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British Motor Sector

Volume 645: debated on Tuesday 17 July 2018

5. What recent discussions he has had with trade union representatives on the future of the British motor sector. (906489)

On 25 June, I met Unite the union to discuss its views on how Government can best support the UK automotive sector. I met Tony Burke and representatives from the Jaguar Land Rover, Toyota and GKN unions. The Secretary of State and I also speak to the unions regularly through their membership of the Automotive Council.

I thank the Minister for having that meeting, because under Conservative, Labour and even Lib Dem Ministers, Britain rebuilt its motor industry by working closely with industry and the unions. Unfortunately, more recently, ill-considered lurches in policy by the Department for Transport, which are less like the prosperity agenda and the industrial strategy and more like Soviet 10-year plans, are creating deep uncertainty, especially for the diesel sector, where Britain is a world leader. What will the Minister now be doing with unions and companies to get our motor industry policy, across Government, back on track?

The Government’s “Road to Zero” strategy, which was published last week, made it clear that there is a continuing role for clean diesel vehicles as we reduce carbon dioxide emissions from UK road transport. It has been generally welcomed by the automotive industry.

We have seen tremendous investment in the motor industry over the years, not least in Toyota in Derbyshire. What are the Government doing to encourage more investment?

My right hon. Friend will be very aware of the number of meetings we have with the automotive industry and of how closely we are working with it on the sector deal. The Automotive Council met only in the past couple of weeks, and that was one of the top things on the agenda for discussion.

I hope the hon. Gentleman has read the Chequers agreement and the White Paper. I will be very happy to forward him a copy. It explains how the views and interests of the motor industry are central to how the sector works throughout all countries in the European Union, including us. We will continue in a friction-free way that is very much to the advantage of the automotive industry.

The success of Jaguar Land Rover and the Jaguar plant in my constituency has transformed the lives of thousands in an area of high unemployment. Now JLR is facing the twin challenge of the transition from diesel on the one hand and the threat of Brexit on the other. Does the Minister agree that wide-eyed Brexiteers appear to believe that we can crash out of the European Union with no consequences for jobs, that they are wrong and they are letting down British workers, British industry and Britain?

I hope the hon. Gentleman does not think my eyes are too wide. Despite your efforts last week, Mr Speaker, there seems to be a shortage of Members on both sides of the Chamber who have actually read the White Paper. I would be very happy to give one to him.

Moving to electric vehicles should be transformative for our country and our £77 billion car sector, creating new markets and jobs in manufacturing, services, the supply chain and battery recycling. What are the Government doing? Their Faraday challenge does not cover manufacturing or skills, they have ditched renewable energy investment, delayed the £400 million investment in charging infrastructure and allowed the takeover of GKN’s world-leading battery technology, and yesterday they voted for a customs plan that will sever automotive supply chains, putting more than 800,000 jobs at risk. Is it not the Government’s role to help create high-skilled, high-productivity jobs, not destroy them?

I totally agree with the hon. Lady: it is the Government’s role to do exactly that. That is why we have the Faraday battery challenge, which covers skills, and why the Government are putting so much effort into battery technology and clean technology for this country. I am very proud of that. I have seen skills in the automotive industry when I have visited car factories and the schools around them. The number of apprenticeships shows that the Government are totally committed to skills. We have a very bright future with batteries.