The future of automotive in the next parliament: party conference round-up

10 October 2014 #SMMT News

As party conference season comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on what politicians’ plans are for the automotive industry ahead of next year’s General Election.

SMMT hosted roundtable events for all three major parties, to discuss how they would tackle the key issues facing the industry, and to address SMMT’s five manifesto priorities for the 2015 election:

  • Commitment to long-term industrial strategy.
  • Creating the right conditions for investment.
  • Positioning the UK as a global leader on innovation.
  • Supporting ultra-low emission vehicles and a strong, sustainable vehicle market.
  • Maintaining a strong UK voice in Europe.

One thing common to all three key parties was recognition that continued support and long-term strategy are essential for continued success. Each party stated its intentions to continue current automotive policies and initiatives, for instance partnerships with government such as the Automotive Council. In fact all three parties praised the success of the automotive industry’s collaboration with government, and stressed the importance of this continuing in the future.

Similarly, there was cross-party commitment to ensuring that the UK business environment remained competitive and attractive to investors. Iain Wright, Shadow Industry Minister, discussed that a more streamlined landscape could help achieve this, whereas John Hayes, Conservative Transport Minister, suggested the necessity to keep business costs low. Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Dr Vince Cable (Liberal Democrats) explained that a reform of business rates would encourage higher levels of investment to the sector.

There was consensus amongst ministers that the main challenges facing the automotive sector are improving and growing the UK supply chain, as well as ensuring a sustainable supply of skilled workers is available. However, fixed plans on how this could be achieved are yet to be announced.

With the industry in a period of growth, ensuring stability in terms of policy and support are essential in order to continue this trend. As the Prime Minister said himself, “the car industry is booming”, and following this year’s party conferences we can be optimistic that politicians are eager to keep it that way.

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