Last Updated: 21 February 2019
Created: 21 February 2019
The decision announced earlier this week by Honda has shocked and upset us all. My thoughts this week have been with those hardworking and loyal workers, many of whom are very close friends. I was particularly angry that they had to find out the news through the media on Monday, when Honda had planned to inform workers first on Tuesday morning.
Yesterday I joined my colleague Robert Buckland MP, Swindon Borough Council, the Secretary of State, Honda, the Trade Unions, representatives of the supply chains and many others, including the Society Motor Manufacturing Traders, the Research Councils, local colleges, the Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses, Business West, the Department for Education and the DWP; as we met for the first Task Force meeting.
Everybody sat round the table was absolutely united in the work that has to be done and there is full-cross party support for this going forward. It was agreed that the combined approach of all members of the Task Force would be to ‘hope for the best and prepare for the worst’. What was meant by this was to put emphasis on the 45 day period in which Honda have to consult with its workforce on the decision that has been made. Everyone was agreed that every effort should be made to try to convince Honda to either fully or in part, reconsider their decision, with both the Trade Unions and Government leading these conversations.
This will have three focuses –
1. Here in Swindon we have a highly skilled & loyal workforce
2. The excellent location of the Honda factory (near Heathrow with brilliant rail & road links).
3. The fact that the UK is rapidly becoming one of the leaders in electric motor technology.
Honda will already be aware of the first two points, but has perhaps overlooked the third. The Government has recently launched the Faraday Challenge - a £246m commitment over the next four years on battery development for the automotive electrification market opportunity. This is particularly important as it is estimated that 50% of vehicle production by 2030 will be electric or plug-in hybrid electric. The Government has rightly recognised that there will need to be completely different business models developed around how energy is stored and used. All of these factors will be used to try and convince Honda to stay.
However, we of course also have to prepare for the worst, in case they don’t reverse the decision based on the fact that they have more capacity for electrical production in Japan as well as the global changes to the car industry (which has led to a sharp decline of diesel vehicles and even petrol vehicles).
This is where lots of work will be done by all involved in the Task Force to present the brilliant economic case for Swindon (showcasing how we as a town have created 11,000 new jobs since 2010) with available employment land & a skilled work force, with cross-party support for inwards investment. Both Robert and I have already received a number of calls & emails from businesses and commercial property experts who are keen to reassure us that this is an extremely attractive site.
Another key aim initially is to identify and recognise all of those affected in the supply chain and ensure that they are involved in the process going forward.
This announcement has come as a massive blow to our town, but all sides are absolutely focused on supporting the fantastic Honda workforce to ensure their skills are retained; as well as ensuring that Swindon continues its strong record of attracting investment from advanced manufacturers, which will maintain and create highly-skilled jobs that offer fulfilling careers for many years to come.