestic and local energy production”.
We add to their recommendations the designing of emission-free rail, road and waterway vehicles and of advances in tidal and wave power, which have enormous potential but are currently lagging far behind solar, wind and hydropower technologies.
As Matthew Lynn wrote in The Spectator: “There might be a case for maintaining a modest, specialised arms industry to support our own army. But anyone who thinks an export-driven defence industry is important to the economy should stop kidding themselves”.
An emboldened Conservative government would indeed be good news for ‘Strong and Stable’ funeral directors, as:
- air pollution continues unabated,
- the health service deteriorates,
- the incidence of adult depression and mental illness in children grows apace
- ‘moral fibre’ rots: latest indication:10,000 Britons signed up to one of the world’s largest paedophile internet networks
- and others are debt-ridden due to the daily onslaught of consumerist advertising,
- sedated by inane, often BBC-provided TV quiz shows
- or led astray by a violent TV/online diet.
Tom Young says May’s ‘Strong and Stable Government’: (is) More Than a Tagline – indeed it is and a Conservative stabilisation unit would, in future, see an increasingly heavy workload.
New claimants with a disability have just been hit by a £30 a week cut in benefits to save the government £1bn over four years even though their living costs are higher because of the need for assisted travel, hospital appointments, extra heating, etc., and they are likely to take far longer to find a job.
A friend who intends to vote Labour writes of his issue with the Labour message: “it remains too rooted in struggle and injustice, and not enough in giving people a reason to vote if they don’t suffer or struggle”.
But many well-placed voters are deeply concerned when seeing others in difficulties. And a far larger swathe of the population is struggling than he seems to think:
- graduates in formerly secure jobs are being made redundant,
- people in their twenties and twenties now see no option but to live with their parents,
- many people are suffering from urban air pollution and miserable traffic congestion,
- education cuts will affect their children as the Public Accounts Committee has warned,
- in some areas people in need of healthcare are affected by a declining NHS service.
- mental illness, no doubt in part due to one of more of these factors, is rising rapidly in both children and adults.
Professor Prem Sikka sees the positive, constructive Labour message; U.K. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn plans:
- to raise corporation tax by more than a third over the next three years and plough the £6bn proceeds into schools and universities,
- restore maintenance grants for the poorest students,
- abolish university tuition fees
- guarantee that five, six and seven-year olds will not be taught in classes of more than 30.
- creating a National Education Service to equip Britain’s workers for the post-Brexit economy,
- extend free adult education to allow workers to upgrade their skills,
- raise the cap on NHS wages, and
- to build up to a million new homes, many of them council houses.
If ‘the sums don’t add up’, a standard Conservative knee-jerk reaction:
Withdraw subsidies from fossil fuel & nuclear companies and arms exporters, jettison HS2 and redirect investment to improving rail and waterway transport links.
Sikka rightly ends: People are our biggest asset and only they can build a nation. We have a choice: Tax cuts for the rich or investment in our future to enable people to realise their potential.
In February Jeremy Corbyn quoted Einstein: “If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes & shoddy furniture let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas & shoddy philosophies.”
Highlights of his latest address in the EU referendum campaign follow:
EU membership has guaranteed working people vital employment rights, including four weeks’ paid holiday, maternity and paternity leave, limits to working hours, protections for agency workers and health and safety in the workplace. Being in the EU has raised Britain’s environmental standards, from beaches to air quality, and protected consumers from rip-off charges.
In the coming century, we face huge challenges, as a people, as a continent and as a global community, serious and pressing issues which self-evidently require international co-operation:
- how to deal with climate change,
- how to address the overweening power of global corporations and ensure they pay fair taxes,
- how to tackle cyber-crime and terrorism,
- how to ensure we trade fairly and protect jobs and pay in an era of globalisation,
- how to address the causes of the huge refugee movements across the world and
- how we adapt to a world where people everywhere move more frequently to live, work and retire.
We need to make the case for reform in Europe – democratic reform to make the EU more accountable to its people
Mr Corbyn is critical of its shortcomings, from its lack of democratic accountability to the institutional pressure to deregulate or privatise public services. Europe needs to change, but that change can only come from working with allies in the EU. Changes include:
- economic reform to end to self-defeating austerity, putting jobs and sustainable growth at the centre of European policy,
- labour market reform to strengthen and extend workers’ rights in a real social Europe and
- new rights for governments and elected authorities to support public enterprise and halt the pressure to privatise services.
The crisis in the steel industry
A global problem and a challenge to many European governments, the European Union – 28 countries and 520 million people – could have made us stronger, by defending our steel industries together. The European Commission did propose new tariffs on Chinese steel, but it was the UK Government that blocked these co-ordinated efforts to stop Chinese steel dumping. Germany, Italy, France and Spain have done much better at protecting their steel industries, because they acted within EU state aid rules to support their industries; whether through taking a public stake, investing in research and development, providing loan guarantees or compensating for energy costs.The jobs created under the Conservative Government are too often low skill, low pay and insecure jobs. If we harnessed Europe’s potential we could defend high skill jobs in the steel industry and in others.
The Conservatives are committed to protecting the tax avoidance industry
The Prime Minister in 2013 personally intervened with the European Commission President to undermine an EU drive to reveal the beneficiaries of offshore trusts, and even now, in the wake of the Panama Papers, he still won’t act. On six different occasions since the beginning of last year Conservative MEPs have voted down attempts to take action against tax dodging. On Tuesday, the EU announced a step forward on country-by-country reporting. We believe we can go further. But even this modest measure was opposed by Conservative MEPs last December.
Labour has allies across Europe prepared to take on this global network of the corrupt and we will work with them to clamp down on those determined to suck wealth out of our economies and the pockets of our people.
Some argue that we need to leave the EU because the single market’s rules are driving deregulation and privatisation. They certainly need reform. But it was not the EU that privatised our railways. It was the Conservative Government of John Major and many of our rail routes are now run by other European nations’ publicly owned rail companies. They haven’t made the mistake of asset stripping their own countries.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is also a huge cause for concern, but we defeated a similar proposal before in Europe, together when it was called the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, back in 1998. Labour MEPs are rightly opposing the Investor-State Dispute Mechanism opposing any attempt to enforce privatisation on our public services, to reduce consumer rights, workplace protections or environmental standards.
Working together in the European Union is vital for tackling climate change and vital in protecting the environment we share
Climate change is the greatest threat that humanity faces this century. And Britain cannot tackle it alone. We could have the best policies possible but unless we act together internationally, it is worthless. Labour brought in the Climate Change Act, John Prescott played a key role in getting the Kyoto Protocols agreed. Labour has led the debate within Europe.
Regulations agreed in Europe have improved Britain’s beaches and waterways and are forcing us to tackle the scandal of air pollution which will kill 500,000 people in Britain by 2025, unless we act.
Jobs and migration
We live in an increasingly globalised world. Many of us will study, work or even retire abroad at some point in our lives. Free movement has created opportunities for British people. There are nearly three-quarters of a million British people living in Spain and over two million living in the EU as a whole. Learning abroad and working abroad, increases the opportunities and skills of British people and migration brings benefits as well as challenges at home.
Failure to train enough skilled workers means we have become reliant on migration to keep our economy functioning. This is especially true of our NHS which depends on migrant nurses and doctors to fill vacancies. Enough skilled workers should be trained to stop the exploitation of migrant labour to undercut wages and invest in local services and housing in areas of rapid population growth.
There is a strong socialist case for staying in the European Union and for reform and progressive change in Europe. We need a Labour government, to stand up – at the European level – for industries and communities in Britain, to back public ownership and public services, to protect and extend workers’ rights and to work with our allies to make both Britain and Europe work better for working people.
The move to hold this referendum may have been more about managing divisions in the Conservative Party. But it is now a crucial democratic opportunity for people to have their say on our country’s future, and the future of our continent as a whole.
Left to themselves, it is clear what the main Vote Leave vision is for Britain to be the safe haven of choice for the ill-gotten gains of every dodgy oligarch, dictator or rogue corporation. They believe this tiny global elite is what matters, not the rest of us, who they dismiss as “low achievers”.
I appeal to everyone, especially young people – who will live longest with the consequences – to make sure you are registered to vote to keep Britain in Europe this June, to build a better world engage with the world, build allies and deliver change. The EU, despite its failings, has proved itself to be a crucial international framework to do that.
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