Employment opportunity: MP says Skills Bill could be chance to learn mistakes of Miner's Strike

Offshore workers should be offered retraining Credit: PA

A Labour MP has called for off-shore oil and gas workers to be offered re-training to help the country transition toward a net zero economy.

Clive Lewis, who represents Norwich South, made the call during the third reading of the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill.

Mr Lewis argued for an amendment to the legislation saying it would be an "opportunity" to learn from the mistakes of closing mines in the 1980s.

Miners across the UK went out on strike for a year in a bid to prevent the closure of pits by Margaret Thatcher’s government Credit: PA

He said a guarantee that offshore energy workers would be given cash for retraining as the UK moves towards net zero, telling MPs this would ensure the workers are able "to access good green jobs".

Following claims by the Prime Minister last year that the Conservatives were early to the transition to net zero by closing mines in the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher, Mr Lewis described the end of the heavy industry as a "tragedy".

Amendment would ensure the workers are able "to access good green jobs". Credit: PA

He told MPs: "You look at what has happened in deindustrialisation, if you look at what happened in the mining industry, you can see the whole reason for the levelling up agenda, its necessity, is because there wasn't a just transition. This is an opportunity for us to ensure that we don't make the same mistakes that we have in the past and that we also play our part in making sure we get to net zero in a timely manner."

The East of England is already home to a series of major green energy projects. Earlier this month a multi-billion pound wind farm off the coast of Norfolk was given the go-ahead by the government.

The Norfolk Vanguard Offshore Wind Farm  could power almost two million homes and save three million tonnes of CO2 saved per year, says Vattenfall, the energy company behind it.

Meanwhile a number of large scale solar farms are also under consideration.

Labour was also critical of the lack of apprenticeship reform contained within the Bill.Speaking in the House of Commons, shadow education minister Toby Perkins toldMPs:

"There is a widespread recognition of the need for change, so there was considerable anticipation when the Government announced that they were bringing forward the Skills Bill to address a generation of failure.

"We all remember that the White Paper that preceded this Bill was once described as aonce-in-a-generation reform. But ministers seem determined to resist anysubstantive changes to the Skills Bill.

"Our disappointment about the omission of apprenticeships from the Bill is compounded by the absence of any recognition that the Apprenticeship Levy has, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, failed by every measure."

Meanwhile Chairman of the Education Committee, Harlow MP Robert Halfon withdrew an amendment to the Bill to give prisoners access to apprenticeships while serving a sentence because of a similar Government project.

Mr Halfon said: "This will help ex-offenders find skilled work, it will save the taxpayer £18bn potentially in the cost of reoffending. It is a win-win situation."

The Skills and Post-16 Education Bill seeks to offer adults across the country the chance to retrain throughout their lives with a "lifetime skills guarantee", helping them to gain in-demand skills and open up further job opportunities.

The legislation will also support a revamp of the student finance system to give every adult access to a flexible loan for higher-level education and training at university or college. The measures also seek to ensure workers are trained in skills that employerswant.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi told MPs the Bill and the Government's "wider skills reforms" provide a chance to "unlock the full potential" ofpeople and the productivity of the economy.

The Bill will return to the Lords for further consideration at a later stage.