Vince Cable begs US bosses not to shut UK car plant
More than 2,000 jobs at risk at Vauxhall factory
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Friday 02 March 2012
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."
- 1 Paris attacks: Do not call Charlie Hebdo killers 'terrorists', BBC says
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 5 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
Paris attacks: Do not call Charlie Hebdo killers 'terrorists', BBC says
Rowan Atkinson to sell £10 million McLaren 'supercar' he crashed into a tree and a lamppost
UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Howard 'Mr Nice' Marks reveals he has inoperable cancer: 'I've had an incredible life'
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
£28000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This business IT support compan...
£33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company mission is to be th...
£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Software Tester is required t...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: The Company sells mobile video advertising sol...