It is a pleasure to take part in a debate on a sector whose past, present and future lie at the heart of British manufacturing. I know that many of my colleagues and their constituents will understand the vital importance of this issue; I also know that several colleagues sadly cannot be here today because they are attending a conference on the industry at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre.
I am new to this brief, so, as Members would expect, I have been speaking to people in the industry—including representatives of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, who do an excellent job—and I have to say that their picture of the reality is somewhat different from the Minister’s. The Minister says that all is well in the world, everything is booming and everything is great. She has big numbers, and she speaks with great confidence and enthusiasm about a sector which, of course, we all cherish and want to build. The sector, however, is absolutely of one voice in crying out for certainty, clarity and a plan of action, as it has been doing for years. It provides hundreds of thousands of highly skilled jobs across the country, it brings pride to communities by putting them at the forefront of a world-leading sector, and its iconic British brands showcase the best of British innovation and craftsmanship on a global stage. It should, and could, be booming, but for the past 13 years we have had kid racers at the wheel. Industry is desperate for a plan, and I have heard that loud and clear. Motorists are crying out for direction, and jobs are at risk of being shipped overseas.