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Ford in Bridgend: Welsh Economy

Volume 662: debated on Wednesday 26 June 2019

7. With reference to the closure of the Ford plant in Bridgend, what assessment he has made of the strength of the Welsh economy. (911495)

I am extremely disappointed with Ford’s intention to close its Bridgend plant in 2020. However, this bad news is not a reflection of the Welsh economy as a whole.

No wonder the Secretary of State does not want to answer the question, because the Government are being totally complacent. I have no doubt that the closure of the Ford plant in Bridgend will have huge consequences along the M4 corridor, damaging our economy, including in Bristol South. Just when will we see the start of any kind of industrial strategy? Right now, with continued closures and the impact of this closure on the supply chain, we are going backward, not forward, and that damages the economy in Bristol South.

The manufacturing sector is extremely important to the UK economy and Wales specifically. There are 4,000 more manufacturing jobs in the Welsh economy now than there were this time last year, but that is not to undermine the importance of those Ford jobs. The Welsh Government and I are working closely together. We have commissioned Richard Parry-Jones to come up with recommendations on how we can best promote the plant, but I am encouraged by the early discussions we have had with potential investors. Some of those discussions are more mature than others, but the hon. Lady should recognise that they are private and confidential at this stage.

I join the Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Bristol South (Karin Smyth) in their deep disappointment at the closure of the Ford factory in Bridgend. Does he agree that there is huge potential on the M4 corridor for the development of electric cars and automotive technology of all kinds, right down as far as my constituency in Wiltshire?

My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point. The UK’s industrial strategy has invested £1.5 billion in automotive research and development, to ensure that we maximise the opportunities of the shift from petrol and diesel engines to electric vehicles. A great demonstration of the success of that is that 20% of electric vehicles sold in Europe are manufactured here in the UK.