‘No reason to fear’ Vauxhall job losses, Clark says

Greg ClarkImage copyright

Image caption

Greg Clark answers MPs questions in Parliament

The business secretary, Greg Clark, has told MPs that Vauxhall workers in Luton and Ellesmere Port have no reason to fear for their jobs.

His assurance came as he answered questions about the possible takeover of General Motors’ European operations, including Vauxhall, by the French PSA.

PSA owns both Peugeot and Citroen and its interest in buying the GM businesses was announced last week.

Mr Clark met the PSA board and French industry minister last Friday.

Speaking in the Commons, the business secretary said his French counterpart, Christophe Sirugue, had told him it was important that all Opel’s factories across Europe were treated fairly.

“We have a very strong domestic market and Vauxhall has a large share of that – something PSA recognises,” said Mr Clark.

“One of the points the PSA executives made to me was that since the new management of PSA has been in place, they have taken some pride in having part of their strategy not to close plants,” he added.

Meanwhile, Germany’s deputy economy minister, Matthias Machnig, said that GM and PSA were yet to give any binding guarantees on German jobs, but that there had been some encouraging signs.

‘Beacon of success’

Vauxhall employs abut 4,500 workers in the UK, making cars in Ellesmere Port and vans in Luton.

Mr Clark sidestepped a question about whether any sweeteners were on offer to ensure that the PSA Group – if it takes over the loss-making GM businesses in Europe – will maintain manufacturing in the UK.

Image copyright

Image caption

The Vauxhall Astra production line at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire

However, he said the UK car industry was very competitive, had a flexible workforce, and was investing in technology.

“The UK is a beacon of success in this, and other, industries,” Mr Clark said.

“From my initial conversations [with PSA and General Motors] I think it is understood that Vauxhall’s plants are very efficient,” he added.

Asked by Labour MP Pat McFadden about the future of the UK’s supply chain for the car industry, the minister hailed the UK’s competitive car parts sector.

“That makes it attractive to investors,” he said.

Mr Clark also told MPs that he had mentioned the importance of looking after current and former employees who are members of the Vauxhall pension scheme, which has a deficit of up to £1bn, according to the independent pension consultant John Ralfe.

Prime Minister Theresa May plans to meet Carlos Tavares, the PSA chief executive, but a time and date has not yet been fixed.

Two weeks ago GM reported a loss of $257m (£206m) during 2016 at its European operations.

It was the 16th consecutive loss-making year for GM in Europe, and brought its accumulated losses on the continent since 2000 to more than $15bn.

Last week GM revealed that a takeover of its European operations was among “numerous strategic initiatives” being considered.