I thank the Minister for his usual courtesy in supplying an advance copy of the statement. I also welcome Mr. Clarke to his duties. I rather suspect that I shall enjoy his interventions a little more than the Minister will.
It is worth repeating that at the heart of this recession is the financial crisis, and that restoring confidence in the financial system remains the single most important task if there is to be any improvement in the economy. Does the Minister accept that, given the trends in the economy and unemployment, it is clear that there will be a significant and serious increase in unemployment in the year ahead? In that situation, the Government cannot undertake a series of piecemeal bail-outs. They can, and should, adopt a strategic approach based on clear principles, to ensure that we can take advantage of the recovery when it comes. A fundamental principle within that approach must be long-term value for the taxpayer. Provided it is based on considered strategy and informed by clear principles, it is sensible to look at strategic industries, such as the automotive industry, which includes both cars and commercial vehicles, and to assess how best to preserve their core competence for the future.
The Minister is right to highlight the potential of green technology and the part that the automotive industry can play in it. Indeed, we have an opportunity for a real step change towards achieving those goals, but how will the measures announced in the statement deliver them? The core of the package is the European Investment Bank loans and non-EIB loan guarantees, much of which have been announced already. What is effectively new and what have been the barriers to using what has already been announced? On the detail, how will these proposals be administered, who will undertake the due diligence, what will be the estimate of costs to the industry and the taxpayer, and how will this help the component supply chain?
This statement provides a number of worthy crumbs of comfort for the automotive industry, but as it has been announced today, it is neither strategic, nor comprehensive, nor the panacea it was trailed to be. I thus have grave concerns about whether it will work.
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