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Ford Assembly Plant (Swaythling)

Volume 552: debated on Monday 29 October 2012

Application for emergency debate (Standing Order No. 24)

I seek leave to call for a debate on a specific and important matter that I believe should receive urgent consideration—namely the planned closure of the Ford assembly plant based in Swaythling in the Southampton part of my constituency.

Ford is the biggest single employer in my constituency. It currently employs approximately 500 people on site, and is home to the iconic Transit van. Ford began production in my constituency in 1953, and commenced building the Transit in 1972—40 years ago. The decision to close the plant will affect not only the 500 employees on site, but the significant supply chain attached to the business, which is equally at risk. Current estimates indicate that approximately 1,500 jobs are reliant on the Ford supply chain.

I call for a debate in the House because the closure affects not only my constituents but those of neighbouring right hon. and hon. colleagues. It is very much a cross-party matter, and the House will understand its importance. I am extremely concerned about the effect the plant’s closure will have on an area of my constituency that has higher unemployment statistics than other parts of Romsey and Southampton North, and I wish to seek assurances that the Government will do all they can to support those hard-working individuals.

I wish to emphasise the importance of Southampton’s inclusion in the next wave of city deal funding, and highlight the need for an enterprise zone to be created in the area. An enterprise zone in or around Southampton will undoubtedly create an environment in which businesses can grow, leading to a stronger local economy. I also strongly encourage BIS local, the city council and other neighbouring local authorities to join forces so that those being made redundant are given the most comprehensive help possible to find alternative opportunities.

It is imperative for this House to know whether there was anything the Government could have done to prevent the decision to close the plant. There are also questions over whether Ford has reneged on earlier promises to keep the factory open in exchange for previous Government funding, and what, if anything, the Government knew about the decision. Those issues should rightfully be debated on the Floor of the House, and not in the media.

The hon. Lady asks leave to propose a debate on a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely the closure of the Ford assembly plant in Swaythling. I have listened carefully to her application, and it is an important matter for her constituents and others who depend upon that plant. I must tell the hon. Lady, however, that I have concluded that the matter does not meet the stringent criteria for an urgent debate under Standing Order No. 24, and for that reason I do not propose to put the application to the House. I hope that the hon. Lady will succeed in finding other ways to debate this important issue soon. I hope that is of some assistance.