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UK Automotive Sector

Volume 633: debated on Tuesday 12 December 2017

The UK’s automotive industry is a great British success story and, building on the success of institutes such as the Advanced Propulsion Centre, we have agreed an automotive sector deal to ensure that we continue to reap the benefits from the transition to ultra-low and zero-emission vehicles. Our ambition is to build innovative and competitive supply chains to increase the value of UK content from about a third in 2011 to more than half by 2022.

What more is the Department doing to encourage further investment in UK car plants, particularly in my constituency with Honda and BMW?

Both Honda and BMW have been part of the sectoral council that has helped to create institutions that have trained people, and developed research and development; they are a very valued part of the sector deal, which has been so warmly welcomed by the industry.

My constituency contains many small businesses involved in the supply chains for the motor industry. These chains stretch right across Europe and are largely regulated by European Union law. Will the Secretary of State make a commitment that these will not be disrupted by Britain’s exit from the EU?

Given what he said, I hope the hon. Gentleman will welcome the supply chain initiative, which is at the heart of the sector deal to increase the level of UK content. But one way or another the motor industry, like so many others, is based on its good relations, not just across Europe, but around the world, and it is essential that the deal we do allows that to continue and indeed to prosper in the future.

The west midlands has a proud heritage in the automotive sector, and I welcome the Government’s recent announcements, which will see the region be a global leader in the sector. Does my right hon. Friend agree that supporting innovation and new technologies is key to addressing productivity and creating higher-skilled, well-paid jobs?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right on that, and the commitment we have made to being the world centre for research in new battery technology, through the Faraday challenge, is already commanding attention right around the world. The investment in skills that accompanies this strategy will make sure that her constituents and others in the region will benefit from the jobs that result.

Every day, around £35 million-worth of components are imported to the UK from the EU for “just in time” delivery to plants. Many of those components help to build more than 6,500 cars and nearly 10,000 engines to be re-exported back into the EU. As we saw from the Operation Stack debacle a couple of years ago, it does not take much for disruption at the channel ports to completely clog up the south-east, losing millions and millions of pounds. What guarantee can the Secretary of State give the automotive sector that Brexit will not result in any extra customs checks that will clog up the industry?

The hon. Gentleman is right to highlight the importance of ensuring that the agreement we reach will be free not only of tariffs but of the types of frictions he describes. It is important for our successful industry, and not just the automotive sector, that that is the deal we conclude. I hope he will welcome the progress that was made towards that deal last week.