UK Car Industry

– in the House of Commons am 12:35 pm ar 17 Mai 2023.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Shadow Minister (Future of Work), Shadow Minister (Business and Industrial Strategy) 12:35, 17 Mai 2023

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Business and Trade if she will make a statement on the future of the UK car industry.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade) (jointly with the Cabinet Office)

The automotive industry is vital. It is a vital part of the UK economy and it is integral to delivering on levelling up, net zero and advancing global Britain. After a challenging period where covid and global supply chain shortages have impacted the international automotive industry, the UK sector is bouncing back. Production is increasing, and in 2022 the UK’s best-selling car was the Nissan Qashqai, built in Sunderland.

The automotive industry has a long and proud history in the UK. We are determined to build on our heritage and secure international investment in the technologies of the future, to position the UK as one of the best locations in the world in which to manufacture electric vehicles. We are leveraging investment from industry by providing Government support for new plants and upgrades to ensure that the automotive industry thrives into the future. Companies continue to show confidence in the UK, announcing major investments across the country, including £1 billion from Nissan and Envision to create an electric vehicle manufacturing hub in Sunderland; £100 million from Stellantis for the site in Ellesmere Port; and £380 million from Ford to make Halewood its first EV components site in Europe.

We will continue to work through our automotive transformation fund to build a global, competitive EV supply chain in the UK, boosting home-grown EV battery production, levelling up and advancing towards a greener future.

Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Shadow Minister (Future of Work), Shadow Minister (Business and Industrial Strategy)

Thank you for granting this urgent question, Mr Speaker, and I thank the Minister for her response.

The warnings from Stellantis overnight are deeply concerning, not just for my constituents who work at Vauxhall Motors in Ellesmere Port, but for the automotive sector more widely. She will know of the huge efforts put in over recent years to secure the future of the plant and to move to electric vehicle production; significant contributions have been made from the management, the workforce, the local authority and the Government themselves. So it is beyond frustrating that just a couple of years later we find ourselves once again in a position where there is a threat to my constituents’ livelihoods.

We know what needs to be done to secure jobs in Ellesmere Port and in the wider automotive sector, because the sector has been telling the Government, as have we, that there needs to be a proper industrial strategy. So where is that strategy? Indeed, where is the Secretary of State? The EU is pumping billions into manufacturing as part of its green industrial plan, the US is investing trillions with the Inflation Reduction Act and we are being left behind. Every day this Government sit on their hands, that mountain to climb gets a little higher.

So we need urgent action, but I am afraid that all I have heard this morning is complacency. We need those gigafactories with spades in the ground this year, because we know the timescales that the industry invests across are long and it needs to see progress now. So will the Minister tell us what steps the Government are actively taking to increase the proportion of vehicle parts manufactured in the UK? We need to make sure our trading relationship with the EU is updated to reflect the global supply chain difficulties that all manufacturing industry is facing. So does she plan to make a formal request to reopen negotiations with the EU on the trade and co-operation agreement? It has been made repeatedly clear that without changes to the future trading arrangements, and without a proper industrial strategy, the UK car industry is at risk. What assurances can she give to my constituents that their futures matter to this Government? The UK car sector is the jewel in the crown of our manufacturing industry. If we lose it, it will not be coming back. So please, Minister, take action now.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade) (jointly with the Cabinet Office)

The hon. Gentleman will know, when I respond to this question, just how seriously I take the sector, as he does—he and I have worked on this previously. I agree that the automotive industry is a vital part of the UK economy and I will go on to explain all the work we are doing there; if we add it all up, it is more or less a very strategic strategy. We know that it is integral to delivering on our levelling-up agenda, which is why it matters to so many constituents and why there are so many MPs in the Chamber today. We know that it matters to net zero and to advancing Global Britain. We also know how important this is to Members of Parliament because of the number of people who work in the sector.

The automotive industry employs around 166,000 people and includes major manufacturers, such as Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan, Toyota and BMW. We are leveraging investment from industry by providing support for new plants and upgrades to ensure that the UK automotive industry continues to thrive into the future. This includes Nissan’s £1 billion north-east electric vehicle hub, Ford’s £380 million investment in Halewood to make electric drive units, and Stellantis’s £100 million investment in Ellesmere Port for EV van production.

We work closely with the sector through the joint Government and industry-led Automotive Council, of which I am the co-chair, which discusses opportunities for growth, competitiveness and future opportunities. We also meet regularly with individual long-standing and new automotive companies to discuss a range of issues, including future investments.

On Government support, the Government and industry have jointly committed approximately £1.4 billion in innovative projects through the Advanced Propulsion Centre to accelerate the development and commercialisation of strategically important vehicle technologies, strengthening our competitive edge internationally. We also work on the automotive transformation fund, which puts the UK at the forefront of transition to zero-emission vehicles.

Of course, I must not forget the Faraday battery challenge, which, with an overall budget of £541 million since 2017, worked to establish the UK as a battery science superpower. This is what keeps us at the forefront as we try to adapt and use a new technology.

I wish to put it on the record that there are regular reviews of the EU-UK trade and co-operation agreement, but, as the hon. Gentleman will know, that responsibility sits with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and is not something that I can respond to on its behalf. However, I can provide assurances—[Interruption.] I am just about to do so, if Members will allow me to continue. I can provide assurances that I and the Secretary of State for Business and Trade have raised these issues with our colleagues across Government and have had productive conversations with our counterparts in the European Union. We are aware of the concerns of UK and EU car makers about the challenges and, of course, we continue to make strong representations.

Photo of Mark Pawsey Mark Pawsey Ceidwadwyr, Rugby

The automotive industry has been a huge success story for the west midlands and can be so in the future as we transition to electric vehicles. However, with 40% of the weight and cost of an electric vehicle being made up in the battery, it is vital that we get a battery manufacturing site in the west midlands. A site has been allocated at Coventry airport, immediately adjacent to the Battery Innovation Centre, where some innovative and brilliant work is taking place. Will the Minister provide Government support for the proposed gigafactory at Coventry Airport?

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade) (jointly with the Cabinet Office)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this issue. He and I worked together on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee. He has always been a passionate advocate for his constituency. It is indeed a fantastic proposal and we are keen to make sure that we can support as much investment as possible and that sites are set up for gigafactories. We know how important it is to ensure that the supply chain is as reliable as possible. If my hon. Friend would like to meet me, we can go through the proposals in further detail.

Photo of Jonathan Reynolds Jonathan Reynolds Shadow Secretary of State for Business and Industrial Strategy

I thank my hon. Friend Justin Madders for securing this urgent question on an area of fundamental importance not just to his constituency, but to the prosperity of the whole country.

For months now, Labour and industry have been warning the Government that this cliff edge was coming. It is a statement of the blindingly obvious that the lack of battery-making capacity in the UK, combined with changes to the rules of origin, was a car crash waiting to happen. It is a fact that, without domestic batteries, there will be no domestic automotive industry in the UK, yet the Government have no strategy to bring in the investment and infrastructure needed, and the rules of origin just make that even more compelling. This deadline to conform with the rules of origin has not been a secret, but where is the urgency, the ambition and the determination to keep our world-class automotive industry in the UK?

Once again, industry has been treated to a Government who are fond of big-state, top-down targets, but completely missing in action when it comes to how to deliver on those targets. Dare I say it that, despite warning after warning, it is clear that this Government are asleep at the wheel. Labour has a plan, through our industrial strategy—which Members can read as it is published—not just to protect the industry and the jobs that we have, but to deliver even more. We will part-finance those eight gigafactories, create 80,000 jobs and power 2 million electric vehicles, matching the incentives on offer from our rivals.

This is not just about public investment; it is about planning reform, changes to business rates, domestic energy security and supply, and more. That is the action that is needed. With respect, the Minister has not really answered any of the questions from my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston yet, so will the Government outline how they will secure the battery-making capacity that we desperately need in the UK? What is the Government’s view on the suitability and application of the rules of origin as they currently stand? Finally, will the Government wake up, grab the steering wheel and get control of the situation before it is far too late?

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade) (jointly with the Cabinet Office)

It is a good to hear that the Opposition are expecting businesses to make decisions on promises that may or may not come down the line, and on promises of sums of money that have been allocated and reallocated a number of times by the Labour party. This is not just my view: look at the figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, showing that British commercial vehicle production grew by 39% in 2022, the best since 2012, with exports surging by 63%. We are determined to make the UK the best location for export-led automotive manufacturing.

I am going to talk not about a promise, but about the programmes that are in place to ensure that supply chains and gigafactories are here to support the whole automotive sector. I have spoken about the Advanced Propulsion Centre—perhaps the Opposition do not understand how important that is—the Faraday battery challenge and “Driving the electric revolution”. We must not forget the Envision AESC announcement of its investment in a gigafactory in Sunderland or Johnson Matthey confirming its investment in the construction of a factory in Hertfordshire for proton exchange membrane fuel cell components for use in hydrogen vehicles.

Discussions are constantly ongoing with other potential investors into gigafactories in the UK. We are not doing this by ourselves in Government, making decisions that seem good on paper; as I said, I co-host the Automotive Council and just this week—possibly on Monday or Tuesday, I cannot remember—I caught up with Aston Martin, Bentley Motors, BMW, Ford, Jaguar Land Rover, McLaren Automotive, Nissan, Stellantis, Tesla, Toyota and the Volkswagen group. They are keen to continue working with us to ensure that we have supply chains here in the UK.

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark Chair, Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, Chair, Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, Chair, Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, Chair, Science, Innovation and Technology Committee

To secure the future of our vital automotive sector, we need to manufacture batteries in the UK. The industrial strategy in 2017, which my hon. Friend the Minister referred to, established the Faraday challenge to build on our cutting-edge research capability. The battery innovation centre was set up to develop manufacturing capacity. While the strategy is vital, and must be refreshed and continued, it is necessary but not sufficient; we need activism. When Mrs Thatcher lured Nissan and Toyota to this country, she travelled to Japan to make the case for locating here. Does that level of activism exist in the Government, and will the Minister commit to ensuring that we have those investments from companies around the world in the UK?

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade) (jointly with the Cabinet Office)

I believe that my right hon. Friend was the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy when the decision on the Faraday battery challenge was taken. He made sure that £211 million of funding was in place, so that technology could be developed to make batteries as efficient as they can be. That is just one part of our trying to secure investment into the UK. I can confirm that meetings are constantly taking place, including at Secretary of State level, with companies based in the UK and overseas, meeting with chief executive officers and chief financial officers to ensure that the UK is seen as an attractive place to manufacture cars. There is a global challenge around supply chains—it is not just a domestic issue—and we are keen to ensure that the UK continues to be seen as the best place to manufacture cars.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport)

The Minister is sticking her fingers in her ears and burying her head in the sand on this question. The Government were told time and time again about the rules of origin issues, and the car industry seems to be another casualty of the Government’s damaging Brexit. Increasing the uptake of low-emission vehicles is vital to meeting our net zero goals, but the UK’s disastrous trade deals are making the domestic manufacture of those vehicles impossible.

Stellantis has warned:

“If the cost of EV Manufacturing in the UK becomes uncompetitive and unsustainable operations will close.”

Has the Minister made an estimate of how many job losses it would lead to if the world’s fourth-largest carmaker closed its UK factories as a result of Brexit? Andy Palmer, a former chief operating officer, said that we are “running out of time” to get battery manufacturing in the UK, and that a failure to address the issues caused by Brexit will lead to the loss of 800,000 jobs in the UK. Car manufacturing has fallen sharply since the UK chose to leave the EU, from more than 1.5 million in 2016 to just 775,000. Does the Minister accept that the only way for Scotland to stop the decline of our industries is to gain independence and rejoin the world’s largest single market?

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade) (jointly with the Cabinet Office)

I would not expect anything less than a rerun of the conversation on Brexit. Fundamentally, the hon. Member does not like Brexit, does not like any trade deal, and does not even like the most integrated single market between England and Scotland, so I know that he has nothing appropriate to say.

Let us talk about the situation as it is: confidence in the UK automotive sector, and in the whole supply chain, has meant that Stellantis has invested more than £100 million in the Vauxhall plant in Ellesmere Port. That will see the plant transition to become the first mass-market all-electric plant in the UK, producing electric vans from 2023. That shows the confidence that that particular firm has in the UK.

We know that the production of electric units will go up, whether for private or commercial use, and we are doing everything we can to provide support on some of the more challenging issues in car manufacturing, such as access to energy and the cost of energy, which we have been working on as well. It is internationally challenging—I accept that—but the UK continues to be incredibly attractive for car manufacturing.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

Many of my constituents work at the Vauxhall Luton van factory, which makes the incredibly successful Vivaro, so this issue really matters to them and to me, and it matters for our industrial future. Will the Minister flesh out in a little more detail the plan to get more battery manufacturing capacity here in the United Kingdom? When will there be announcements? What number of battery plants does she believe the United Kingdom needs to have a successful car manufacturing industry?

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade) (jointly with the Cabinet Office)

I thank my hon. Friend for that incredibly sensible question. I have talked about all the programmes of work we have in place to attract gigafactories to the UK and to ensure that we are using the best technology that we can. We have the automotive transformation fund, which is building globally competitive electric vehicle supply chains, and I have spoken about the Faraday project, which will unlock a huge amount of research and development. We have Envision, too. We are working with and we constantly talk to other investors to help them come and establish gigafactories in the UK. We know how important it is to have supply chains to deal with the remarkable amount of cars being manufactured here.

My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that we also published in the integrated review an updated report on critical minerals to ensure that we are able to access to those minerals and are not relying on a particular nation, but can diversify. As I have said, I co-chair the Automotive Council, and that will provide a huge amount of assurance to his constituents that we are working hand in hand with the sector.

Photo of Darren Jones Darren Jones Chair, Business and Trade Committee, Chair, Business and Trade Committee, Chair, Business and Trade Sub-Committee on National Security and Investment, Chair, Business and Trade Sub-Committee on National Security and Investment

The story overnight came from written submissions to my Committee’s inquiry on the future of battery manufacturing in the UK. Stellantis will be here in Parliament next Tuesday to give further evidence. The Minister will know two things: that she and her departmental officials are in ongoing negotiations with other car manufacturers in the UK beyond Stellantis, and that all the car companies are raising exactly the same issues and are asking for a step up in activity from the Government and an end-to-end industrial strategy to show that the UK is serious about the future of UK production of electric vehicles. Will the Minister confirm for the record that those assertions—that the Department is in negotiations right now with other car manufacturing companies and that they are raising exactly the same issues as Stellantis—are indeed correct?

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade) (jointly with the Cabinet Office)

I am grateful to the Chair of the Select Committee for being here. I was once on his Committee. Overnight, I went through the transcript and some of the submissions to that inquiry, and I noticed the submission from Nissan. I know that nobody wants to pick out all the positive things that were said, but there was a great point on page 4:

The UK has strong promise as an EV battery production location due to strong demand, a skilled workforce, and attractive manufacturing sites.”

We somehow seem to be forgetting all the positive things that are said in submissions by the automotive sector.

We are working with those in the sector, as I have said. I meet them regularly and was with them just this week to deal with a number of challenges, whether to do with the Inflation Reduction Act or gigafactories. I can, of course, confirm that we are working with industry to do everything we can to ensure that there is greater commitment to gigafactories here in the UK.

Photo of Holly Mumby-Croft Holly Mumby-Croft Ceidwadwyr, Scunthorpe

Manufacturing and industry in this country are definitely an ecosystem, and when we start to lose chunks of it, that not only devastates communities but affects wider supply-chain businesses. The Minister will know that steel is crucial to car manufacturing. Can she reassure me and my constituents that she is considering those supply-chain businesses and doing everything she can to ensure that we have a level playing field in this country, not just for the steel industry but for manufacturing more widely?

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade) (jointly with the Cabinet Office)

My hon. Friend is once again the lady of steel, raising the topic on behalf of the whole industry across the UK. She will know about our recent work to look at procurement and the whole lifecycle of supply chains, and to ensure that we are doing everything we can in the UK. She knows about our commitment to the steel sector—we have provided billions of pounds-worth of support for energy costs, and now there is a huge amount of support for decarbonisation—and because of her work, steel will not be left out of any conversation when it comes to advanced manufacturing.

Photo of Ian Lavery Ian Lavery Llafur, Wansbeck

Recharge Industries, the organisation that bought out Britishvolt, is committed to building a gigafactory on the Britishvolt site in Cambois in my constituency. However, there is a huge issue with Northumberland County Council relating to a buyback proposal on the land of the proposed gigafactory. Will the Minister please intervene to facilitate discussions between all parties to ensure that we are not let down again at the site in Cambois, and that Recharge Industries gets every support it needs from the Government to build that gigafactory and bring 9,000 jobs to the north-east?

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade) (jointly with the Cabinet Office)

We are pleased that Britishvolt has been successfully acquired. We know that investment supports high-quality jobs in industries of the future, and we are determined to ensure that the UK remains one of the best locations. We look forward to learning more about the Recharge Industries plans, and we continue to work closely with the local authority—it is not a Government decision—to ensure the best outcome for the site. Because I am so keen to ensure that we continue to have good news in this sector, I will commit to meeting the hon. Member this week so that he can ensure that the information I am getting from my officials is absolutely correct. If there is anything more I can do in relation to the local authority, I will do my best.

Photo of Rachel Hopkins Rachel Hopkins Shadow Minister (Defence)

I am very proud to have the Vauxhall van plant in my constituency. I was going to ask the Minister whether the Government accepted that setting ambitious targets, such as the zero emission vehicle mandate, without a plan, alongside the issues with the rules of origin, was simply reckless, but I want to impress upon her that what we are debating impacts on people’s lives and livelihoods. Will she accept an invitation to Luton South to visit the Vauxhall van plant and speak with workers there, and their representatives, to see how Government decisions impact on people’s lives?

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade) (jointly with the Cabinet Office)

We are very much aware of how this impacts on people’s lives. I can tell by the number of Members in the Chamber. I co-chair the Automotive Council, so I know how incredibly important it is that we are sensitive to the needs of the industry while delivering on our other ambitious targets, including net zero. For the meeting this week with the sector, I took a delegation over to the Department for Transport to explain a little further the challenges of the ZEV mandate. There is a huge commitment to delivering electric vehicles, but there are also challenges if we want to ensure that the UK automotive sector continues to be as competitive while delivering on our net zero ambitions. Of course, if the opportunity arises, I would be more than happy to visit the hon. Member’s manufacturing site when she is available. I will do my very best to try to make that happen.

Photo of Sarah Olney Sarah Olney Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Treasury)

In a written answer to me in November last year, the Minister said:

“The Government is committed to securing investment into the automotive sector, which will play an important role in levelling up across the UK and driving down emissions to net zero by 2050.”

In the light of that, today’s intervention by Stellantis is extremely worrying. If the Government cannot get an agreement to keep the current rules until 2027, what assessment have they made of the effect that the 10% tariff will have on the UK car manufacturing industry?

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade) (jointly with the Cabinet Office)

The hon. Member’s premise is wrong. I can list all the investments that have taken place in the sector, including £100 million from Stellantis in Ellesmere Port. That is taking place because there is confidence in the UK and in the supply chains. There has been a £380 million investment in Halewood. We have £1 billion of investment in the north-east hub between Nissan and Envision. That is all investment in the UK. Bentley announced £2.5 billion of investment in 2022 to produce its first battery-electric vehicles by 2026, securing 4,000 jobs at its Crewe plant. None of that was in the hon. Member’s script as she stood up.

We are aware of the rules of origin issue and it is raised with the Automotive Council, of which I am a co-chair. As I said earlier, the FCDO leads on this issue, but my Secretary of State is in constant contact to ensure that we get the best deal we can.

Photo of Mick Whitley Mick Whitley Llafur, Birkenhead

Stellantis’ warning that it might be forced to close its UK factories will be greeted with dread by the large number of my constituents who work in the Vauxhall car plant in Ellesmere Port, where I myself was employed for many decades. The automotive sector now faces an existential threat as a result of the Government’s recklessness in setting such ambitious rules of origin targets, with no clear plan on how they would be delivered. With 800,000 jobs hanging in the balance, can the Minister confirm that the Government are prepared to sober up, get real, and work with the EU to revisit the rules of origin requirements in the trade and co-operation agreement?

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade) (jointly with the Cabinet Office)

Stellantis gave evidence to the Select Committee on a number of issues, and it seems peculiar that just one particular point has been raised, which has been in process for quite some time. The confidence that the hon. Member can give his constituents is that Stellantis has invested over £100 million in the UK—that is the confidence that employees have as well. A series of submissions were made to the Select Committee, and I am sure that the Chair, Darren Jones, will see a lot of activity on the website going forward. I read out the submission from Nissan expressing the confidence it has in the UK, as well as in us being able to deliver a huge amount of technological advancement in providing net zero vehicles. I ask Mick Whitley to read the submission in full, not just the snapshot that was in the news.

Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Chair, Finance Committee (Commons), Chair, Finance Committee (Commons)

As the Minister will be aware, Sunderland is home to Nissan—it is in my constituency—and there are thankfully already shovels in the ground for the Envision AESC’s battery gigafactory, but we need more than one gigafactory. The sustainability of other UK manufacturing operations is at massive risk, as we have heard today, because the Government are incapable of seeing through any strategy. They knew this day was coming. When will the Government renegotiate the trade and co-operation agreement?

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade) (jointly with the Cabinet Office)

The hon. Member is absolutely right: there is a fantastic project with Nissan and Envision that will support 6,200 jobs in that supply chain, with more than 900 new Nissan jobs and 750 new jobs at the Envision gigafactory. By 2025, that site will see a projected 100,000 battery electric vehicles produced each year by Nissan; it is the first in the UK at that scale. All the other programmes of investment that I explained, whether that is the automotive transformation fund or the Faraday battery challenge, are what we are using to attract further investment in the UK, especially in gigafactories. That is exactly what we are working on—it is what I am working on as the co-chair of the Automotive Council.

Photo of Nia Griffith Nia Griffith Shadow Minister (International Trade)

The transition to electric vehicles means not only new battery and engine factories, but significant investment in car component factories such as Gestamp in my constituency, which has developed lighter, tougher car body parts. Multinational companies such as Gestamp are currently making crucial decisions about where to site the production lines of the future, so with the US Inflation Reduction Act and the EU refining its response, what are the Government going to do to reduce energy costs both now and in the long term, to provide a coherent industrial vision and strategy, and real incentives for companies such as Gestamp to invest their new lines here in the UK?

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade) (jointly with the Cabinet Office)

Those are the exact conversations that we have been having for quite some time with manufacturers in the UK. Of course, IRA is not just a challenge for us, but a challenge internationally—the hon. Member has no doubt seen the response from Europe. We are also putting together a response collectively for all the manufacturers within the UK. It is important to note all the support we have given to energy-intensive industries, including the energy bill relief scheme, and now we have the supercharger coming down the line as well. Fundamentally, we also have the critical mineral refresh that is in the integrated review, which will provide further assurance that we can get hold of the basic goods—the critical minerals—that are needed to ensure that supply chains are reliable for manufacturers in the UK.

Photo of Matt Western Matt Western Shadow Minister (Education)

Never has an industrial strategy been more needed, and never have a Government been found more wanting. We have just 2.5 GW in production currently with Envision, and as Greg Clark said, it needs activism, but I am afraid the signals just are not there. As Chancellor, the Prime Minister gave a keynote speech to the automotive industry last May. He spoke for just one minute and 46 seconds, and the delegates were left feeling disrespected by his lack of commitment. Unfortunately, this does affect international corporates that are looking to invest, and between the US with its IRA and the investments in Europe—in Germany, France and Spain—we are in serious danger of losing out. As such, will the Minister please convene a cross-party meeting with the Automotive Council to discuss what the plan is to address this real crisis?

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade) (jointly with the Cabinet Office)

If Madam Deputy Speaker allows, I will be more than happy to go over the allowed one minute in my response, but I do not want to lose favour with her. The constant requests for the strategy are peculiar because I can tell Members exactly what we are doing. The Chancellor identified five key growth sectors for the UK, which of course include advanced manufacturing, and the Government have announced £500 million per year for a package of support for 20,000 research and development-intensive businesses. We have 12 new investment zones and we are saving £1 billion yearly by cutting red tape that is burdensome for big employers.

But the point is this: there are a number of challenges around supply chains. We are looking at that issue with the Automotive Council, and also through the integrated review and the critical minerals refresh. There was a challenge internationally when it came to energy costs; we had the EBRS and now we have the supercharger. I am the co-chair of the Automotive Council. I am sure that, if Matt Western wanted to attend, he could write to the co-chair and ensure there could be time for him to be there as well. That work is done collaboratively with all the automotive CEOs, CFOs and leading managers across the UK. I do not determine who comes to that meeting and represents the automotive sector; that is for them to decide.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

In the UK, we have the largest queue to connect to the grid of any country in Europe, which is affecting the car manufacturing industry, including when it sets up new plants. One manufacturer that wanted to put solar arrays on its plant was quoted 2031 for grid connection and a £9 million cost; another one was quoted 2037. That is clearly hindering our chances of securing a prosperous car industry in this country and attracting more investment. What conversations is the Minister having with her colleagues to ensure that grid connectivity is resolved?

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade) (jointly with the Cabinet Office)

I thank the hon. Member for that question, because it shows that we have to work across Whitehall. Access to the national grid is a major issue for any of the large manufacturers and of course, as their plans grow, they need to have greater access over a faster timetable than one would have previously thought National Grid would make available. Conversations are taking place, in particular with colleagues who were previously in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, who are now in the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and are leading that relationship with National Grid. The issue comes up regularly in the meetings that we have with the manufacturing sector, and my priority is to support the advanced manufacturing sector, so the hon. Member can be assured that I am campaigning incredibly hard to make sure that all our advanced manufacturing sites—present or planned—get access to energy at a timetable that suits the business, not just National Grid.

Photo of Dave Doogan Dave Doogan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence)

It is deeply unimpressive for the Minister to come along today and talk about jam tomorrow—investments in future exotic technology and the investments that industry is making in that scenario—when what we actually need is conventional traction battery manufacturing capacity in the UK now. I am invested in this because of the supply chain in Scotland and because the United Kingdom has done everything it can to avoid any of the automotive foreign direct investment coming to Scotland. What will the Minister do to address the emergency of a lack of manufacturing capacity in traction batteries now, not different types of batteries in the future?

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade) (jointly with the Cabinet Office)

It is not about jam tomorrow: it is about money committed previously and money committed today. The transition to zero-emission vehicles is being supported by up to £1 billion for R&D and capital investments in strategically important parts of the electric vehicle supply chain, building on the £1.9 billion in spending review 2020. The Government have committed £620 million to support the transition to electric vehicles—that is committed today; it is not jam tomorrow. I ask the hon. Member to read all the submissions to the Select Committee, and to respond to the positive comments that have been made about why businesses continue to see the UK as a great place to manufacture cars.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care)

If levelling up is to be more than just a slogan, we desperately need an industrial strategy that matches historical skills to new job opportunities. I want to impress on the Minister that, in 2002, Oldham Batteries in Denton closed for the last time. It made car batteries for a long time. It had been a company since 1894, but those skills are still there in Tameside. How do we match up future job opportunities that the green transport revolution brings to those skills that still exist in areas such as Denton and Tameside?

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade) (jointly with the Cabinet Office)

I am grateful for the hon. Member’s point. There is no doubt a huge amount of skills in his constituency and it is absolutely right that he is coming here to represent them today. I have spoken about the Faraday battery challenge, which is about using new technology to ensure that we are producing the best batteries with the longest lifecycle. Forgive me; he is absolutely right: I should have mentioned the national electrification skills framework. That project is being continued by the Faraday battery challenge. It looks at the skills needed today, tomorrow and even further going down the line to ensure that these jobs and opportunities are spread across the UK. If he would allow, I am more than happy to write to him and to make sure, if it does not already, that that part of the Faraday challenge covers his region, too.

Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Shadow Minister (International Trade)

As well as a viable automotive industry, the UK badly needs adequate road infrastructure to drive electric vehicles on. Do the Government recognise that demand for private and commercial electric vehicles is stalling in the UK because there is insufficient charging infrastructure, which makes buyers reluctant to make the move? Will the Minister raise that with Transport colleagues and commit to Labour’s policy of implementing mandated regional targets to ensure that all parts of the country get the charging infrastructure they so badly need?

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade) (jointly with the Cabinet Office)

As I mentioned earlier, I went with a delegation of car firms over to the Department for Transport, and I can see a Minister from that Department, my hon. Friend Mr Holden on the Front Bench. As I mentioned, it included Bentley, BMW, Ford, Jaguar Land Rover—I have to read them all out; they will complain if I miss them off—McLaren, Nissan, Stellantis, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen and Aston Martin. I think that is everybody. Infrastructure is absolutely key, and we are doing everything we can to put pressure on the Department for Transport as it works with its stakeholders to make sure that the roll-out of charging points, including fast charging points, is kept up to speed to make sure that buying an electric vehicle is as attractive as it can be.