Orders of the Day — Car Tax (Abolition) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:09 pm on 25th November 1992.

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Photo of Andrew MacKinlay Andrew MacKinlay , Thurrock 8:09 pm, 25th November 1992

I did not intend to participate in the debate. However, on behalf of my constituents, I was legitimately aggrieved when I heard the Minister, supported by the hon. Member for Surrey, North-West (Sir. M. Grylls), imply that this measure was a great step forward and would boost motor car sales in this country. I am not aggrieved because the Government are deluding themselves. I should be happy for them to continue to do so, were it not for the fact that their delusion is leading to a continued decline in Britain's manufacturing industry, especially the motor car industry.

I represent an area in which there is a Ford plant. The workers at the Aveley plant face the prospects of job losses, relocation and redundancy; also, many of my constituents work at Dagenham. Workers at Dagenham and other Ford plants have greatly contributed to increased productivity, only to find that their enthusiasm and dedication to promoting their industry has resulted in their being kicked in the teeth by a complacent Government who preside over a recession which has resulted in a significant decline in the motor industry.

I am concerned about the short-term working at many Ford plants. Vauxhall has also introduced short-time working because of the fall-off in demand. Short-time working is an enormous blight on the local economies which surround those plants. There is no doubt that the Dagenham plant and the Ford plant in Aveley were a major stimulant to the local economies in good times. However, short-time working and job losses not only depress the incomes of those who are laid off or put on short-time work; they ricochet through the local economy. We see that not only in the factories and small industries which supply the main plants but in the high street shops and corner shops.

The motor car industry in Britain must compete in a difficult environment to sell its products. That is having a deleterious effect on the economies of Essex and east London and is resulting in job losses for other people in the constituencies in those areas. It is unacceptable that the Government pretend that this measure is a great step forward and a great boost for the motor car industry. At the very most, the measure will limit the damage that has been done to such an important industry.

In case hon. Member twist my words or suggest that I am being ambiguous, I make it clear that I welcome the abolition of the tax. The hon. Member for Surrey, North-West said that the Labour Government had not imposed the tax; indeed, the Conservative Government imposed it. We must ask this question: if the abolition of the tax is to make such a significant contribution in boosting car sales, why was it not abolished weeks or months ago? Since we have fallen into a recession—or perhaps it is a depression—many people in and around my constituency have lost their jobs as a consequence of the decline in the motor car industry.

Many of us had a bruising experience on the night and morning of 9 and 10 April. The Government should bear in mind the fact that many Ford workers and other workers in the motor car industry were persuaded by the lie that to vote Labour would cost them about £1,250 a year. That was a downright electoral lie. It is legitimate tonight to say that, since 9 and 10 April, thousands of workers in the motor industry have lost much more than £1,250 as a result of short-time working. They will lose much more. Unhappily, some people have lost their jobs as a result of the continuing recession.

If the outcome of the election on 9 April had been different, we would have a Government who sought to stimulate demand in the economy. A Labour Government would have paid attention to the necessary promotion of the motor car industry, which would have been stimulated by the public works that that Government would have sponsored to create demand in the economy and get the building and construction industry back to work. Clearly, that would have had an immediate impact on demand in the motor car industry.

I feel most aggrieved on behalf of my constituents that the President of the Board of Trade promised at the Conservative party conference this year to intervene on behalf of manufacturers at breakfast, lunch and tea time. However, we must legitimately charge him this evening with not demonstrating any interest in creating new job opportunities in the motor car manufacturing industry in and around constituencies in Dagenham, east London and Essex, including Thurrock and Basildon, in which there is rising unemployment.

The President of the Board of Trade and the Government seem to be complacent. That has been demonstrated by Conservative Members who paraded this measure as some great breakthrough to create new job opportunities and to stimulate and promote the main industry in east London and Essex. It is nonsense. It would be wrong if I let the Minister get away with introducing the Bill without expressing the concern of my constituents—the Ford workers and workers in other motor manufacturing plants who have done much to increase productivity over the years only to find that they face a loss of income and job losses as we look forward to 1993.