A Green Industrial Revolution can rebuild our towns

During the Queen’s Speech Debate on the environment, I stressed the need for the UK to undergo a Green Industrial Revolution. I emphasised the rich heritage of our role in the original Industrial Revolution where Oldham rose to become the King of Cotton, and an engineering giant with world leading companies like British Aerospace, Platt Brothers and Ferranti.

 

I set out the case that the Climate Emergency could act as a catalyst to boost skilled jobs and rebuild the economies of our towns, recognising that thousands of local companies are innovating, creating and changing the world.

 

The UK is at risk in a number of ways is the global temperature is to rise by 1.5oC: flooding and coastal change; our health and productivity can be impacted; our natural ecosystems and biodiversity can be decimated; there are significant risks to global food production and trade; and the likelihood that a warmer and wetter climate in the UK increases the number of pests and diseases.

 

We need to take action, and we need to take it rapidly. The effects that a rise in global temperatures of just 1.5oC is worrying enough, we need to ensure that it does not rise any further. There is so much at risk here, whether it be the potential rise in sea levels; the loss of biodiversity; the acidification of our oceans; and the very fact that it is those most vulnerable and disadvantaged who are at the greatest risk. We must arrest this decline as much as we can.

 

Of course, that is going to have an economic cost, but it is an investment, and it must be seen as one. We can improve our environment and we can improve the quality of our lives. If we use our cars less, and this is something we’re all guilty of myself included, we can improve our health and improve the quality of the air we breathe.

 

Something as simple as investing in active travel infrastructure and behaviour change programmes can deliver benefits for an individual’s health, the health service, our transport system and our wider economy for a low cost.

 

Investment in the Green Industrial Revolution is good economics. It makes sense to invest public money into UK researchers, developers and manufactures to make sure they’re at the forefront of our Green Economy, and that we receive some of the benefits back into the public purse.

 

We need to stop seeing methods to prevent climate change as ‘costs’ and start seeing them as investments. We can create hundreds of thousands of Green jobs across the whole of the UK, we can use this as an opportunity to address some of the much-needed issues in our country and our economy.

 

We can use targeted investment to make sure high-skilled jobs go to places where they’re needed the most; we can set up energy co-operatives so people aren’t fleeced by big energy companies and to ensure that investment goes back into communities where they’re needed.

 

Last week I signed up to the Friends of the Earth Climate Pledge, and I meant it – this is the start of my journey to ensuring the climate crisis is at the forefront of my work in Parliament.

 

Keir Starmer comes to Oldham again

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On Saturday, Keir Starmer  made his 5th visit to Oldham,  and it speaks volumes to me that Keir visited a town like Oldham on the day his campaign officially launched. The day started with a tram journey from MediaCity, before a visit to the Primrose Bank community centre, where Keir and myself were given a tour of the facility, spoke about the importance of a community-based hub, and helped to prepare food for the day.

We had an opportunity to see some of the fantastic voluntary work done by those at IF Oldham and spent most of the day talking with party members and members of the public about what towns like Oldham have to offer our country going forward.

After showing off our culinary skills (I think I may have found my true calling!), the next stop on our tour of Oldham was to the high street where Debbie Abrahams and Sean Fielding joined us on a walk through the town centre where there were opportunities to meet with both the general public and members of the Labour Party.

I am keen to make sure that the North is a key part of the debate and its towns like Oldham that need to see their economies rebuilt for the country to thrive.

I believe Keir has demonstrated over the last three years his leadership skills, but most importantly his ability to listen and to acknowledge that people are demanding more power and investment devolved to their communities.

I’ve signed the Friends of the Earth Climate Pledge

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I was more than happy to sign this pledge after it was brought to my attention by a number of concerned constituents. The climate crisis is real, and we are seeing its devastating effects with the Australian Bushfires.

This is only the beginning, we have seen an increase in the number of catastrophic weather events over the last few years as we see the impact that a rise in global temperatures have. Global warming means extreme weather events at either end of the spectrum, as much as we all wish Oldham could be sunnier and warmer for that little bit longer in the summer, dealing with the effects of the climate crisis elsewhere means its not worth it.

There will be cynics who argue that the UK won’t make a difference by doing this on there own, that we’re just a drop in the pond compared to the emissions pumped out by China, India, the US and a number of other countries. And in a way they’re right, this is a global issue and it will be a global struggle to combat it. But not doing anything because we won’t change things on our own is just not good enough, we can be global leaders, we can show the rest of the world that it is possible.

We don’t have long to deal with this issue before its effects become irreversible, by the end of this parliament in 2025 I hope we have made considerable progress on our journey to net zero carbon emissions. And I’ll do my bit in Parliament, as I’m sure my colleagues on the Labour benches will do too, to try and implement a strategy which reduces our reliance on fossil fuels to cut our greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s not going to be easy, it’s not going to be cheap and there will be plenty of hard decisions for us to make collectively along the way. But it’ll be worth it when we have a habitable and hospitable planet. At the end of the day that’s what it boils down to, the need to protect our planet and our environment for our children and their children.

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Today I have submitted my response to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s public bus consultation on their proposal to create a London style bus franchising system.

Attached is a full copy of the letter I have sent to the GMCA, setting out why I support the proposal that they have put forward, though I remain committed to the idea that our public transport system should be wholly publicly owned and publicly ran.

The franchising option is the best route forward at this moment as it presents the ability to divert profits from commercially successful routes to those otherwise deemed commercially nonviable and yet remain a vital public service – evidence shows that 95% of people in Greater Manchester support the idea of subsidising unprofitable bus routes in order to provide a public service, so I hope as many people as possible have completed a submission.

The proposal gives local authorities in partnership with the GMCA and TfGM control over the bus routes themselves, the timetables, the fares and the standards bus operators should be upholding. This should in practice mean an end to complicated bus ticketing systems across the city-region, and will help to create a single ticket system across all modes of public transport.

We need a bus network which allows people to travel all over our city region, and to create that it needs to be part of a fully integrated transport system, as it stands it is not easy for my constituents in Oldham, and others in the north of Greater Manchester, find it difficult to use public transport to reach key employment centres like Trafford Park and Manchester Airport. So much so that 37% of job-seekers across GM say that lack of access to affordable and reliable transport is a barrier to gaining employment.

There is no point in arguing about it, bus deregulation has failed. There is no competition as was desired instead we are left with two private sector monopolies operating the north and south of the conurbation. The franchise system will at least allow for accountability should bus operators continue to offer sub-standard service.

If you have not already done so, and you agree with the points raised in my response you can easily fill in the Better Buses for Greater Manchester submission at: bit.ly/ourbuses

 

 

#NorthernFail

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There aren’t actually any train stations in Oldham West and Royton, but thousands of my constituents use both Mills Hill and Moston train stations to commute into central Manchester. So I’m well aware just how poor the service is and just how poor it has been for the entire time I’ve been an MP.

It should not have taken central government this long to act, there’s no excuse for it. Trains regularly turn up late – in fact less than two-thirds of Northern services run on time, and they’re regularly cancelled, as recently as last week Northern cancelled hundreds of trains across the north leaving people stranded over the busy festive period. Even when the service does turn up, there have been far too many instances where the train is already full because Northern aren’t running enough carriages on the service. The stock is in dire need of replacing, pacers are uncomfortable, unaccommodating and would not be used in central London.

I’m glad that central government is looking at alternatives, but they shouldn’t be the ones deciding on the future of the franchise. There should be much more local accountability, and the best way to do this is to give the Mayor of Greater Manchester responsibility. This mess has been allowed to continue because there is such a disconnect because government ministers haven’t had to regularly deal with the chaos.

We cant expect to deal with climate change properly, or to rebalance our national and local economies if we don’t get public transport right. If we want to reduce emissions we need to give people a reason to not use a car, and that starts with affordable and reliable public transport.

And the truth is, for some time Northern has provided neither of those. All the while fares continue to rise – in fact they have gone up by 2.7% today – and it’s essential we ask why this happens, service isn’t improving with the price rises so why should commuters have to pay more for it? I’ll be amazed if it did, and according to Transport Focus 53% of rail commuters feel that tickets don’t offer value for money.

Whatever happens next and whoever takes over the franchise needs to manage the transition effectively. Commuters should not have to put up with more delay and disruption, they have dealt with enough. This should also bring forward the rail stock replacement, we absolutely cannot risk 40-year-old pacer trains riding for much longer into this new decade.

In all the Transport Secretary’s comments leave me with a few questions for him:

Given he announced in October that he had begun this process why hasn’t Northern been stripped of the franchise by now?

Does he agree that we should ensure that this mess does not delay the rail stock replacement, that it in fact presents us with an opportunity to bring it even further forward?

Does he agree that part of the reason this mess has been allowed to continue for so long is because the decision makers are so disconnected from the reality of the situation on the ground?

And finally, does he agree with me that there should be greater local accountability?