– in the House of Commons at 6:07 pm on 25th January 2023.

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Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Joy Morrissey.)

Photo of Ian Lavery Ian Lavery Labour, Wansbeck 6:08 pm, 25th January 2023

On a point of clarification at the outset, it is important that the media and everyone else involved recognise that the Britishvolt site is in the East Bedlington parish of my constituency of Wansbeck, contrary to most media reports.

The rise and fall of Britishvolt and its dream to build a gigafactory in Cambois, in Wansbeck, is an incredibly important story not only of how the Government have once again failed people in the north-east, but of how the wider lack of an industrial strategy, in particular regarding the automotive industry, is putting thousands of jobs at risk and making the creation of high-quality manufacturing jobs—like the ones promised by Britishvolt —nothing but a pipe dream.

Due to its proximity to the old Blyth power station and the local deep sea port, the fact that it is fully plugged into the national grid, with a potential supply of green hydroelectric power from Norway at a competitive price, and its fantastic transport links and planning permission, Cambois is the most attractive and desirable site in the country, if not in Europe, for a gigaplant—those are not my words, but those of many industry experts.

However, the biggest asset is the people of our great region, who once again feel terribly let down by the situation that has been allowed to develop with Britishvolt.

Photo of Jon Trickett Jon Trickett Labour, Hemsworth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is a great champion for his constituency, working people and the north of England. Has he seen the reports today saying that if the north of England were a country, it would be more or less the worst in the whole OECD for investment by the public or private sector? Have we in the north not been let down enough, and particularly those in my hon. Friend’s constituency, who were led up the garden path, by the looks of it, on a promise that will now not be delivered?

Photo of Ian Lavery Ian Lavery Labour, Wansbeck

My hon. Friend makes a number of important points. It is correct to state that people in the north have been let down greatly as a result of this Government’s policies. Many people in our constituencies have been let down greatly, and some are even saying they have been left behind.

Photo of Kate Osborne Kate Osborne Labour, Jarrow

I thank my hon. Friend for bringing this debate to the House. Cambois is in the constituency of Wansbeck, not Blyth, as some seem to think. What we are discussing will impact not just Northumberland and Wansbeck but the wider north-east, including my constituents in Jarrow. Does my hon. Friend agree that if the Government want the people of the north-east to believe that levelling up is not just empty rhetoric, they need to deliver not just in more affluent areas, but in places such as the north-east, where we have seen very little—certainly in my constituency, and I believe the same goes for my hon. Friend’s constituency.

Photo of Ian Lavery Ian Lavery Labour, Wansbeck

The reality is that the development of this Britishvolt plant would have transformed lives and communities not just in the south-east of Northumberland, in places such as Blyth, Wansbeck and Bedlington, but—my hon. Friend is right—in the likes of Jarrow and farther afield in Sunderland, North Tyneside and the entire region. It was to be the biggest investment in our region since Nissan in the ’70s.

Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Labour, Washington and Sunderland West

My hon. Friend is being very generous with his time. Does he agree that despite the clear failure of the Government’s UK industrial strategy, they should continue to try to attract investors to support a battery gigafactory in his constituency by establishing a localised supply chain across the north-east? That would in turn support automotive giants, such as Nissan, which he mentioned, that are already investing in electric vehicles. We know that that is vital for EU trade and the drive toward zero-emissions vehicles by 2030.

Photo of Ian Lavery Ian Lavery Labour, Wansbeck

Thanks for that intervention. The supply chain is so, so important. Britishvolt suggested at the time that there would be 3,000 jobs created at the site and 5,000 jobs created in the supply chain. That would have been felt throughout the whole of our region in the north-east and probably further afield.

Links with Nissan would be brilliant. We need to take a leaf out of Nissan’s book in the way it has operated in the north-east for so many years. We were hoping to see some sort of link. Nissan is looking towards an on-site gigafactory with Envision AESC, which is in progress as we speak.

Photo of Mary Glindon Mary Glindon Opposition Whip (Commons)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government seem to have forgotten and neglected the area north of Teesside? This great part of our region, whether it is Tyneside, Northumberland or Wearside, always seems to be forgotten. We were forgotten when it came to a freeport, levelling up and now Britishvolt, which, as my hon. Friend says, would have created jobs across the region and given it a brighter future.

Photo of Ian Lavery Ian Lavery Labour, Wansbeck

That is very, very well put. People in our region are very much aware that there has been investment in Teesside. I welcome every penny coming into the region, by the way—every single ha’penny of investment we can get—but it has to be further afield than just one particular pocket of the north-east region. As my hon. Friend says, there has been a complete lack of investment in our region and it has been left behind for decades now. That is just not acceptable any more. This is the idea that could have transformed and changed that for a lot of the people we proudly represent. People were excited by the thought they actually had the potential to get a decent job with good wages, terms and conditions.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I commend the hon. Gentleman for bringing this issue forward. He has been really active on this issue and he was active in the Chamber last week during questions, so well done to him.

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that the news of an Australian company’s intention to potentially purchase Britishvolt, which I heard about today when talking to Jon Trickett, is truly good news. Does he agree that the Government must invest in British business, manufacturing and engineering? I see our highly skilled aerospace workers constantly fearful for their jobs and managers reluctant to expand. Further, will he join me in asking the Minister for the Government to focus—they must focus—financial investment in our manufacturers throughout all of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

Photo of Ian Lavery Ian Lavery Labour, Wansbeck

Yes, of course. I will come on to the nub of the questions the hon. Gentleman raises during my speech—I have only got through two paragraphs up till now.

The Britishvolt site has been kept alive for years. It is not just something somebody has come up with; it is to the credit of the former Labour-run council, which had the foresight to recognise the site’s advantages. It insisted on maintaining the site for industrial use to create thousands of potential jobs in the future, a prophecy that Britishvolt promised to make a reality. We should remember that projects on the scale Britishvolt was proposing do not just appear from thin air. They go through decades of decision making and planning. That was largely done by the Labour group on Wansbeck Council, which made the site so attractive to potential builders over decades.

Britishvolt arrived on the scene in late 2020 and was full of promise and potential. While many of the industry professionals I spoke to, along with others, expressed scepticism about its lack of experience and long-term plans, it continued to exceed expectations and gather support. I recall the chief executive ringing me up before Christmas that year, just out of the blue. He said, “I’m the chief executive of Britishvolt”—I had not heard of it—“and we are bringing 8,000 jobs to your constituency.” They were going to be well-paid, secure jobs—green industrial jobs. I promise you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I could not believe it. It was like all my Christmases had come at once. Since then, I have been heavily involved, only to be devastated by the current position.

As I say, Britishvolt arrived on the scene in late 2020. It impressed people so much that it managed to secure a £100 million grant from the Government’s automotive transformation fund. To many, that seemed to legitimise the company. There were still many people—many, many people, in fact—who doubted it, but they were confounded by glowing reports from the then Business Secretary, the then Chancellor and the then Prime Minister.

At the time, the then Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, announced:

“I’m delighted to confirm we have now provided Britishvolt with a final grant offer through the Automotive Transformation Fund. The Blyth gigafactory will turbocharge our plans to embed a globally competitive electric vehicle supply chain in the UK and it is fantastic to see how the project is progressing.

The vast site will ensure Britain can fully capture the benefits of the booming global electric vehicle market. The well-paid jobs and growth it will generate for the North East of England will be transformational and are exactly the reason we are investing to make the UK the best place in the world for automotive manufacturing.”

In an interview with national media when the grant had been confirmed, he also claimed:

“It is absolutely what levelling up is all about. In fact, I can’t think of a project that demonstrates levelling up better than this one.”

The then Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, claimed:

“Britishvolt’s plan to build a new gigafactory in Northumberland is a strong testament to the skilled workers of the North East and the UK’s place at the helm of the global green industrial revolution.

Backed by government and private sector investment, this new battery factory will boost the production of electric vehicles in the UK, whilst levelling up opportunity and bringing thousands of new highly-skilled jobs to communities in our industrial heartlands.”

Last summer, before his departure from office, he gave me further guarantees in this House that support for Britishvolt was in the post and that the Government remained 100% behind the project.

The then Chancellor, who is now the Prime Minister, also took the opportunity to jump on the bandwagon, boasting:

“Once complete, this factory will produce enough batteries for over 300,000 electric vehicles each year…Our #PlanForJobs is working.”

So he claimed. At the time, everybody wanted a piece of Britishvolt, which was hailed as the poster boy of levelling up and as a tribute to the vision of life post Brexit held by this new-look Conservative party.

So where did it all go wrong? What actually happened? Why are we in this situation now? At what point did the Government go cold on Britishvolt, which was hailed only a year ago as the jewel in the crown of their levelling-up plans and vision for Britain? As ever, the Government will be keen to blame the cost of soaring energy bills and the knock-on effects of the illegal invasion of Ukraine, but that does not add up with the story across Europe. The website Sifted is tracking the development of 33 gigafactories across Europe, many of which are due to be up and running imminently. Germany has plans for 12 gigafactories, while the UK has plans for only three, one being the Cambois gigafactory we are discussing, which is now in great peril at best.

The underlying issue with Britishvolt is that as a start-up it had no capital to work with, and a range of issues meant it was not able to attract sufficient investment and meet the milestones that would have unlocked the Government funding that was promised—not a penny was ever received by the company, despite the benefits explained by the Prime Minister, the former Prime Minister and the former Business Secretary.

Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Labour, Washington and Sunderland West

I do not want to interrupt my hon. Friend’s flow too much, as he is making some excellent points. On the number of gigafactories we need, he mentioned plans for three. I hope the one in his constituency will be saved, but it looks as though we may lose it. We actually need eight gigafactories if we are to meet the 2030 target for zero-emission vehicles. The last thing in the world we should be doing is not saving the plant in his constituency. The Minister shakes her head, but I do not know how we will ever reach that target if we do not save such plants.

Photo of Ian Lavery Ian Lavery Labour, Wansbeck

I will come on to that point later in my speech, but my hon. Friend makes a very valid and strong point.

On the issue of competitive energy sources, the UK’s industrial energy pricing is far from competitive and drives investment away, while our green energy infrastructure is nowhere near able to guarantee a supply of energy via the national grid. In December 2022, the UK cost per megawatt-hour was £580, while in Germany it was £225, in Italy £259, in France £238, and in Sweden £206. If we are ever going to reach our targets and support the automotive industry, that disparity must be addressed without any further delay.

That is just a drop in the ocean of the wider strategic issues that have been allowed to develop in the industry. We have hundreds of thousands of workers producing parts for vehicles that will not be required, with no clear plan on how those workers will transition and be reskilled in a rapidly changing industry. That is part of the wider issue of a chronic skills shortage that needs to be addressed by having the proper training available for our young people leaving schools and paying them a proper living wage to do well-paid skilled jobs. We are being rapidly overtaken by European competitors who have support from the European Commission and the member states themselves, and we are also being stymied by the strength of the US and, in particular, China, which has a near dominance in the supply of cells, cathodes and anodes, as well as the base materials for their manufacture.

CATL in Germany has received grant and loans from the state of €750 million, or 22.8% of the total build costs; Northvolt in Sweden has had €505 million, or 17.1%; and in North America General Motors has had $2.5 billion, or 36.2%, Stellantis has had $l billion, or 35.7%, Tesla has had $1.3 billion and Ford has had $884 million—the list is nearly endless. Compare that with Britishvolt, which was promised just £100 million by the Government, and guess what percentage that was of build costs—only 2.3%. That is absolutely disgraceful. Moreover, the £100 million was heavily caveated, to the point where the company never had a penny of Government support. How can this country—how can we, as a manufacturing nation—expect to be competitive while Governments across Europe and beyond are offering real incentives for the manufacture of batteries, far greater than those offered by our Government? We have to pull our socks up. We have to get on to the pitch. We have to start playing the game, for the sake of this nation.

In the autumn, when Britishvolt was facing financial difficulties, it asked for £30 million of the £100 million grant that had been agreed by the Government. The company asked for this to be released early because it had cashflow problems, arguing that the money would help keep it afloat and attract the private investment that it needed to reach the other milestones set by the Government. The Government have repeatedly made the point that they need to act responsibly with taxpayers’ money. I agree with that, and I am sure no one disagrees with it, but it seems to me that £30 million for a company that says the money will allow it to stay in business and create 8,000 jobs in a region that has been held back for so long, keeping it afloat, is a worthwhile investment. That £30 million is a mere drop in the ocean of the money lost so carelessly during the pandemic, which went into the coffers of those with close ties to senior members of the Government, but when it might be spent on benefiting held-back towns in the north-east, it is held under very tight wraps.

By this point, the Government’s attitude towards the company seems to have cooled considerably since the previous January, when they were singing its praises from every rooftop they could find. The pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine have been harsh reminders of the need for national self-reliance, particularly in key strategic industries. Simply assembling the batteries in the UK is not enough; as we enter a new phase of globalisation, we must take control of our own destiny—and of battery manufacturing—if we want our car industry to survive. We still do not have a single fully functioning gigafactory, although, as was mentioned earlier, predictions suggest that we will need anywhere between eight and 10 by 2040.

All this has real consequences at an individual human level. Towns and villages across south-east Northumberland and in the north-east as a whole, including my constituency, have been held back for decades. Once thriving industrial communities, they have had their economic and social fabric swept from under them with nothing to replace it. More than a decade of brutal austerity has hollowed out our public services and civic spaces and left us battling high levels of unemployment, low pay, poverty, crime, and addiction problems. The jobs that were promised to come with the gigafactory had the potential to be the first step in changing the fortunes of our region. The income from the new well-paid local jobs would have supported thousands of families across our communities, and might well have helped to kick-start a new era of manufacturing in industrial work that could have reignited the economy in the towns and villages close by.

There was a good deal of reluctant optimism about announcements of new developments in transport and infrastructure, alongside the announcements about the factory and the possibility of money from the Government’s new towns fund and levelling-up fund, but bit by bit, drip by drip, that has ebbed away. Only last week a bid from Ashington, in my constituency, for levelling-up money to transform the crumbling town centre was rejected, while Richmond, in the Prime Minister’s Yorkshire constituency, received a cosy £19 million. That is pretty offensive to people in held-back communities.

Bedlington in my constituency got about £8 million to build new cycling lanes, although the bid was somewhat ironically designed with getting workers to the new Britishvolt factory in mind. Although every penny given to Bedlington is welcome, many are already questioning whether new cycle lanes are all that levelling up will amount to, given how starved the town has been, like many in my constituency, of crucial infrastructure funding for so long. The levelling-up fund has proved itself to be time-consuming, expensive, divisive and unable to meet the needs of held-back towns in the north-east. The south-east has received nearly twice as much as the north-east from the fund, and none of this touches the sides of the cuts to local councils since 2010 and the introduction of austerity.

The best use of levelling-up money for south-east Northumberland would have been getting behind the Britishvolt gigafactory. The people of Northumberland and the north-east have, sadly, once again been let down by those working far away in the halls of Whitehall and Downing Street. Three Prime Ministers in a matter of weeks and a merry-go-round of Ministers in different positions, based on nothing but blind loyalty, rather than competence and know-how, has been a disaster for any plans the Government may have had to level up my constituency and the region. As usual, we are the ones dealing with the consequences of the internal political drama unfolding in the ranks of the Conservative party.

We need long-term thinking and a proper plan for our broader industrial sector, and we need to overcome the major obstacles our automotive industry is up against, if we are to truly level up, or gauge up, our communities in the north-east, not just a few packets of money—not just the crumbs off the table. It cannot just be that who is best at submitting a bid will get the money and other areas that are sadly lacking will again get left further and further behind—my hon. Friend Jon Trickett talked about that.

This morning, the news broke in the press that Recharge Industries, an Australian-based company, had put in an offer to buy Britishvolt, which is very encouraging, as were other reports in the press this morning that 12 other companies have shown an interest. Let us hope that something can happen, because we cannot have another false dawn. We cannot have another Britishvolt, where we have a project of this magnitude, with the land, the planning and everything else in place, only for the Government to go cold and step back from assisting our regions.

A couple of issues are really interesting. The administrator, Ernst & Young, has a legal obligation to accept the highest offer. It has no legal obligation to accept what might be the best offer for the people in our communities or to say, “I will take that offer because it is going to create tens of thousands or hundreds of jobs.” It has an obligation to seek what is best for the current shareholders. We have to look at that and hope that the administrators bear in mind when making this ultimate decision that this is not only about the shareholders, many of whom will probably not live in our region, or even in this country, and are looking for as much money as possible—the people in our region count and they should not be forgotten. We have to put as much pressure as we can on the administrators.

I am going to ask the Minister a number of quick questions. We have to make sure that the Government step up to the plate on this. I have explained this and I will not repeat myself, but the Government were shouting about Britishvolt from the rooftops one minute and then they were refusing any finances to it the next moment—that is well documented. They said that one of the milestones was private investment, but the company thought that was wrong way around. Those private companies were willing to invest on the basis that the Government would support it morally and financially. If the company had UK Government support, that would hold sway. The British Government basically abdicated responsibility, and jumped off the ship like a rat. That caused investors to be extremely unhappy, and probably put them off in the short and the medium term.

We are where we are with Britishvolt at Cambois. Will the Minister commit to do whatever it takes to get behind whoever acquires the site to build a gigafactory, including offering a proper package of financial support, in line with what other states across Europe offer? I have explained the massive difference in support that European countries get from their Governments. Can the Minister outline the Government’s plans to ensure that the site in Cambois is developed as quickly as possible? There cannot be any more delays. We hope that the Government will get in intense discussions to support any successful bidder for the plant.

Would the Minister tell us why money was not forthcoming to Britishvolt when it requested the £30 million early, which it argues would have gone a long way to reach its milestones and to get the gigafactory developed? Can the Minister clarify what due diligence was done on the company when it decided to offer it a £100-million grant in the first place? Why did the Government eventually go cold on their support? Can the Minister clarify what the Government are doing to reach the target of building eight to 10 gigafactories by 2040? How do they plan to stay competitive with other companies across Europe and globally, given the strategic barriers that I have outlined?

I have spoken for quite some time, but the issue is critical for Members, individuals and families in south-east Northumberland and the wider afield constituencies of my hon. Friends the Members for North Tyneside (Mary Glindon), for Hemsworth and for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson). We feel left behind. We feel that the Government have not supported us, despite the initial euphoria that this was to be the best possible opportunity to transform our area. I say to the Minister that, seriously, we need to get on to that playing field. We need to support the automotive industry. That includes electrical vehicle battery plants. We are way behind if we are to have 80 by 2040. Let’s get cracking. Let’s get the site developed in Cambois. Let’s get the Government support to the preferred bidder and make sure that the bidder wants a gigafactory, not something much less, so we can transform the economy of our great region.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Mr Ian Levy has sought permission from the mover of the motion and from the Minister to make a short contribution, and I have been informed.

Photo of Ian Levy Ian Levy Conservative, Blyth Valley 6:43 pm, 25th January 2023

I thank Ian Lavery for allowing me to speak briefly in his debate. I would like to make it clear that Britishvolt is in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, but its regional office was in Blyth on the other side of the river, as is JDR Cables.

Unlike the hon. Gentleman, I accept that it was right for the Government to set milestones that had to be met in order to receive taxpayers’ money. It is regrettable that Britishvolt could not fulfil its business plan, which would have triggered a staged release of public funds, but giving a business £100 million of taxpayers’ money without conditions would have been completely indefensible, no matter how much we all want the plan to succeed. I want it to succeed, and the hon. Gentleman wants it to succeed, and I do hope that we can work together.

Since my election, I have been a big supporter of the project to build a gigafactory on the Blyth estuary, and despite the disappointing news about Britishvolt I will continue to champion this opportunity. I welcome statements from the Government in recent days that Ministers wish to ensure the best outcome for the site, and I will work closely with the local authority and potential investors to achieve this. Despite articles in the national press this week seeking to run down our area, people in Blyth and Blyth Valley are working hard and will make the most of the opportunities to work in skilled roles. The Blyth area is still a significant centre for the renewables sector, with businesses based in Blyth, JDR Cables’ huge investment in the area next to the Britishvolt site and the excellent work that the offshore catapult is doing on the estuary to support the industry with cutting-edge research and development. The north-east really is at the cutting edge of investment and innovation and the site still offers a massive opportunity to the right developer, as the hon. Gentleman says. We need to work together to do this.

At the site of the old Blyth power station, there is excellent power connectivity with the ability to hook up to the interconnector. This would allow us to draw green renewable energy from Norway. On the estuary, we have the only deep water port in Northumberland. We have easy access to the A1 and the national road networks, as well as good rail connections. Most importantly, there is a strong and willing workforce, and the schools, colleges and skills providers are all raring to get people prepared for the 3,000 jobs on the shop floor that this project will bring, along with another 5,000 jobs in the supply chain. I will work with anyone—the Government, the council, the hon. Gentleman and anyone who believes in what Blyth and the area have to offer—to attract potential investors to the site and make sure that this project goes ahead.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy 6:47 pm, 25th January 2023

Allow me to begin by congratulating Ian Lavery on securing today’s debate. I know that he has been very active in Parliament in raising the profile of this situation, and I could hear from the passion in his speech how concerned he is for the people in the region. I also welcome the comments made by my hon. Friend Ian Levy about working with us on this. I welcome this opportunity to address a number of the issues raised, and I hope we can agree that the site provides a perfect ecosystem for a factory to be viable. I will address that shortly.

Britishvolt entering administration is regrettable and my thoughts are first and foremost with the company’s employees and their families at this difficult time. The Government are completely committed to building a sustainable future for the automotive industry in the UK, and promoting our EV manufacturing capability is a central pillar of that mission. I will come on to that in a moment. We are determined to see British companies succeed in the EV industry, and as part of our efforts we offered significant support to Britishvolt through the automotive transformation fund, but the Government also have a fundamental responsibility to protect taxpayers’ money and we have to ensure that our investments are not put at risk. I am sure that the hon. Members’ constituents would feel even more let down if that were to happen. The funding for Britishvolt was therefore offered on the condition that key milestones were met. Those milestones were agreed after lots of conversations with officials in the Department and included private sector investment commitments. As my hon. Friend the Member for Blyth Valley perfectly put it, offering public money without conditions would have been indefensible. Unfortunately, the company was unable to meet these conditions and, as a result, no ATF funds were paid out.

The hon. Member for Wansbeck made an important point about due diligence. Full due diligence was completed before a final grant offer letter was awarded to Britishvolt. As a result of that work, the funding was designed so that agreed milestones had to be achieved for the company to draw down any funds but, obviously, those milestones were not achieved.

Throughout the process, we always remained hopeful that Britishvolt would find a suitable investor, and we are deeply disappointed that that has not been possible, but I will move on to what really matters. The hon. Gentleman spent quite a bit of time talking about his constituency and the region, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Blyth Valley said, is a fantastic place. I assure the hon. Gentleman that securing battery production in the UK is a Government priority. We understand it is the foundation of a successful EV industry, and we remain committed to seeing a gigafactory developed in Blyth. Cambois is widely regarded as one of the best locations in Europe for a gigafactory, as it is a huge site with power connection and planning permission. Of course, the proud manufacturing history of Blyth Valley means it is home to the highly skilled workers that a gigafactory would need to succeed. All the ingredients are there. I am therefore certain the site will continue to attract interest from developers with big ambitions, and I look forward to working with the hon. Member for Wansbeck and my hon. Friend the Member for Blyth Valley as any interest progresses.

We are doing all we can to ensure the best outcome for the site, and we will work closely with Northumberland County Council to achieve this. We are also working hard to support Britishvolt employees and their families. Employees will be able to access a broad range of support, including universal credit and the new jobseeker’s allowance scheme.

Finally, we will continue to work to unlock the region’s enormous potential. The new Northumberland railway line aims to improve journey times and reliability when it opens to passengers. A lot has been said about funding to the region, and we have provided more than £20 million from the towns fund and £11 million from the future high streets fund. The site is such a fantastic place because there is a lot going on, and there is a lot of support to help the community, arts and cinema, alongside the new Energy Central campus.

This builds on Blyth’s energy success story, as it draws on its maritime history to develop the offshore industries of the future—my hon. Friend the Member for Blyth Valley beat me to it. Today, Blyth is home to the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult’s National Renewable Energy Centre, which provides open access and independent tests and research facilities to drive the development of transformative clean technologies. The clean energy industry will be a critical part of Britain’s green transition, but if we are to deliver a green transition that works for everyone, delivering growth and jobs for all in energy is only part of the picture.

The automotive industry is vital to the UK’s economy, and it is at the core of communities across the country. We must ensure it succeeds in the transition to net zero if we are to deliver not only on our climate goals but on our ambition to level up our country and advance its global standing. If we get it right, we can build an industry fit for the future that delivers security, prosperity and opportunity for places such as Blyth and Wansbeck in the century to come. We will continue to champion the UK as the best place in the world to build automotives as we transition to electric vehicles.

The automotive transformation fund supports the development of an internationally competitive electric vehicle supply chain in the UK, and the Government continue to work through the ATF to unlock private investment for gigafactories, battery materials, supply chains, motors, power, electronics and fuel cell systems. We already work closely with the sector through the joint Government and industry-led Automotive Council to ensure that we can identify and seize the opportunities for growth and competitiveness as they arise.

We regularly meet the automotive companies, both new and of long standing, to discuss a range issues, including future investment. To ensure our automotive industry can thrive by leveraging investment, we are providing Government support for new plants and upgrades, as several Opposition Members mentioned. Companies continue to show confidence in the UK, announcing major investments across the country. [Interruption.] This is good news, guys. Since 2021, we have seen £1 billion from Nissan and Envision to create an EV manufacturing hub in Sunderland, a world-class eco system that will drive growth at every stage of the EV supply chain, from batteries to the finished product. We have also seen £100 million from Stellantis to support electric vehicle production at its site in Ellesmere Port, and Ford commit additional funding to Halewood for its first EV component site in Europe, bringing its total investment to £380 million. These investments show that we have a track record of success, which is why this site with the right firm can be just as successful.

I am proud that we are not just sticking to the tried and tested. If we want to continue to succeed, we have to dare to do things differently. That is why it is so important that the UK is also a world leader in automotive research and development. Through the Advanced Propulsion Centre, Government and industry have committed more than £1.2 billion to accelerate the development and commercialisation of strategically important emerging vehicle technologies to strengthen the UK’s competitive edge in an increasingly competitive world. That is a long-term strategy. The APC estimates that projects we have supported will help to create and safeguard more than 50,000 jobs, saving over 312 million tonnes of CO2, which is the equivalent of removing the lifetime emissions of more than 12.6 million cars.

What is incredibly exciting is that we are also supporting the Faraday Battery Challenge with an overall budget of £544 million for work to establish the UK as a battery science superpower, so, as I said earlier, all the right ingredients are here. We are investing nearly £80 million through Innovate UK in driving the electric revolution, a programme to accelerate the capability and growth of the electric supply chain for power, electronics, machines and drives in the UK.

Industry recognises the depth and breadth of our innovation economy, which puts eco right at the cutting edge of automotive manufacturing. Just last week, Williams announced that it would be opening a new plant for manufacturing advanced batteries for HGVs in Kidlington. That is exactly the sort of investment that we want to see come to all regions of the UK to build on more than a century of vehicle manufacturing to deliver sustainable growth and jobs for decades to come.

We have the infrastructure and the talent. Together, we can and we will create a globally competitive electric vehicle supply chain in the UK, boosting homegrown EV battery production and levelling up across the country as we accelerate towards a greener future that works for everyone. As my hon. Friend the Member for Blyth Valley said towards the end of his speech, this is a fantastic site. All the ingredients are in play. I cannot comment on speculation in the press, but I can confirm that we will of course take any credible options very seriously. We are very committed to the site and I can assure the hon. Member for Wansbeck that this Government are determined to make that site work for Blyth and for the whole of the United Kingdom.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.