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Rail Manufacturing: Alstom

Volume 742: debated on Thursday 14 December 2023

Margaret Beckett is not here. Will the Secretary of State answer the question as though she were, so that I can call the shadow Minister?

My officials and I have held regular meetings with senior management at Alstom. We have also convened, under my direction, a cross-Whitehall group to advise on ways to support continued production at Derby, and on how best to support the workers who could lose their jobs. This must be a commercial decision for Alstom, but the Government have been working with the company to explore every option to enable it to continue manufacturing at its Derby site, and local Members in Derby—including the fantastic colleague sitting beside me, my hon. Friend the Member for Derby North (Amanda Solloway)—have been raising these issues with me regularly, effectively representing their constituents.

Three years ago, the Government hailed the deal to manufacture HS2 trains in Britain as putting the country

“firmly at the forefront of the high speed rail revolution”.

Today, the jobs of the skilled people who work in that industry and build those trains in Derby and Newton Aycliffe are at risk. There are just days left to find a solution. Will the Secretary of State, specifically, meet Hitachi and Alstom as a matter of urgency? Does he accept that if Ministers fail to act in the coming days, the final legacy of this shambolic Government will be thousands of skilled jobs lost and HS2 trains built abroad?

I am slightly surprised by the hon. Gentleman. He wrote to my hon. Friend the Rail Minister on 17 November, asking a series of, I am afraid, quite ill-informed questions. I sent him a comprehensive reply on 24 November, which I note he has not chosen to publicise. He tries to pretend that our decision on HS2 has something to do with this. I made it quite clear that Alstom’s contract with Hitachi—their joint venture to design, build and maintain HS2 trains—is for phase 1 only. Phase 1 of HS2 is continuing. That position was reiterated by Alstom group’s chief executive in his commentary on its recent results. I have met both Alstom and Hitachi regularly since the decision on Network North. I am afraid that Alstom’s problems predate our decision on HS2, and the hon. Gentleman’s attempt to play party politics on this incredibly serious matter, on which the Government are working very hard on a cross-party basis with the companies and the trade unions, is beneath him.