Vauxhall: Business Secretary hopeful over car plant future

Vauxhall: Business Secretary hopeful over car plant future

The Business Secretary has said he is “hopeful we can reach a satisfactory conclusion” over the fate of Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port plant.

Kwasi Kwarteng told the Commons a number of meetings had taken place with Vauxhall’s parent company, Stellantis.

More than 1,000 people work at the Cheshire site – with many more in the supply chain.

The government is “100% committed to making sure those jobs stay”, Mr Kwarteng said.

Stellantis has been in talks with the government for weeks about the plant, which makes the Astra car.

Responding to an urgent question brought by former Business Secretary Greg Clark, Mr Kwarteng said he had also held a meeting with the Unite union boss Len McCluskey.

Speculation over the future of the site and its workers has been mounting since the merger of PSA and Fiat-Chrysler created a new automotive superpower.

It is thought Stellantis is seeking financial incentives to make a fully electric car at the factory. But there are fears Stellantis may close it entirely.

Stellantis bosses have also voiced concerns about the UK’s decision to bring forward a ban on new petrol and diesel cars to 2030. Its boss Carlos Tavares recently referred to the decision as “brutal” and said it might make more sense to move future electric production closer to its biggest market in the European Union (EU).

Mr Kwarteng said on Monday that he wanted to see a “successful renewed commitment” to Ellesmere Port from the company, in the way that it committed to investment at its site in Luton, where it makes vans.

Throughout the session in the Commons, a number of MPs expressed concerns over the speed of the development, and investment in, battery manufacturing sites in the UK, compared to other countries.

Greg Clark, Conservative MP for Tunbridge Wells, told the Business Secretary: “A laissez-faire approach won’t do it, neither will just general encouragement”.

He added that it requires “sleeves rolled up, and concrete action to be taken now between government and industry, just as was the case with vaccines”.

Lucy Powell, shadow minister for business, said the future of Ellesmere Port was in the government’s hands and that it would be a “tragedy” if it closed.

She argued the UK needed a world-leading gigafactory to make electric car batteries, adding: “It’s no wonder that international companies like Stellantis are looking at their long-term investments and wanting more from the government.”

Mr Kwarteng said the government was “100% committed” to having UK-based gigafactories and that conversations were taking place with local communities and leaders across the country on where they should be based.

He also pointed to the previously-announced £500m support package for the electrification of vehicles and their supply chains over the next four years.

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