UK Politics

Ed Miliband: Virgin bailout 'could help green economy'

Virgin Atlantic planes Image copyright Reuters

The government should consider a stake in Virgin Atlantic as part of a drive to make the post-Covid economy greener, Ed Miliband has said.

Labour's shadow business secretary said ministers should consider buying shares in Virgin if the airline agreed to "go green".

He is urging bolder action to kick-start a "green recovery" after the coronavirus crisis.

The PM also says he wants a "greener, cleaner, and more resilient" economy.

Labour is seeking views from businesses, unions, and campaign groups on how climate-friendly industries can help repair the economy.

The request for green jobs to feature heavily in economic recovery plans follows similar calls this week from more than 200 top UK firms and investors.

Mr Miliband said "action on green jobs" could help prevent mass unemployment in the wake of the virus.

He accused the government of being "too slow to help the aviation sector," adding it should be "more strategic, and in a sense bolder" in promoting green growth.

"You should be willing to intervene, but to do so in a way that ties people to climate change commitments," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"Take Richard Branson for example - what would I be saying to Richard Branson?

I would be saying 'come back onshore, take your company out of the tax haven."

"'We'll look at, for example an equity stake in Virgin if it makes financial sense - but only on the condition that you go green, that you drive towards the green agenda'".

Virgin Atlantic is owned by Virgin Group, the company owned by Sir Richard Branson, who is based in the British Virgin Islands.

Sir Richard has previously pledged his luxury island resort as collateral to secure a commercial loan from the UK government for the firm, which has been hit hard by lockdowns and travel bans.

He denied his family left the UK for tax reasons, which was instead "for our love of the beautiful British Virgin Islands and in particular Necker Island".

Manufacturers 'struggling'

Mr Miliband also suggested ministers should follow the example of France - which recently announced a grant scheme for people buying electric vehicles as part of a rescue package for car manufacturers.

"Our manufacturers are really struggling in this crisis - many of them want to go green, whether it's in aerospace, or in steel," he said.

"I want to see the government advancing the help that is already planned but needs to be brought forward for them".

He suggested the requirement to insulate homes, plant more trees and install electric car charging points as examples of where new jobs could be found.

'Turn the tide'

The UK government has already indicated that protecting the environment will feature heavily in any stimulus package.

In April, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said a post-Covid-19 recovery plan should include efforts to "turn the tide on climate change".

Tweeting on Friday, the PM said the UK would need to "invest in the industries, infrastructure and jobs that will endure any storm".

"That's why we must move towards a greener, cleaner, and more resilient future," he added.

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