HC Deb 11 July 2002 vol 388 cc1021-2
2. Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

What action she is taking to support the automotive industry. [66367]

The Minister for Employment Relations, Industry and the Regions (Alan Johnson)

Recently my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced a package of £45 million for the automotive sector to include an automotive academy, two centres of automotive excellence, and support for cross-regional supply chains as a first step to implementing the recommendations of the automotive innovation and growth team. In 2001 the Department delivered regional selective assistance and training grant offers totalling £35 million. The Department also spent about £2 million last year on various other projects to promote competitiveness and productivity improvements in the sector. The Department is continuing to support process improvements through the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders industry forum and research and development through the foresight vehicle programme, with commitments to date exceeding £13 million.

Lynne Jones

My hon. Friend is aware that the livelihoods of many families in the west midlands depend on the success of the automotive industry. I welcome the setting up of the innovation and growth team and its report. My hon. Friend has given us some details of the action taken by the Government. What is he doing specifically to assist the components sector, which faces difficulties as a result of increased outsourcing from the eurozone?

Alan Johnson

My hon. Friend raises an important point. We have 17 of the world's top 20 tier 1 component manufacturers located in the UK. The recommendation of the innovation and growth team specifically dealt with that in its work on the supply chain. My hon. Friend knows that we had a project in the west midlands called "Accelerate", which we are spreading across the country, in accordance with the recommendation from Sir Ian Gibson and his team. That focuses on the supply chain, and component manufacturers in particular.

Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)

How does the Minister think it will help the automotive industry for the DTI's recommendation that in the end-of-life vehicle directive, responsibility for the final disposal will rest with the final owner? Does he think that people who have bought a cheap car will accept that responsibility at the end of its life, or does he anticipate that we will have an increasing number of abandoned cars, which already cost us £400 million a year? Does he not believe that that will reflect badly on the automotive industry? We need a system that will ensure that vehicles are disposed of safely and quickly.

Alan Johnson

The issue to which the hon. Gentleman refers is still under consideration in Europe. As regards helping the industry, we have been instrumental in removing the block exemption scheme and in particular the location ban clause, which will allow retailers in this country to offer consumers better value in terms of new car sales. That, in turn, will help the automotive industry.