Driving a Growing Economy: Labour’s Plan for the Automotive Sector

Foreword by Jonathan Reynolds, Shadow Secretary of State for Business and Industrial Strategy:

The automotive industry represents the best of Britain.

It is our most valuable exported good, employs 800,000 people and adds £16 billion to our economy. In short it is the jewel in the crown of our manufacturing sector.

This is an industry full of history and heritage but also on the precipice of immense change. Our world is changing and our habits as consumers have to change with it.

As the world pivots to generating electric vehicles, the UK automotive industry should be poised to jump at that opportunity. But years of neglect under the Conservatives risk leaving the UK automotive industry being lapped by competitor countries.

The Government has adopted a curious mix of top down policies with no direction or support for industry to make that transition.

It had wanted to ban the sale of petrol cars, yet had failed to secure the battery making capacity needed to ensure electric cars are made in Britain. It says it backs British industry, yet it has failed to support it to meet the rules of origin requirements that risk cutting off export ability to our most profitable markets.

Worse still, the government has now rowed back on its promises to the sector, causing more uncertainty and upending billions of pounds of investment. The endless stop start of Government policy has left the British automotive industry stalled.

Labour will change that by offering policy certainty, investing for the benefit of British industry and empowering consumers to benefit from those changes.

Labour knows how important cars are – both for our economy and society.

Growing up in Sunderland, home of the Nissan factory, cars are in my blood. Many of the friends I went to school with still work in that factory today. I know what the automotive industry means to local economies – good work and wages.

But more than that, working families deserve the freedom and pride of having a reliable car in their driveway. Labour’s mission is to ensure electric cars, powered by cheap home-grown energy, don’t become the preserve of the wealthy. We believe everyone should feel the benefit of the transition to electric vehicles and cheaper running costs, be that the family car or the company van.

World class brands, an unrivalled collaboration between academia and industry, a diverse supply chain, and a highly skilled work force place the UK in a strong position in the global race for EV adoption.

This strategy sets out how a Labour government would make that potential a reality, seen in factories and pay packets across the country.

A Labour government would drive the automotive industry into the future by accelerating domestic battery making capacity, investing in gigafactories, and removing planning barriers to get shovels in the ground.

We will inspire consumer confidence and demand by fixing charging infrastructure and developing clear battery standards consumers can understand.

Importantly, we will seek to support businesses and consumers by working to reduce unnecessary red tape forced on them by the Conservatives’ botched Brexit deal. We will press the government to ensure British businesses aren’t harmed by the dangerous cliff-edge due to incoming rules of origin changes. At the same time, we will bolster our supply chain resilience and diversity and secure long-term research and development funding agreements for the automotive industry.

Labour’s plans will improve the competitiveness of the UK automotive sector which now faces the highest industrial energy costs in Europe. Our plans to provide clean energy by 2030 will see the industry benefit from cheap, reliable energy, and improved grid capacity.

At the same time, we will continue to invest in the industry’s greatest strength – its workforce. A Labour government will improve skills development, fixing the failed apprenticeship levy and create Skills England which will work hand in hand with industry and trade unions to ensure good jobs remain on our shores for decades to come.

Battery factories on our shores, reliable charging networks in every part of the country, secure supply chains, increased consumer demand and 80,000 more high skilled jobs.

This is a prospectus to meet Britain’s potential.

While the Conservatives fear the future, Labour will build a Britain that can look to the future with confidence. Placing British consumers, businesses, and workers in pole position to take advantage of the changes that are coming across the globe.