Vince Cable begs US bosses not to shut UK car plant

More than 2,000 jobs at risk at Vauxhall factory

The Government has made a last-minute appeal to the car-maker GM not to close its Vauxhall plant in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, in an attempt to prevent the loss of the 2,100 jobs there.

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, returned yesterday from a flying visit to New York, where he pleaded with GM bosses to spare Ellesmere Port when the global car giant slims down its European operations shortly. His decision to travel to the US reflects his serious concern that the plant could be at risk.

UK industry analysts believe GM will combat over-capacity in Europe by axeing two plants – possibly one in Bochum, Germany, and another in either Spain or Britain, which leaves the Cheshire factory vulnerable. "We could be at the sharp end of it," one analyst said. A closure announcement would be damaging for the Government, es-pecially as it could be made around the time of the Budget on 21 March. Amid signs that the UK may escape a double-dip recession, George Osborne, the Chancellor, will set out measures to boost growth, including a credit easing scheme to provide loans to small and medium-sized firms.

Ministers would blame the ending of car production at Ellesmere Port on global factors beyond their control. GM has shed thousands of jobs in America and is now said to be ready to "bite the bullet" in Europe to stem losses on the Continent which rose to £468m last year.

But such a high-profile closure would be a huge setback for the Government as it tries to show that the country is finally emerging from the shadows of the downturn. As well as threatening the 2,100 jobs at the plant, others among suppliers would also be at risk. GM has dismissed fears about Ellesmere Port as "speculation." There is a legally-binding agreement with the trade unions to support production there until 2014, although that would not necessarily prevent a closure being announced this month, with car-making run down over the next two years.

Roger Maddison, national officer for the Unite trade union, said last night: "Ellesmere Port is the most efficient plant in GM's European family, and the UK is their biggest market. There is not one iota of business logic in closure and that is the case we will be making stridently to GM and their shareholders."

Mr Cable had what aides called "a very constructive meeting" in New York with Dan Akerson, GM's chairman and chief executive, and Steve Girsky, the group's vice-chairman. The company is bound to be lobbied by other European governments anxious to save their plants from the axe but Britain is the first to hold such talks.

The Business Secretary stressed the good performance levels of the UK car industry and the facilities and expertise Britain could offer such as research and development. He pointed out that other car-makers such as Ford, BMW, Jaguar Land Rover and Nissan had given the UK a vote of confidence and argued that the country offered a capability not seen elsewhere in Europe.

One source said: "Both Mr Girsky and Mr Akerson were engaged and receptive. They were pleased that Vince Cable had gone to New York to make the case to them in person. Vince Cable also made a strong case for them to make a long-term commitment to the UK as others are doing. Investments from the automotive sector in the UK have been worth over £4bn in the past 18 months alone."

A government source added: "They are going to take a hard-headed decision based on the facts and the bottom line."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...