BUSINESS Secretary Lord Mandelson yesterday refused to give any guarantees to keep open the GM Luton and Ellesmere Port car plants and prevent mass sackings – despite claiming that he was ‘standing by’ the workforces.
Mandelson told the Labour Party conference in Brighton that he had re-joined the government because he felt ‘the pull of coming back to serve my country’, when it was caught in the midst of ‘the global whirlwind that had hit us’.
Mandelson said Gordon Brown was the only world leader who had been prepared to ‘grip’ this financial crisis, ‘leading the fightback against it’, when so many other leaders ‘seemed to be caught in the headlights of this world crisis’.
However, he had stated at the weekend that he would be prepared to serve ‘my country’ in some capacity under a Tory government.
He continued to claim, ‘Our car scrappage scheme has been so successful the money is running out. . .
I am extending our popular car scrappage scheme, extending it with extra money for an additional 100,000 cars and vans.’
He continued: ‘In support of our car industry too, this government will stand behind Vauxhall workers at Ellesmere Port and Luton, where the workforce themselves have been the main driver of change.
‘And conference, the same goes for Jaguar Land Rover too.’
About the Tories economic policy he continued, ‘I would ask Ken Clarke but his mobile phone and blackberry always seem to be turned off. Or given that he keeps privately agreeing with me, perhaps David Cameron has cut it off.’
Earlier in the same debate about the economy, Unite joint general secretary, Derek Simpson, pleaded at the Labour conference for some form of ‘manufacturing base’.
‘We can’t just exist on the financial sector,’ he said.
He said the British government should learn ‘more of a lesson from decisions that the German politicians are taking. . . We should follow that example.’
Simpson added: ‘Vauxhall Motors has a shadow hanging over it, a plant is being shut by Jaguar in the Midlands, Luton vans is also under threat.’
He added he didn’t want to bring down Gordon Brown but ‘bring more of a connection with our members.’
Delegate from Luton North CLP, Rachel Hopkins said: ‘Vauxhall and Luton have been synonymous for a century and we want that to be the same for the next 100 years too.’
She added: ‘At its peak GM in Luton and Dunstable employed over 40,000 people, but the remaining plant is still a vital part of our economy, not just Luton’s economy, but Britain’s economy.
‘A new vehicle will need to be introduced for production after 2013,’ she added, praising a ‘superb workforce’ which has made sacrifices to ‘maximise efficiency and keep the plant productive’.
Good relations with local management existed, she added, and pointed to Richard Clifton, mid-Beds CLP delegate at the Labour conference and convenor at the Luton plant.
She said he had received support in Brighton ‘from Gordon Brown, Harriet Harman, other union general secretaries and local MPs who had signed his T-shirt. She called on Mandelson and Pat McFadden to sign his T-shirt too.
She called for Mandelson to help ensure ‘fair play’ over any future job losses.