Ford in Bridgend - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:08 pm on 10th June 2019.

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Photo of Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 6:08 pm, 10th June 2019

My Lords, first, I wish the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, a speedy recovery from his cataract operation. It is very good to see him here at all, and he did an excellent job putting his case.

I shall try to answer the points made by the noble Lords, Lord Griffiths and Lord Fox, in the order in which they were made, if I may. First, there is a consultation here. I agree that this is serious—it is a devastating body blow, and there is no doubt of that—but we must appreciate that a consultation will be going on. Secondly, we know that the manufacture of the Dragon engine will continue until at least February next year, and the Jaguar Land Rover production still at the plant will continue until September next year. I am not making light of the issues, but it is important to get them in the proper context.

Both noble Lords touched on the task force. I think it is fair to say that the task force system was a creation of the Welsh Government. I was privileged to act as chairman of one in relation to a previous job problem—the closure of the Murco oil refinery in west Wales—and I can say with confidence that such task forces are very effective at bringing agencies together to talk about ways to mitigate problems. The first meeting of this task force will be within a week, and both Ken Skates from the Welsh Government and the Secretary of State, Alun Cairns, will be at that meeting, as will representatives of the unions. I understand that the consultation and discussions going on so far between the Secretary of State, the unions and Ken Skates have been very constructive.

It is very important that situations such as this do not become a political football. That is not to say that political points will not be made, but what is important for the people in Bridgend is that we act responsibly to seek new jobs, to find out what we can do to ensure that the highly skilled workforce there—including some excellently paid jobs in that town and the surrounding area of Ogmore and the south-west Wales valleys—is properly served by the work we do. I think that is the intention of all those involved.

On the point about Brexit, it is very important that we do not misrepresent what this is. I am not saying that there is not a discussion to be had on Brexit, and I will come to that, but it is very clear from what was said by Ford and from the context of the Statement, with significant job losses in Germany—5,000 being talked about—Spain and France, that this is not simply about Brexit, or it would just have been about jobs being lost in Britain.

That said, I accept—and noble Lords would do well to reflect on this—that Ford, Honda, Nissan and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders have all called for support for a deal. Indeed, they have all called for support for the deal that has been voted down: the Prime Minister’s deal. I say to noble Lords that, yes, it is important that we get a deal, but there is a deal that these manufacturers have been urging support for which does not attract support from most Members of parties opposite. I make that point advisedly.

I accept that this is also an issue about the supply chain. That will be discussed in the context of the task force. The supply chain is also a factor with Honda. What has been offered in support for Honda’s supply chain will also be offered here. It is worth noting that the automotive sector deal, which is a significant part of the business strategy, has expended £16 million on supply chain assistance.

Noble Lords also need to see that the context of this is the move from diesel and petrol to electrification. The support we are giving to electrification—low-emission vehicles and infrastructure—is significant here. Thoughts about how we can develop that would really help the Welsh workforce, and indeed the British workforce, going forward.