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Pembrokeshire Herald Column - 15th December 2023

It was a pleasure last week to attend the Port of Milford Haven’s 65th Anniversary dinner. There were some excellent speeches that rightly centred the Port as the “beating heart” of Pembrokeshire, and one of the key sources for jobs and economic prosperity for the county.


It was Pembrokeshire’s first ever Labour MP, Desmond Donnelly, who grasped the importance of the Milford Haven Waterway, and how as one of the deepest natural ports in the world it was a route to economic prosperity for the county. In Parliament, Donnelly described himself as “an Englishman with an Irish name sitting for a Welsh seat”. While I have no Irish heritage and my mum would be deeply upset if I described myself as English, I am convinced that in looking to the future of Pembrokeshire we need to take lessons from the legacy of Desmond Louis Donnelly and the transformational impact that he had on this county.


Donnelly was first elected to Parliament in 1950, and by 1958 the Milford Haven Conservancy Board (later in 1987 becoming the Milford Haven Port Authority) was created by an Act of Parliament. What followed was a burst of activity: in 1960 the Esso Refinery was opened, followed in 1964 by the Texaco (Pembroke) Refinery, then in 1968 by the Gulf Refinery, in 1973 the Amoco Refinery had come on-stream, and by 1974 59 million tonnes of cargo passed through the Port, making it Britain’s largest port in terms of tonnage. By the time Donnelly lost his seat to Nicholas Edwards in 1970, he had clearly had a long-lasting and remarkable impact on Pembrokeshire, one that brought in good well-paid jobs and transformed the economic fortunes of people across the county.


Today we face new challenges – what with a cost-of-living crisis and the threat of climate change. The landscape has changed from Donnelly’s day, and the Milford Haven Energy Cluster now represents a wide range of interests including the RWE Power Station, Dragon and South Hook LNG plants, and only one oil refinery remains in Valero. But just as Donnelly faced a juncture in the 1950s, so we face a similar one now. Pembrokeshire cannot afford an MP that simply waves through deregulation with no thought for its future industrial strategy. It cannot afford an MP that allows vital infrastructure to be built in China and assembled in Pembroke Dock, rather than investing in our own domestic supply chain. It cannot afford an MP that lets workers be brought in from elsewhere without investing in labour skills at home. And it cannot afford an MP that lets the profits from leases for floating offshore wind simply disappear to the crown estate, leaving nothing for our own communities.


I have a vision of Pembrokeshire as a world leader in renewable energy, putting our county at the forefront of the next generation of our industrial strategy for energy and tackling climate change head-on in the Milford Haven Waterway. I am determined to secure our energy supply, develop industry in the county, and create good well-paid jobs. We cannot allow our young people to feel that they must leave this beautiful county to get on in life, when their skills and ambition are needed here to face the challenges of today. It is time for a fresh start in Pembrokeshire, and it is one that only Labour can deliver.

You can read the article in the Pembrokeshire Herald on page 29 here.


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