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Automotive Industry

Volume 549: debated on Thursday 6 September 2012

16. What recent assessment he has made of the health of the British automotive sector; and if he will make a statement. (119408)

The British car and truck industry is strong and growing. More than £6 billion of investment has been committed to it by global investors including BMW, Nissan, Jaguar Land Rover and, as we have heard today, Honda. More than 80% of the vehicles made here are exported, and exports now exceed imports in value for the first time since 1975.

I welcome my hon. Friend to his post and thank him for the welcome news that he has just given. Will he assure us that he will use his new post to encourage exports by taking every opportunity to talk up and promote UK plc, unlike Opposition Members, who seem to delight in constantly talking down the success of British industry and talking down our economy?

I will certainly do what my hon. Friend suggests. I met some of the key players in the industry yesterday. The Government provide significant support for research and development, training, and improving the UK’s sourcing of the supply chain in this important industry. I announced a further £9 million yesterday for a research and development centre for energy storage to capitalise on the growing electric and hybrid vehicle battery market. The Secretary of State will today visit Honda to welcome the 500 new jobs that it is creating in Swindon. I hope that the Labour party will welcome that vote of confidence in what the Government are doing.

21. Automotive companies and many other companies rely on skilled engineers. Whenever I raise the issue, the Government talk a great deal about the importance of getting women engineers into such companies. However, they have entirely cut the grant to the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology, which was ensuring that good engineers got into jobs, and have given a minuscule amount of their budget to the royal societies and the Royal Academy of Engineering. I welcome the Minister and the rest of the team to their posts. Will he ensure that this matter is looked at again so that some of the jobs in these companies go to women engineers? (119414)

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for what she says, and I am happy to look again at the matter. The Government are working with the Royal Society to see what can be done to encourage more women into engineering, and specific help is available from Government to help with engineering training, particularly for the automotive industry.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Meg Munn) has provided an object lesson to new Members in how to shoehorn one’s own question into someone else’s, and we are greatly obliged to her.