Ford failed to mention its plans to close its Southampton plant in a string of meetings with ministers, it has been revealed.
The Government even had a designated minister to liaise with the company – who said he was “disappointed” not to have been told.
Since May 2010, 13 meetings have taken place, Business and Enterprise Minister Michael Fallon confirmed.
But despite the Government’s promise of an “open door” policy, there was no warning of the bombshell closure of the Swaythling plant and the loss of 500 jobs. A week earlier, the Government had given Ford a multi-million-pound grant to create jobs in Essex.
Southampton Itchen MP John Denham, whose parliamentary question revealed the meetings, condemned the company for “keeping ministers in the dark”.
Mr Fallon, the former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, was designated the Government’s “contact minister”
for Ford following the Cabinet reshuffle in September.
Responding to Mr Denham’s question, he said: “Ford is a significant investor in the UK, and the company is fully aware that ministers have an open door to discuss their UK operations, including engaging, at an early stage in the decision-making process, on any help or support we might be able to provide.
“Although we understand that Ford made their decision based on a thorough analysis of their commercial operations in Europe, we are of course disappointed that on this occasion they chose not to engage with us before making their announcement.”
Two meetings were with Mr Fallon, five were with Business Secretary Vince Cable, five were with former Business Minister Mark Prisk and one with another minister from the department, David Willetts.
Mr Denham said: “It looks like ministers have been kept in the dark. They’ve had 13 meetings in just over two years, yet not a mention from Ford about their move out of Southampton.”
Ford’s meetings with ministers:
July 12, 2010 Mark Prisk
July 22, 2010 Vince Cable
Sept 8, 2010 Mark Prisk
Sept 27, 2010 Vince Cable
Sept 30, 2010 Mark Prisk
June 13, 2011 Vince Cable
June 21, 2011 Vince Cable
Sept 14, 2011 Mark Prisk
Nov 9, 2011 Vince Cable
Feb 1, 2012 David Willetts
March 1, 2012 Mark Prisk
Sept 5, 2012 Michael Fallon
Sept 25/26, 2012 Michael Fallon