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Ford in Bridgend

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:31 pm on 10th June 2019.

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Photo of Christina Rees Christina Rees Shadow Secretary of State for Wales 5:31 pm, 10th June 2019

I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement.

Last Thursday’s news of the closure of the Ford plant in Bridgend was absolutely devastating for the exceptional workforce, their families, the town of Bridgend and the wider south Wales community. As a former Bridgend county borough councillor, I completely understand. It is absolutely devastating for the businesses in Ford’s supply chain and the tens of thousands employed in them, and it is absolutely devastating for the automotive sector, UK manufacturing and our entire economy. Ford must rethink its plans to strip away 1,700 highly skilled, quality jobs from the area, and the UK Government must do all they can to support those dedicated workers.

This news is disastrous for all concerned. The chaos caused by the Tory Government’s calamitous handling of Brexit, coupled with the Secretary of State’s continuing inability to stand up for Wales, has allowed Ford to deliver a hammer blow to the workers in Bridgend and the Welsh economy. This is a betrayal of the hard-working and loyal staff who have been committed to delivering savings in making the Bridgend plant one of the most efficient in the world.

It is clear that Ford needs urgently to reverse this treacherous decision and to stand by the highly skilled workforce in Bridgend, rather than chasing profits via cheaper markets in places such as Mexico and India. It is disgraceful that Ford no longer produces a single vehicle in the UK despite its growing market share of car sales. Companies such as Ford originally chose to locate production plants in the UK because it was renowned for its skilled workforce and seen as economically stable compared with other turbulent markets across the world, but the Government’s botched Brexit has changed this. It is causing chaos and uncertainty and undermining business confidence.

Ford is just the latest in a long list of companies, including Airbus, Nissan, Honda and Jaguar Land Rover, to halt investment, cut jobs or close plants as a direct result of this uncertainty. We know that the Tory Government offered Nissan a deal. Was Ford offered a deal? There can be no doubt that this Government’s reckless threats of no deal, accelerated by a self-indulgent leadership contest with hard-Brexit contenders, is having an impact on business decisions across the UK, not just in Wales. Yet again, this is catastrophic news for Wales—news that has come as a direct result of UK Government shortcomings where Wales is concerned and that follows their shortcomings on rail electrification, the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon and the steel industry. This is just one of a string of failures on the Secretary of State’s watch. I call on him to apply pressure on Ford to do the right thing and rethink its catastrophic plans.

I thank my hon. Friend Mrs Moon for all the work that she has done to support the plant and its workforce, now and in many previous years. I also thank my hon. Friend Chris Elmore—who represents the neighbouring constituency—for all that he is doing to support the many hundreds of people in the area who are being affected. I thank other Welsh Labour Members whose constituents work at Bridgend Ford and in its supply chain, and I thank the trade unions.

The automotive industry is the backbone of our manufacturing sector, supporting highly skilled, quality employment and making an enormous contribution to our economy, but its future, in Bridgend and across the UK, is in jeopardy. I call on the Secretary of State to do now what he has failed to do previously and stand up for Wales. He must speak with Cabinet colleagues to seek the financial support and stimulus which will match what has already been committed by the Welsh Government.