Keir Starmer repeats demand for extension to furlough scheme

5 August 2020, 22:30

Sir Keir Starmer will call for an extension to the furlough scheme during a trip to North Wales on Thursday
Sir Keir Starmer will call for an extension to the furlough scheme during a trip to North Wales on Thursday. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Sir Keir Starmer has once again demanded an extension to the furlough scheme, saying the UK faces an unemployment crisis "on a scale not seen for generations."

During a trip to North Wales on Thursday, the Labour leader will once again call on the Conservative Government to extend the measure on a more targeted basis.

Sir Keir has repeatedly urged Chancellor Rishi Sunak not to completely pull the plug on the furlough scheme at the end of October and has instead campaigned for it being continued for sectors badly hit by the coronavirus lockdown.

He explained that the Labour-led Welsh Government had put in place a £1.7 billion package of support for struggling businesses.

The Labour leader will visit the region due to it being hit hard by job losses at Airbus - which announced in July that 1,435 jobs will be cut at its site in Broughton, North Wales, and 295 at Filton, Bristol.

The area is also a key political battleground where his party lost out to the Tories in last year's general election.

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However, decisions on furlough, even in Wales, are a matter for Mr Sunak and Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

During his trip, Sir Keir will be joined by Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford and Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds while visiting an aerospace research and manufacturing facility supported by the Welsh Government.

He said: "Labour is fighting for jobs across the country. The UK Government's blanket withdrawal of the furlough scheme is a historic mistake which threatens Welsh jobs.

"The devastating job losses announced at Airbus show how high the stakes are.

"We face a jobs crisis on a scale not seen for generations. But it is not too late for the Government to act.

"The Welsh Government has done a huge amount to support struggling businesses, but the action needed on the furlough scheme can only come from Westminster.

"Welsh Conservative MPs must also play their part in getting their chancellor to change course. This is a major test of the Conservative Party's commitment to North Wales."

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Official figures show 378,400 people in Wales have been furloughed, making up 29 per cent of the eligible workforce and including around 3,200 Airbus workers.

Mr Drakeford said the £1.7 billion fund was "the most generous and comprehensive package of support to business anywhere in the UK."

He said: "Coronavirus is still with us and it will continue to impact on our economy in Wales for a long time to come.

"The vast majority of people in Wales have followed the rules and made significant sacrifices to help us get coronavirus under control.

"I believe they would expect the UK Government to support the economy and make sure people have jobs to go back into."

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