Group Lotus - Parliamentary Debate
24th April 2012
Speaking in the Parliamentary debate, George Freeman backs calls for the Prime Minister to put pressure on the Malaysian Government to ensure that DRB-HICOM permits the sale of Group Lotus only to a bidder who will provide credible guarantees for the future of the business in Norfolk. He highlights the importance of Lotus to the region and the local centre of excellence that has built up around it.
George Freeman (Mid Norfolk) (Con): I am grateful for this opportunity to speak. While Lotus is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr Bacon), it is only a mile over our shared boundary and many of the 1,200 employees and the affected families live in Mid Norfolk, particularly around Wymondham. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member on securing this debate and on setting out the arguments so clearly. I am keen to give the Minister as much time as possible to address the important issues, so I shall make just three simple points.
First, the presence of Lotus and its legacy has led to the creation in the area of a world-class cluster of engineering, manifested in both the world-class factory and the expertise around it, and in the Hethel engineering centre—a successful and now full incubator of successful start-up businesses, feeding off and around the centre of excellence around Lotus. A cluster of former Lotus employees, many of them successfully trading and innovating, often from small premises around the area, provide an important part of our local economy.
Secondly, the engineering cluster is central to the Norfolk economy and, indeed, the wider East Anglian innovation economy and to the wider rebalancing mission that I know is central to the mission of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Thirdly, these engineering and manufacturing skills are central to unlocking the full value of the wider innovation economy—in particular, the science we have on the Norwich research park in the form of biomedicine, agriculture and environmental science, and indeed, dare I say it, down the A11, in the innovation corridor in Cambridge. We have huge intellectual property skills in our area. In the past, we have sometimes been weaker in the ability to turn that intellectual property into products that we can sell. The skills in this cluster are central to developing and retaining that value within our Anglian economy.
I am sure I am speaking for other hon. Members across East Anglia, some of whom are in their places and some of whom are not, in urging the Minister to do all he can to ensure that the points raised by my hon. Friend are given all possible attention, and to bring as much pressure to bear as possible to keep this iconic and important business in the UK.