Last week, I had the privilege of holding a special debate in the House of Commons on the future of Jaguar Land Rover in Solihull.
This debate, which came immediately after the dramatic confidence vote in the Government, gave me the opportunity not just to make my case to Parliament, but to get a direct response from a minister.
I took the opportunity to do several things. First, I explained the huge and positive role that Jaguar Land Rover has played in Solihull over the years – a fact driven home to me at events such as the commemoration of the classic Land Rover Defender, or celebrating the firm’s birthday in the town centre.
Recent difficulties should not lead us to forget that the position of the UK car industry, and JLR in particular, is hugely strengthened compared to 2010, and it continues to employ tens of thousands of people and bring in billions of pounds of much-needed investment.
Second, I explained to my fellow MPs the real root causes of the current pressures on the company: a fall in demand in China, and a steep fall in diesel sales in the aftermath of the Volkswagen emissions scandal. This issue is too important to our town to be allowed to get misleadingly caught up in the wider debate over Brexit – although I am focused on securing an orderly exit from the EU.
Exposure to downturns in overseas markets is part of being an exporter, but I set out some sensible steps the Government could take to ease pressure on diesel sales.
As I pointed out to the minister, modern ‘clean diesel’ engines – such as those manufactured at Lode Lane – are just as clean as petrol alternatives and have a vital role to play in helping us make the long-term transition over to electric cars.
Only stable revenue streams will give companies such as JLR the confidence they need to make big investments in the new technology, machinery and skills that will be needed – and until a much more extensive system of charging points is ready, we must keep encouraging motorists to swap older, high-polluting cars for greener, modern models.
Originally published in the Solihull Mail, 24/01/19.