Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Where did all those skills go?

Two years ago I stood outside the gates of Longbridge when 6,000 people lost their jobs and MG Rover folded. I was the Conservative Party Candidate and it was the eve of the general election. I had met many of the employees, many of whom were highly skilled engineers and designers.

Today car making has re-started at the plant and 130 people are employed there. Where did all those skills go? - mostly overseas or to work for non-British designers. Many of the less skilled workers still don't have proper jobs.

Before Rover folded I ranted about lack of support for British industry. At the time I was frustrated because the local police force had just bought a fleet of foreign produced Volvos. I believed that there was no excuse - British businesses should be able to develop and engineer products as well as our European competitors. If we weren't our government should be concerned about it.

Also today there is the story that we will be sourcing our next Aircraft Carriers from the French. At £3.9 billion, this is one of the largest capital purchases that Mr Brown will make and will involve much highly skilled work. Of course assembly jobs will be assured as this will take place in the neighbourhood of Mr Browns own constituency. But the loss of highly skilled work is a lost legacy.


Jack Yan said...

Excellent points, Ms Ford. In my European travels, Britain is one of the the only countries where I see foreign-made police cars. I note that double-decker buses these days are often Volvos. One does not go to Germany and see the Polizei with a Citro├źn, nor to France and see the gendarmes in a BMW. As a British subject but not a British citizen, the UK’s choices have always struck me as odd.

Vicky Ford said...

Dear Jack
Your post shows the wonderful power of the internet - sharing views from across the world. The issue here is also one of the complexities of European business regulation and the unlevel playing field that we often observe.