Keir Starmer warns UK faces unemployment crisis ‘on a scale not seen for generations’

The UK is facing an unemployment crisis on a scale not seen for generations, Sir Keir Starmer has warned as he steps up calls for a targeted extension of the Government’s furlough scheme.

The Labour leader will visit North Wales – an area hit hard by job losses at Airbus but also a political battleground where his party lost out to the Tories at the general election – as part of his effort to put pressure on Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Sir Keir said the Labour-led Welsh Government had put in place a £1.7 billion package of support for struggling businesses but decisions on furlough were a matter for Mr Sunak and Boris Johnson.

The furlough scheme finishes at the end of October, but Sir Keir has called for it to be extended for sectors badly hit by the coronavirus lockdown.

Plane manufacturer Airbus announced in July that 1,435 jobs will be cut at its site in Broughton, North Wales, and 295 at Filton, Bristol.

Sir Keir will be joined by Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford and shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds on his visit to an aerospace research and manufacturing facility supported by the Welsh Government on Thursday.

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.

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“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.”

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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