Hansard Extract – 13 December 2000


Mr. Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield): I can tell my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friends in Luton and surrounding constituencies that, with Longbridge in my constituency, the people of the west midlands well understand what they will be going through and the anger that will be felt about the way that General Motors announced its decision. I imagine that they will take as dim a view of the cheap political point scoring that we saw from the Opposition spokesman, the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory), as they did over Rover where the official Opposition had nothing constructive to say.

The motor industry will remain a strategically important industry for this country and, if multinationals are making this sort of decision, we need to find ways of playing to our strengths. We must look at niche and medium-volume production, as we are doing successfully in Longbridge and look to an expansion of work in telematics, motor sport engineering and high performance engineering. Those are areas in which Britain already leads the world and we can do a lot more to build on and reinforce our motor industry, which is so strategically important to Britain.

Mr. Byers: My hon. Friend makes an important point about not neglecting the fact that there are areas of strength within the car industry in the UK–not only the niche markets to which he has referred, but companies such as Peugeot, which is doing well in Coventry, and Ford with Jaguar and with Land Rover in Solihull. There are some solid areas of car production in the UK. We need to build on those strengths.

My hon. Friend makes an important point about how we can develop beyond simple car production and manufacture to look at new areas and new techniques, genuinely playing to our strengths. There is real potential to do that, but there is little that the House can do today apart from reflect on the difficult situation that will be faced by thousands of hard-working people and their families in Luton and the surrounding communities. What the House must do, and what the Government certainly

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will do, is ensure that we are at their side through this difficult period. We will not walk away from the problem. We will not leave it just to the market. We will work with those people to provide them with new opportunities for the future.
That is an active role for Government to play. It is the right role for Government–not second guessing commercial decisions by multinational companies, but working with people who are affected by the changes that have to take place in a global economy.


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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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You can reach me by email at richard@richardburden.com or use the form on the Contact page to send me a message.