HC Deb 02 November 2000 vol 355 cc825-6
6. Mr. John M. Taylor (Solihull)

If he will make a statement about his discussions with Ford on their plans for the future of Land Rover. [133892]

The Minister for Competitiveness (Mr. Alan Johnson)

We have regular discussions with Ford covering the whole range of its activities in the UK, including Land Rover. As a result of these discussions, I am confident that Land Rover will continue to build on its existing worldwide reputation, and that it is well positioned to achieve new record levels of production and sales.

The recently announced £130 million investment in the Freelander model is a strong demonstration of Ford's commitment to the brand and to the Solihull plant.

Mr. Taylor

I thank the Minister for that reply. Does he accept that many people in Solihull think that entering the Ford family may be the best thing that could have happened to Land Rover? I draw to the hon. Gentleman's attention Land Rover's training plans—which involve visits to Ford, Volvo and Jaguar sites for about 2,000 members of the work force and are aimed at improving quality and production—and its interesting proposals to give the work force personal off-road driving experience. I invite the Minister to join me in congratulating the company.

Mr. Johnson

I am happy to join the hon. Gentleman in congratulating Ford on that initiative.

Mr. Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield)

My hon. Friend will be aware that Land Rover is supplied with engines by the Powertrain plant at Longbridge, which also supplies engines to MG Rover, and that that plant remains owned by BMW, which has indicated that it may wish to sell it. In the light of what happened earlier this year, will my hon. Friend join me in saying to BMW that as it makes decisions about the future of the Powertrain plant which supplies engines to Land Rover, it should bear in mind the long-term interests of the west midlands and manufacturing industry, and should show that, unlike the Conservative party, it has an interest in the long-term future of the west midlands?

Mr. Johnson

Powertrain indeed provides engines to the Solihull plant. I am happy to confirm the Government's agreement with my hon. Friend that we should seek to keep in the UK as many of those manufacturing jobs as possible. We will watch carefully the situation that he describes.