Ministers were using the electric car battery maker Britishvolt as a prime example of the government’s record for “securing business investment in the UK” just months before the scheme collapsed without any public investment.
The company, once heralded as Britain’s potential champion for battery making, fell into administration last week after the failure of last-ditch talks to find emergency funding to keep it afloat. Its demise has been criticised as showing the government’s lack of industrial strategy, the shortcomings of “levelling up” and Britain’s failure to grasp new manufacturing opportunities in the wake of Brexit.
However, it has emerged that just last summer, ministers were still using Britishvolt as an example of the government’s ability to attract investment to the UK. In response to a request from a Tory MP for details of the government’s progress in securing investment, the then-business minister, Jane Hunt, claimed the government “has provided further support to attract significant investment in manufacturing, including delivering Britishvolt’s £1.7bn gigafactory in Blyth Valley, which will support 3,000 direct jobs and a further 5,000 across the supply chain.”
Senior Britishvolt executives are now to be quizzed as part of a parliamentary inquiry into the electric car battery industry. It had been trying to build a large facility near Blyth in Northumberland and had been promised government funds worth £100m, but the grant was dependent on finding private investors for the project.
Government officials met with the company on several occasions, but both the business department and the Treasury concluded its financial and managerial performance meant providing emergency support would not be a good use of public money. There have since been claims of mismanagement and profligate spending by the company, which senior figures have denied.
It is an embarrassment for the government, in a week in which it was