Articles about ‘Policy’
In PMQs today, I asked the Prime Minister to tell Melrose PLC she expects them to abide by the spirit and letter of the promises they made last year to back UK manufacturing, and not reduce GKN’s capacity as a defence contractor:
My press release today in response to announcement on future of the GKN Aerospace factory in Kings Norton:
CLOSURE OF GKN AEROSPACE KINGS NORTON A BREACH OF FAITH SAYS MP
Richard Burden MP has described as a “breach of faith” the announcement by GKN Aerospace that its Kings Norton factory in his constituency is to close with the loss of over 170 jobs. The factory produces high performance windscreens and windows for both civilian and military aircraft. The company says that the factory will be run down over the next two years with its work being transferred to “other GKN Aerospace sites or low cost areas”.
Last year the future of GKN was the subject of intense debate when Melrose Industries successfully mounted a hostile takeover bid for the company, prompting fears that it would undermine the UK’s manufacturing base in key areas such as aerospace and automotive. In response, Melrose made a series of undertakings to reassure the Takeover Panel of its commitment to UK manufacturing. In a letter to Rachel Reeves MP, Chair of the Commons Business Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee on 13th March 2018, Melrose Chief Executive, Simon Peckham said his company’s commitments included:
“Returning GKN to be a British Manufacturing powerhouse, competitive on the global stage”;
“Committed to innovation investing in skills, R&D, and productivity to support the Industrial Strategy”; and
“Working with suppliers and customers to boost Britain’s Industrial base and the wider economy” [See note 1]
Richard Burden said today:
“Barely a year has passed since Melrose were falling over themselves to tell everybody how committed they were to UK manufacturing, but their words ring hollow today. Not only do they want to close a UK plant which is a key part of the supply chain for the aviation industry but their warning that production could move to “low-cost areas” means they plan to shift this specialised work out of the UK altogether.
In the light of the legally-binding undertakings Melrose gave to him last year I will be asking the Business Secretary to make urgent approaches to GKN about its latest announcement.
Whether or not the closure of GKN Aerospace breaches the letter of those undertakings, it runs contrary to the impression that Melrose sought to give of its intentions at the time. It is a breach of faith with GKN employees, with my constituents and with UK manufacturing as a whole.”
- A letter from the Chief Executive of Melrose Industries to the Business, Energy and Industrial Select Committee regarding the takeover of GKN Aerospace can be found here.
- Richard Burden is MP for Birmingham Northfield. More information about Richard can be found on his website: http://richardburden.com/
Brexit continues to dominate Parliament. Regardless of your views on it, if you are confused by what is going on and frustrated with the seemingly unending Parliamentary wrangles, you are not alone. Many of us inside Parliament share those frustrations. In this update, therefore, I will try to explain the past week’s developments in as plain language as I can.
Last Week’s events
On Tuesday 12th March, MPs once again voted resoundingly to reject the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement, by 391 votes to 242. I was one of those MPs voting against. Despite all of the media attention given to the Northern Irish backstop issue (which you can read about here), this has never been the basis of my objection to the deal. I am more concerned with the fact that there are no guarantees about the kind of long-term relationship that the UK will have with the EU after the two-year transition period. If the Prime Minister’s deal goes through, we will potentially be faced with another two years of arguments about that future relationship.
Having again rejected May’s deal on Tuesday, Parliament then had to decide whether to leave the EU without a deal on 29th March or to give ourselves and the EU more time to find a way though the mess. On Wednesday 13th March, Parliament voted to reject a no deal Brexit, and this was also my view. Without a deal, customs checks would have to be put in place at channel ports, leading to damaging delays costing millions for companies like those in the automotive sector – which rely on just in time deliveries of components from mainland Europe to the UK and vice versa. The imposition of tariffs on goods traded between the EU and UK would also put up the price of many goods imported to the UK. Automotive companies and many others involved in manufacturing have warned how damaging a no deal Brexit would be. Given the importance of the manufacturing industry to the Midlands, that is a serious concern for jobs in our region. I spoke about the dangers of a No Deal Brexit in the House of Commons in January, and you can see my speech here.
On Thursday 14th March, the focus of debate moved on to how to secure the time needed to agree a way forward following Parliament’s rejection of no deal. This means extending Article 50 – the procedure though which Member states leave the EU. Britain triggered Article 50 two years ago with a deadline of 29th March 2019 for completing the process. Once Article 50 has been triggered, it can only be extended with the agreement of all 27 other EU Member States. Voting in favour of an extension was a sensible move to allow sufficient time to agree a realistic alternative way forward – for example by holding a series of indicative votes in Parliament to identify levels of support for different kinds of a Brexit deal from that recommended by the Prime Minister. Consideration could also be given to holding another referendum to break the log jam in Parliament and give the British people the final choice between any deal finally negotiated and remaining in the EU.
The Prime Minister’s Reaction
Unfortunately, in the past few days, and in contrast to what the Government had said last week, the Prime Minister has refused to request the kind of Article 50 extension that would be necessary to explore options such as these. Instead, she only appears interested in seeking an extension that would enable her once again to ask Parliament to vote for the kind of deal that has already been decisively rejected twice. It is simply not good enough and I believe Parliament must now insist on a different approach from the Government. Indeed, Theresa May’s attempts to keep presenting Parliament with a deal that has already been rejected could themselves be contrary to Parliamentary rules – something which the House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, himself reminded the Government about in recent days.
In any event, as I write this update, the Government has now written to the EU to request an extension to Article 50 until the end of June. In the coming days we will hear the response from the EU and there is little doubt in my mind that pressure will increase on the Prime Minister to change course.
I have been contacted by a large number of constituents who have deeply held views on all sides of the Brexit debate, often urging me to do completely different or opposite things. In those circumstances, I believe my duty is to act in accordance with what I genuinely believe is in the interests of my constituents and the country as a whole. It is not surprising that an issue of such significance to the future of our country arouses such passion on all sides of the argument. Whatever our individual viewpoints, however, I believe it is vital that discussions about what the UK should do from here should be conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect for differing positions – whether those discussions take place in the House of Commons, in the pub or on social media. All of us have a duty to remember that, however the arguments now going on are finally resolved, it is in all our interests to remain focused on bring the country together. After all, we all have a stake in our country’s future.