The UK automotive sector is a vital part of our economy, generating £78 billon of turnover and directly employing 160,000 people in manufacturing alone. We are working with the sector through our industrial strategy and, in particular, the automotive sector deal, to make sure that our industry leads in the technologies of the future.
The Secretary of State knows that diesel efficiency helps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, he knows that new diesel engines are also much cleaner and he knows the importance of diesel production for our motor industry as it makes an orderly transition to new propulsion systems, so why is he letting his fellow Cabinet members the Secretaries of State for Transport and for Health and Social Care grandstand in demonising diesel, and why is he not standing up for our car industry and our car workers?
I say to the right hon. Gentleman, who I know takes an interest in this, that I have always been clear, and indeed the “road to zero” strategy is very clear, that having a new diesel engine is a perfectly reasonable choice as we move towards zero-emission vehicles in the future. That is very clear: I have said it, my colleagues have said it and I am happy to repeat it to the House.
Our car industry is a global success story facing existential challenges—climate change, technology change, market change and Brexit. As 80% of our imported parts come from the European Union and 80% of cars made are exported, including half to the European Union, motor manufacturers say a no deal could mean £4.5 billion in tariffs, affecting hundreds of thousands of jobs. The Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the hon. Member for Watford (Richard Harrington) are known to favour a customs union in private, but with 45 days to go, do they not have a duty to make the private public, to take no deal off the table and to stand up for a permanent customs union and British jobs?
I would say that the hon. Lady and her colleagues have a duty to listen to what the employers that she mentions have to say. I could mention Ford, which said:
“It’s important that we get the agreement ratified that’s on the table at the moment”.
Aston Martin has said that it is “obvious” that the deal
“meets the needs of all the requests we put forward as an industry”,
and that they need it to be ratified. McLaren has said that the withdrawal agreement would provide urgently needed certainty. If the hon. Lady wants to follow the representations of our employers, she should do what they say and back the deal.