Urgent Question: The Ford Factory in Bridgend
Will the Cabinet Secretary update members on steps being taken by the Welsh Government to safeguard the future of the Ford factory in Bridgend?
The Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure
The First Minister and I have met senior management from Ford Bridgend and Ford Europe to discuss the issue. We remain in contact with management, the workforce and trade unions.
Can I thank the Cabinet Secretary for his answer? The Cabinet Secretary perhaps may not be aware of breaking news that union leaders are now so concerned for the future that they have given Ford a fortnight to come up with an alternative plan. So, there remains, of course, serious concern amongst the plant’s 1,850 workers over what the future holds. It seems that there’s been little sign of progress. That’s the position as it stands today.
Can I seek perhaps some assurances from the Government that you’ve looked at every opportunity, explored particularly the long-term future of how you can support the factory in Bridgend and also that any developments are properly communicated to the workforce and your involvement in that?
Further to that, I wonder if you could answer what discussions the Government has had about alternative opportunities for the plant, in particular given the fact that the Ford plant in Dagenham is now at full capacity, building diesel engines. What discussions have been initiated with Ford about the prospect of bringing their production of electric engines to Bridgend?
And finally, previous investment by Ford has attracted £15 million of investment by Welsh Government. What intention does the Government have to incentivise future opportunities for production at the Bridgend plant?
I’d like to thank Russell George for his questions and also his breaking news, which I can provide a further update on. [Laughter.] The Senedd would wish to be aware that the general secretary of Unite the Union, Len McCluskey, along with the general secretary of Unite the Union Wales, Andy Richards, have today visited Ford Bridgend. They spoke with senior shop stewards and then went on to discuss issues with senior Ford management. Discussions centred on the competitive nature of the plant and all concerned agreed to continue to strive to make the plant as competitive as possible when compared to its European counterparts. Len McCluskey asked for data from Ford concerning the manufacturing cycle of the plant. He also asked for other competitive sites’ information and reassurances from Ford regarding its long-term future for the Bridgend plant. I’m pleased to say that Ford have agreed to this request and will pass the information on to the general secretary prior to a mass briefing back at the plant on 1 March. I do need to reiterate the point that we will continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure the future of the site, including the introduction of the Dragon engine, and I’ll use all assets available to me to assist the company and to identify new business.
I must also pay tribute to the local Assembly Members who have been fully and consistently committed to the site, including the Member for Bridgend, Carwyn Jones, and the Member for Ogmore, Huw Irranca-Davies. We are keen to see the site thrive and prosper. I think there are certainly opportunities insofar as petrol engine development is concerned. We know from the Volkswagen scandal that there has been a significant dip in demand for diesel engines and, therefore, a rise in petrol engines. But we also know that there is an increasing demand for electric engines and we are keen to work with Ford to identify what opportunities in that new and emerging area of technology can be utilised for Ford Bridgend.