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18 Oct 2006 : Column 993

Mr. Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham, Perry Barr) (Lab): I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way, for dealing with manufacturing issues in the west midlands, and for recognising how key manufacturing is to our vital industries and the huge knowledge base that we possess. In order to continue to develop the different types of manufacturing, will she form a task force involving all the regional partners, including the trade unions? Given that her Parliamentary Private Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Kitty Ussher), is, like me, a member of Amicus, I am sure that my right hon. Friend will continue to work with the trade unions.

Margaret Hodge: We will certainly make every effort that we can, working through the existing task force. During my time in the west midlands I visited my hon. Friend’s constituency and opened Morsons, which is a new specialist aerospace engineering consultancy that will provide 200 high-quality engineering jobs.

BMW will make the engine for the Mini at Hamms Hall, in the constituency of the Solicitor-General. That is 250 jobs. When I was up in the west midlands, I announced the opening of a new nanotechnology centre, which will also make an important contribution to the area.

I feel optimistic about manufacturing. We have to get the policies right, make sure that we improve our productivity, and invest in research, development and innovation. We have to build on the strengths of the west midlands, which is at the heart of manufacturing industry. I also feel optimistic about the automotive industry. It gets such an undeserved bad press. We are producing more cars in the UK today than at any time through the ’80s. One has to look back to the ’70s. Production is about £1.6 million. [ Interruption. ] Sorry, I meant 1.6 million cars, not pounds.

A couple of weeks ago, the Chancellor launched the new Mini, which will have a British-made engine. The new Nissan is not only made in Britain, but designed and developed here too. Sales of the new Civic are so strong that Honda has announced a major expansion in Swindon, which will create 700 jobs. There are 2,600 companies active in the automotive components sector. They contribute £4.8 billion added value and employ 132,000 people. I have just come back from a tour to Japan, Korea and China. I talked to people at the Japanese car companies and they see the UK as the place of choice in which to invest to create cars for the European market. Our job is to encourage them to continue to do that.

18 Oct 2006 : Column 994

Of course, we regret the closure at Ryton and we wish that it had never happened. It is true that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South said, Peugeot is cutting jobs across the whole of its business: 2,300 in the UK, but 7,200 in France and 400 in Madrid. It did bring forward the closure—it kept us closely involved—in part because more people were choosing to leave earlier and production became more difficult. We have to look forward and work to ensure that all those without a job find one.

I have already heard a lot of good stories involving people who have found alternative employment. Chris Parker, who is 48, has found alternative employment within PSA Peugeot Citroen. That is an internal redeployment. A number of people are now working at Cummins, for example. I know that it is 30 or 40 miles away, but it is a good company that provides good industrial jobs. Danny Evans, aged 31, who had been with Peugeot for seven years, has moved there. Peter Millington, aged 46, who had been with Peugeot for 16 years, has also moved there.

There are 6,000 vacancies notified to the resource centre. I looked through the list and the quality of those job opportunities is striking. The list includes vacancies at BMW, Unipart, Perkins, and Hutchinson Ports. There are more than 100 vacancies at other PSA operations in the Coventry area, including at a new headquarters building in the Stoke area. The list also includes some vacancies in Dagenham, which everybody is welcome to. The engine centre is expanding its work.

I congratulate hon. Members and I will work with them and other stakeholders in the area to ensure that we put in place strong, continuing modern manufacturing that is sustainable over the longer term. I do not in any way underestimate the impact—the damage—that closures of this nature have not just on the work force, but on the local economy. We have worked closely with Peugeot and with the local partnership, which I commend, through the resource centre so that we can provide a quick response to support those who are affected. We will continue to work with the partnership to help all workers who require assistance in finding employment and we will continue to work with Peugeot and others as they develop their remaining business activities in the UK.

The motion having been made after Seven o'clock, and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at ten minutes to Eight o'clock.

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