The UK automotive industry is in great shape: last year UK car production increased by 9% and car exports exceeded imports by value for the time since 1976. The new automotive investment organisation, which we are announcing today, will build on that strong performance, which has already attracted more than £6 billion in global investment over the past two years.
I thank the Minister for that impressive description of the current state of the British car industry. What measures is he taking to ensure that we have sufficient skills, particularly in engineering, to develop the components industry in the car sector as well as recognising the need to provide new technologies?
Addressing the skills challenge and increasing the supply of engineers is critical for the automotive industry and others. It needs attention in schools, where the Department for Education is investing £135 million in science and maths education, and from industry itself. I hope that more car companies will follow Nissan’s lead in taking up the employee ownership pilots.
As a west midlands MP, I join the Minister in welcoming the success of the British car industry, which is a tribute to the industry, its work force and trade unions and his Department under both Administrations. Is it not extraordinary that other Government Departments do not back the British car industry, especially the police, who are buying more and more foreign vehicles? Will he talk with the Home Secretary to get her to back British industry? It might even help her leadership ambitions.
In South Staffordshire we are seeing the construction of a £500 million new engine plant for Jaguar Land Rover. However, one of the great constraints on the automotive sector is the need for more engineers coming through our university system. What more can the Government do to encourage more engineers to drive forward our wonderful automotive sector?
We are encouraging more children to take up science subjects and to study maths earlier and for longer, and to be more aware of the high-value, highly regarded careers that are available in engineering. We are urging companies to open up their premises to more visits from schools, particularly in connection with the See Inside Manufacturing initiative that we are launching again this October.