The owners of GKN Aerospace have been accused of breaking a promise to protect manufacturing in the UK, after announcing the closure of a plant in Birmingham.

A site at Kings Norton is to be run down over the next two years and closed altogether in 2021, with the loss of over 170 jobs.

And Birmingham MP Richard Burden (Lab Northfield) claimed new owners Melrose Industries were breaking promises they made last year, when they successfully carried out a hostile takeover of GKN.

He urged the Government to join local MPs “in saying that Melrose and GKN should think again.”

But Business Minister Andrew Stephenson made it clear that intervention was unlikely.

He said: “The decision is the result of an internal strategic review by GKN to invest in high-value technology- driven production. That same review proposes to invest more in other UK sites.”

And he promised: “We will continue to work closely with the company, the unions, the local enterprise partnership, the Mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority, Andy Street, and councils to help with this effort and ensure that each and every worker is fully supported in finding new work.”

The fate of the Birmingham site was the subject of a House of Commons debate led by Mr Burden.

GKN, in Kings Norton
GKN, in Kings Norton

He pointed out that Melrose’s chief executive, Simon Peckham, wrote in March last year to the Chair of the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee promising the firm was committed to making GKN “a British manufacturing powerhouse”.

But just a year later, the closure of the Kings Norton site was announced.

Melrose is guilty of “a breach of faith”, said Mr Burden.

 

And he said the closure of the site had implications for the UK’s defence, because it produces windscreens and windows for both military and civilian aircraft.

Mr Burden said: “The first that employees at GKN Aerospace in Kings Norton knew of the company’s plans to close their plant was when they were told on 5 April 2019. That is simply not good enough, and it is a breach of faith with what Melrose said last year.

“If the company believes there is a profitability issue at Kings Norton, should not Ministers be telling it that the spirit of the undertakings given last year means that it should first discuss the situation, and the options for the future, with the trade unions representing employees before decisions are made, rather than simply informing them afterwards?”

Coventry South MP Jim Cunningham said the total number of jobs lost would be higher than the 170 employed by GKN Aerospace.

He said: “We actually have to multiply that by two or three because of the supply chain.”

 

Melrose highlighted a letter from Chief Executive Simon Peckham to the House of Commons Business Committee, in which he said that since the takeover GKN had invested £32 million at a technology centre in Filton, Gloucestershire; £12 million at sites in Portsmouth and Luton, and £75 million in technology.

He said: “The last 12 months has included a detailed analysis of GKN Aerospace by its management team.

“That also made it clear that, regrettably, the Kings Norton site does not have a sustainable future due to its cost structure and its commoditized and highly price competitive global market.”