Jeremy Corbyn speaks exclusively to the Advertiser about GE jobs under threat, the loss of Rugby's A&E and universal credit

'The future is grim for GE jobs in Rugby if the government does not take action; the loss of Rugby's A&E is concerning and universal credit is leaving people worse off every month', Jeremy Corbyn told the Advertiser at an event on November 3.

Monday, 5th November 2018, 3:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th November 2018, 4:51 am
Left to right: Matt Western, Jeremy Corbyn, Dr Debbie Bannigan.

Mr Corbyn and Rugby Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate, Dr Debbie Bannigan, visited the Rugby Indian Association on Edward Street where they addressed a crowd of around 740 people before speaking to the Advertiser.

Matt Western, the Labour MP who gained a surprise victory for the party in Warwick and Leamington in last year's General Election, was present to tell Rugby Labour supporters that it is possible to gain ground in Conservative held seats.

Dr Bannigan and Mr Corbyn share a joke with Dr Jim Shera, Rugby's longest serving councillor. Dr Shera said it was a great privilege to meet Mr Corbyn.

Speaking after news that 197 General Electric jobs in Rugby are under threat, Mr Corbyn told the crowd: "My dad used to come to Rugby a lot to what is now GE and we've [Dr Bannigan and I] just been to the factory.

"Debbie and I had a long talk with the unions and the management there about what they can make and what they can do. And if the government doesn't invest in the new frigates that are needed, doesn't invest in the tidal wave lagoon - the tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay - then the future is grim."

Dr Bannigan and Rugby MP Mark Pawsey previously argued the £1.3 billion Swansea tidal lagoon scheme could have secured the future of GE workers in Rugby - as they would have been making parts for the project, but the government shelved the project in June.

The GE unit in Rugby under threat also makes electric drive systems that could be used in the new frigates that the government has in the pipeline.

The event concluded with Rugby Children's Choir singing The Red Flag and Do You Hear the People Sing? from the musical Les Misérables.

Mr Corbyn and Dr Bannigan speak to the Advertiser

Following the event, Mr Corbyn and Dr Bannigan gave an exclusive interview with the Advertiser.

Speaking on the threat to GE jobs, Mr Corbyn said: "It's not just the jobs but GE itself - it's a manufacturing tradition that Rugby has.

"I come from that family tradition of working in the manufacturing industry and what they are doing in Rugby is incredibly high skilled, innovative stuff and that's why government procurement is so important."

Dr Bannigan said it is important to maintain pressure on behalf of Rugby's GE workers.

She said: "It's really about keeping getting the message across to those who are in positions to make decisions - that this is a viable strategically significant business, not just for Rugby, but for the country as a whole.

"If we lose this capacity we've lost it forever and it doesn't exist elsewhere in the country and it cannot easily be regained.

"So really the persuasion from hereon is for the government to bring forward orders and contracts that they've got in the pipeline anyway, and ensure that they are fulfilled from Rugby, not from other parts of GE's empire."

Are people in Rugby 'used' to not having an A&E at St Cross?

On October 14 Rugby MP Mark Pawsey told the BBC's Politics on Sunday that the loss of the A&E at the Hospital of St Cross was a planned change that residents had got used to.

When asked about his thoughts on the closure of the A&E, Mr Corbyn said: "I'm concerned at the over centralisation of A&E across the country, including in this region and, [to Dr Bannigan] that's what you've been campaigning over isn't it."

Dr Bannigan said: "Absolutely, he [Mr Pawsey] is completely wrong. People have not got used to it, they'll never get used to it.

"If they don't have cars and there is no public transport and they can't afford the car parking anyway, and you've got a sick child to transport 15 miles at gone six in the rush hour - that is no laughing matter."

Mr Corbyn said: "And your choice then is, an ambulance if one is available or a taxi, which is very expensive - and also of course the time."

Dr Bannigan said: "And when you get there the whole place is absolutely flat out - they're overstretched already. Even if you can get onto the car park and park in the first place. It is the stuff of madness and a nightmare for real people."

Universal credit criticised

Rugby is one of the six first areas in which universal credit was trialed.

Mr Corbyn criticised the benefit, calling it expensive and arguing that it has left many people worse off.

"It's cost a phenomenal amount of money and many people are worse off as a result of it - averaging £200 a month worse off in the worst cases - that's £50 a week," he said.

"But the worst part is the transition onto UC from existing benefits means that you have to go into debt in order to survive.

"If you're a tenant from a council housing association you'll probably be able to negotiate something that will let you stay in the flat, probably, most cases you will. But the private sector just do not want to know. And so there are people who become homeless."

Dr Bannigan said: "It's not just people who are out of work, it's people who are in work who are finding it almost impossible to navigate the system - particularly if their pay schedule doesn't fit with universal credit's schedule. So they're trying to do the right thing and they are being hammered for it."