Economy: Automotive Industry — Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:21 pm on 19th January 2009.

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Photo of Lord Jones Lord Jones Labour 8:21 pm, 19th January 2009

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Harrison, as a one-time Member of the European Parliament, had great standing in Cheshire and Wirral. He was foremost in supporting the industry, not least in Ellesmere Port, Wirral, the home of the General Motors Vauxhall Astra production. This plant is important, not only to the economy of north-west England, but to north-east Wales and to Deeside especially. We in Wales do not want the collapse of any work in neighbouring Wirral. There is immense travelling to work from north-east Wales to Wirral and vice versa.

As shadow Minister for Wales in 1991, I was present alongside the then Secretary of State for Wales—the noble Lord, Lord Hunt—when Toyota UK conducted a ceremony to commemorate the building of an engine plant at Deeside in north-east Wales. The Deeside engine plant was built to time and many hundreds of people now work there. Sadly, however, Toyota UK has declared this year that an £88 million new engine development for Deeside in north-east Wales is to be postponed. Nobody in the company, in the workforce or in Deeside took pleasure in this announcement. It is a body blow to a most successful management team and workforce active in Wales.

Toyota on Deeside has been superb in training employees, in supporting our county council of Flintshire and in helping dozens of local charities and voluntary organisations. We had hoped to see this £88 million investment go ahead as a reward for what we had delivered in this part of Wales. Wales needs developments such as these. Such developments create skills, and skills are the lifeblood of the Principality.

I wish the plant well and I hope the Government will respond powerfully to the needs of the industry, not least for this exceptional workplace on the banks of the River Dee in Flintshire.