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The hon. Gentleman had a military career before being elected and his experience will be useful to the House. He mentioned that his predecessor was independent-minded. I hope that he will be too and will eventually drift down to the Bench below the Gangway to sit next to the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), where truly independent-minded Members sit. I note that the Government Whip is looking rather nervous at the prospect.
As I said, it is rather disappointing that events earlier today may overshadow the importance of our debate. None the less, it is a particularly important debate. The Secretary of State said over and over as a mantra, "manufacturing matters". He tried to back up the fact that the Labour party and Government care about manufacturing by quoting from this morning's edition of The Sun. He sometimes quotes from that newspaper, but it is interesting that he decided not to quote from today's front page.
The Secretary of State made the point that the climate change levy is peanuts. He may think so, but that is not what the industry says. Car manufacturing in the United Kingdom is at a crucial point in its history. I have been in the Chamber for the past few hours--as we all have--so I do not know whether a decision has been made yet by the owners of Nissan. That decision is important: workers at the Nissan Sunderland plant may hear shortly that they have won a key contract, which would safeguard thousands of jobs. However, if members of the Nissan board have voted today that they will site the new Micra plant in France, that will mean huge job losses. That will affect not just the 4,900 workers in Sunderland, but everyone working in the ailing UK car industry. I do not share the Secretary of State's optimism.
We have already seen the closure of the Ford car manufacturing plant in Dagenham, which was announced only a few weeks ago. It seems almost certain that the Vauxhall plant at Luton will close. When the Secretary of State was asked in the Chamber whether he envisaged closure of the Luton plant, he could not answer. He gave a cry that is common among Ministers--"Not me, guv: not my responsibility"--and said that that would be a commercial decision. However, the climate that the Government are creating for car manufacturing is influencing those decisions.
Mr. Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North): I remind the hon. Gentleman that, earlier today, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that he was using his influence to try to persuade Vauxhall to keep its plant in Luton open. I certainly encourage my right hon. Friend in that.
It makes no sense at all to put companies in that position. Such an arrangement acts as a disincentive for firms such as Sony that want to play a real part in the community of nations which seeks to enhance our lives and those of future generations. The levy is a disincentive for those firms to invest in plant that minimises emissions of greenhouse gases.
The Secretary of State mentioned The Sun, which is of course a part of the Murdoch empire. However, he chose not to mention The Times although it is in the same stable, at Wapping. The Times has highlighted the fact that small businesses will be the biggest losers arising from the levy. It states:
for vehicle and component manufacturers as a result of the levy.
I welcome Toyota's decision to move Corolla production to Derby. However, when I asked the Secretary of State whether he would like to say something about the far-reaching strategic talks between Ford and Toyota, which could result in a major merger between them in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, he declined. A merger could have a traumatic effect on the car manufacturing industry not only in the United Kingdom but in other parts of the world. It was disappointing that, yet again, he simply said, "Not me, Guv; it's not my business. It's a commercial decision."
Mr. Miller: I appreciate the fact that the hon. Gentleman has recognised that there is a problem in the vehicle manufacturing industry throughout the world. Will he join me in firm criticism of the way in which General Motors has handled the situation in the UK?
Mr. Fabricant: Yes. General Motors will have made its commercial decision--now I am sounding like the Secretary of State--but the way in which it dealt with its staff showed a lack of finesse and of modern management practice. At least Ford at Dagenham discussed the issue with the staff before making its announcement. I know how the Vauxhall workers felt, because quite often I turn up at the House and hear about what the Government are doing because it has been announced on radio and television first. Those workers heard the news first on radio and television and were not consulted beforehand, and of course that is wrong.
The Government continue to say that they are not responsible for the state of manufacturing in the UK, but I refer them to the excellent British Chambers of Commerce website, which publishes a "burdens barometer". I will rattle through the list, but I promise to give Hansard a copy of the table.
The costs are as follows: trade union recognition, £15.2 million; ordinary maternity leave, £4.5 million; wider entitlement to additional maternity leave, £35 million; parental leave, £72 million; right to time off, £17.25 million; right to be accompanied in a dispute, £4.6 million; part-time workers directive, £29.4 million; national minimum wage, £674.5 million; stakeholder pensions, £200 million; working time directive, £7.65 billion; working families tax credit, £240 million; student loan repayment, £359 million; young people's time