The loss of Honda’s Swindon plant is a bitter blow to the automotive sector in the UK and devastating for the 3,500 people who work there.
Representing the area of Longbridge, I know the impact that closure of car plant has on families whose livelihoods depend on it. The reasons for Honda’s decision today are very different to MG Rover back in 2005, but the affected families will today be feeling the very same fear for their futures as those who were affected by the MG Rover closure almost 14 years ago. Those individuals and families should be at the centre of our thoughts today. A range of practical initiatives were taken at the time of the MG Rover collapse to support both employees facing redundancy and other companies affected by the closure. The Government must look at what can be learned from those initiatives for Swindon today.
As with other recent announcements of the loss of a new model at Nissan in Sunderland and job losses at Ford and Jaguar Land Rover, Honda’s decision cannot be simply put down to Brexit. But it is clear that Brexit is an important part of the background in which these decisions are being made.
With a committed workforce, excellence in innovation and a stable operating environment, the UK has built up a deserved reputation as a great place for automotive companies to invest and as a gateway to the European market. It is that reputation that has made Swindon the home of the Honda Civic, but it is a reputation now under threat.
Decisions to accelerate development of electric and other powertrains beyond petrol and diesel are leading Honda and other manufacturers to review their operations worldwide. When they do so, they make judgements about where to do business. The harsh reality is that Brexit uncertainties are undermining confidence in the UK as the stable gateway to Europe that we have been until now. The looming possibility of Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal on 29th March is adding an even more serious dimension to that uncertainty.
Brexit is hitting UK manufacturing and it is hitting it hard. It all underlines why whatever else happens in the coming weeks, the Government must rule out a no-deal Brexit.
Where we are now
In the Birmingham Mail in December, I set out my thoughts on the issues facing the country. I tried to address the real possibility that if Parliament remained unable to agree a way forward – there may be little alternative but to put the choices facing the UK back to the people for a final decision. So what has happened since then? The Brexit deal that Theresa May recommended was, of course, rejected by Parliament earlier this month by 432 votes to 202 – the biggest defeat in history for a sitting Prime Minister. It was a deal that was neither acceptable to the majority of MPs who had backed Brexit in the referendum nor to those who had voted to Remain at that time.
This week, Parliament again debated the issue. Read more
Today, I was among the MPs from different parties across the House of Commons who argued for Government to intervene over the hostile bid by Melrose for GKN. GKN is one of Britain’s oldest and largest engineering companies making automotive and aerospace components. GKN Aerospace’s Kings Norton plant in my Birmingham Northfield constituency specialises in aircraft windscreens.
I am extremely concerned that the hostile bid that has been put to the shareholders of GKN by Melrose would be bad for the UK’s aerospace and automotive sectors and bad for employees of GKN. In my speech to the House of Commons today, I explained my reasons for taking this view
Richard Burden, MP for Birmingham Northfield, has today been awarded a parliamentarian road safety award by charity Brake and Direct Line.
The award recognises Richard’s long-standing involvement in transport and his commitment to road safety, particularly during his time as Shadow Transport Minister between 2013 and 2017. Richard has established himself as a strong supporter of the transport safety agenda across the years; promoting new vehicle technologies and calling for tougher law enforcement and sentencing.
As MP for a vehicle manufacturing heartland, Richard Burden has strong connections to vehicle development, and has consistently urged the industry to develop safe, sustainable and fair practices. Safe vehicles are a vital part of the safe systems agenda that works towards a future with zero deaths and serious injuries on our roads.
Jason Wakeford, Director of Campaigns for Brake, the road safety charity, said: “Richard is a worthy winner of this parliamentarian road safety award. Improved vehicle safety standards are vital to reducing needless deaths and serious injuries on the road. His tireless work to raise the safety bar of new vehicles is to be applauded, alongside his numerous achievements in his four years as Shadow Transport Minister.”
Accepting his award, Richard Burden MP said: “I want to thank Brake and Direct Line for selecting me for a parliamentary road safety award which I feel honoured to receive. Progress in vehicle design and the rapid technological advancement in intelligent, connected and automated control systems have real potential to help make our roads safer. Together with action to promote best practice in road design, road user education and more effective enforcement of regulations, they can and do save lives.
“Much has been achieved but every person killed or injured on our roads is one too many. That should remind us all of our continuing responsibility to identify what more we can do to make the vision of zero deaths and serious injuries on our roads a reality. I pay tribute to Brake and Direct Line for the work they do make our roads safer and to promote awareness amongst road users.”
I have received a huge number of emails and letters about Brexit in recent weeks and months. I wanted to share with you all the response I have sent out to constituents on Brexit and the way forward.
As you may be aware in the weeks after the referendum, I wrote an initial response to the defining and far reaching challenges Brexit brings for our country. If you have not a chance to read it, much of it still hold true, and I would encourage you to read it: http://richardburden.com/2016/06/my-thoughts-on-brexit-and-our-future.
In the months since, I have done my best to attend the debates and opportunities to scrutinise the Government’s work on prospectively leaving the EU in Parliament. You can find the latest updates on Parliament’s scrutiny of Brexit here: http://www.parliament.uk/eu-referendum.
You may also be interested to know the House of Commons Brexit Committee has recently been established, under the Chairmanship of former Shadow Foreign Secretary, Hillary Benn MP, which will review Government policy closely to ensure British interests and our regions are best protected. You can track its work here: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/exiting-the-european-union-committee/.
Returning to the work I have done here are a few updates I hope you find interesting: Read more