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

Recruitment Genius: Client Services Assistant

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Services Assistant is ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Senior Sales Broker - OTE £100,000

£20000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportuni...

Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Duty Manager is required to join one of the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Leader

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Team Leader is required to join one of the l...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor