The automotive sector is an extremely valuable part of the UK economy and we have worked very closely with it in recent years. We have established the first automotive sector deal, and we have backed research and development projects, such as the advanced propulsion centre, with £300 million of investment. Through the future of mobility grand challenge and a succession of Budget measures, we are supporting the development of and transition to low emission and autonomous vehicles.
The Chancellor will be well aware of the importance of car sales and manufacturer investment as indicators of economic output and business confidence respectively. In the year to May, car sales were down 7% and truck sales were down 6%. Investment by vehicle manufacturers fell by 55% in 2017 versus 2015, and by 47% in 2018 versus 2017 for the first quarter of the year, so it is on track to be down 75% from three years ago. Does the Chancellor accept that these figures are the reality behind the Foreign Secretary’s assertion—I think this was the phrase—“fudge business”?
As I have just described, the automotive sector is extremely important, and few of its businesses are more important than Jaguar Land Rover, which I appreciate is close to the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. Car sales in 2017 were actually 25% higher than in 2010 and the UK remains the second biggest car market in Europe after Germany, so there is a great deal to celebrate in the UK automotive sector, and we will continue to support it.
In the light of Brexit, just this morning the British Chambers of Commerce published a list of two dozen vital questions to which British business needs answers, 10 of which are specifically relevant to the car industry. What assessment has the Chancellor made of the potential loss of business investment in the UK car industry as a result of the Government’s failure to provide answers to those questions?
We are working closely with the automotive sector, and the Treasury and other Departments have met its representatives on a number of occasions. The Prime Minister has made it clear that our intention throughout the current negotiations is to ensure that EU-UK trade is as frictionless as possible. We will continue to work with the automotive sector to ensure that we deliver a good Brexit deal for it.