Jesse Norman, MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire and Secretary of State for Transport, delivered a spirited defence of the government's handling of the UK's automotive industry (July 12).

He countered the gloomy predictions of Jonathan Reynolds, the Shadow Secretary of State for Business and Industrial Strategy, who moved a motion lamenting the perceived neglect of the industry by the Conservatives and calling for urgent action.

Mr Norman pointed out recent positive developments as evidence of the industry's resilience, referencing new investments from Geely and Renault in engine technologies, and Tesla's plans to become an electricity supplier. These announcements, he argued, painted a very different picture of an industry "dealing brilliantly with the challenges and changes to its own circumstances."

Mr Reynolds had opened the debate with an impassioned speech drawing on his personal connection to Sunderland, a city renowned for its automotive production. He raised concerns about the health of the UK's car industry, which he believed should be booming, and raised alarm over what he termed a series of major policy failures, from domestic battery production facilities to trade barriers post-Brexit and higher energy costs.

Jesse Norman, in his response, did not shy away from making light-hearted references to Mr Reynold's nostalgia for the 1990s, and his recent resemblance to King George V. However, he was quick to challenge the pessimistic outlook presented by Mr Reynolds and other members of the opposition, stating that it had been a "bad day" for such a debate given the positive news within the industry.

Throughout the debate, Mr Norman also faced interruptions and interventions from various MPs, including Sarah Owen, Opposition Whip, who criticised Mr Norman for implying she had not contributed a speech to the debate. Mr Norman clarified his stance, stating he intended to address the speeches made before entertaining interventions.

Towards the end of the debate, Sarah Owen questioned the government's optimism in the face of potential tariffs on passenger cars and vans, describing the situation as a "cliff edge" for the manufacturing industry. Mr Norman dismissed these concerns as premature, explaining that negotiations with European partners were ongoing.

The debate culminated in the motion being agreed upon, reflecting the House's recognition of the automotive industry as a jewel of British manufacturing, and its concern over the industry's future due to what it viewed as Conservative neglect and lack of industrial strategy.