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
In Birmingham Northfield
Police and crime meeting
Last week I held a meeting on crime and policing in response to residents’ concerns in the Frankley and Great Park area of Longbridge. The meeting was well attended by local people and we were joined by West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson as well as the Longbridge Neighbourhood Police Team. Thank you to all those who attended and shared their views.
There were a number of useful ideas that came out of the meeting about initiatives we can take locally – including encouraging more people to get involved with Longbridge Neighbourhood Watch. We also discussed how local Streetwatch initiatives can help keep communities safe (see more on that here.) Police Community Support Officers can help local people who may be interested in setting up a Streetwatch in their neighbourhood, so please email me if you are interested.
Understandably, there was also a great deal of anger expressed by residents who came along to the meeting Read more
It was a privilege this week to add my name to the Holocaust Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust UK. It is important to commemorate those who died, but it is also important that we pay tribute to extraordinary individuals who survived and whose testimonies we must never forget.
Last week, I held a meeting on crime and policing in response to resident concerns in Frankley and Great Park. Thanks to everyone who joined West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson and the Longbridge Neighbourhood Police Team and for letting us know your views. Thanks also to B31 Voices for live-reporting from the meeting.
Some useful ideas came out of the meeting about initiatives we can take locally – including encouraging more people to get involved with Longbridge Neighbourhood Watch. We also discussed how local Streetwatch initiatives can help keep communities safe (see more here – https://www.west-midlands.police.uk/get-involved). Police Community Support Officers can help local people who may be interested in setting up a Streetchwatch in their neighbourhood so please email me if you are interested.
It is also vital, however, that our Police get the resources they need to do their job. This is what I said at the meeting about the impact of cuts and cash shortfall facing West Midlands Police. Along with other Labour MPs I will continue to press the Government to give West Midlands Police a fairer funding deal.
Here is a video to give you a sense of what I said and what was discussed at the meeting –