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UK Automotive Industry: Job Losses — [Mr Peter Bone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:30 am on 22nd May 2018.

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Photo of Jack Dromey Jack Dromey Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Pensions) 10:30 am, 22nd May 2018

I first pay tribute to the excellent presentation made by my hon. Friend Matt Western. I will speak about the human consequences of what will happen if the Government get this wrong.

Erdington is rich in talent, but is one of the poorest constituencies in the country. However, we are blessed with having the Jaguar plant in our midst. The industry has now become the jewel in the crown of British manufacturing. It has been transformed, but it is characterised by its troubled history and by tragedies. I remember working night and day back in 2005 with Tony Woodley to try to prevent the collapse of Rover, and I remember that awful Friday when the factory finally collapsed and 5,000 workers were made redundant. However, in 2009 we saw the establishment of the Automotive Council—the first great industrial strategy—and the scrappage scheme to save the industry from collapse. The basis was laid for a future to be built on.

In 2010, Tata Motors took over Jaguar Land Rover from Ford. It brought in two gifted German industrial managers, one of whom—chief executive Dr Ralf Speth—is still there to this day. We worked night and day with them to turn around a factory that was doomed to close and where there was a funereal atmosphere on the part of the workers. I will never forget that wonderful day in October 2010 when we stood outside the main gate and said that the factory that had built the Spitfire during the war and two generations of Jaguars after the war was safe for the next generation.

That transformed the lives of thousands of local workers. I will never forget Warren, who is a big bear of a man. I first met him at a jobs fair that we organised. Four years later, he was moving into a house in Edwards Road, just down from my constituency office. He called me over and told me about how he was buying this little Edwardian terraced house. He said how he had been in and out of work for 10 years before getting that apprenticeship, and was now in a job that he described as secure, well-paid work that he loved. He then turned to his partner and said, “I’m moving into the house of my dreams with the woman of my dreams.” He said that could never have happened had it not been for the success of Jaguar Land Rover.

Lives were transformed and progress was built on. I actually pay tribute to some of the things that the Government did by way of continuity of policy, such as with the Automotive Council; the focus on the industrial sector and the engine plant; the skills initiative; and investment in research and development. All of that was welcome. As a consequence, we saw the number of staff at the factory double from 1,400 when it faced closure in 2010 to 3,000, while GKN—the parts plant just up the road—increased its staff from 500 to 800. Thousands of local people were given the opportunities that Warren had.

However, we now face deep and growing difficulties. Some 1,000 workers are being laid off at the Solihull plant, while 240 workers have been transferred from the Jaguar plant to Solihull. Why? Because of the combination of utter confusion over diesel on the one hand—forgive me if I say this, but the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has grossly mishandled this situation and has sent the wrong message, having a serious impact on consumer confidence—and Brexit on the other.

I have only a short time remaining, so I will conclude. I wholeheartedly agree with the points made earlier. Hope emerges from despair. I once again see workers on production lines despairing and fearing for the future. Our fortunes are inextricably linked with those of the European Union—crucially, through the single market and the customs union. If we get it wrong over Brexit, this country will pay a very heavy price, and the people who will pay that price above all will be the workers in the automotive industry.