Britain says GM given no special deal over Astra
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain said it had not offered General Motors any special treatment to persuade it to build the next generation of its Astra compact in England rather than Germany.
General Motors, which operates under the Vauxhall brand in Britain, said last week it would build the car in the UK after workers at its factory in Ellesmere Port, north-west England, agreed a new labour deal.
The decision left a plant in Bochum, Germany, run by GM's Opel arm, in danger of closure.
"It is important to be clear nothing 'special' has been offered to GM," said a spokesman for Britain's Department for Business in an emailed statement on Tuesday.
"Rather, they were simply made aware of the excellent business environment and support systems that the UK offers to all businesses."
The spokesman added it was made clear to GM that, as with other car manufacturers, it could apply to existing industry support schemes such as the Regional Growth Fund.
Separately, Vauxhall said it had not received any subsidy.
"A number of existing UK government mechanisms are in place to support the industry which any manufacturer can apply for when launching a new product," Vauxhall said in a statement sent to Reuters.
"Vauxhall Motors has not applied for government support with respect to the next-generation Astra."
Earlier on Tuesday, German news agency DPA reported that the British government may have offered GM subsidies to secure production of the car at Ellesmere Port.
It cited Wolfgang Schaefer-Klug, labour chief of Opel, as saying promises may have been made by the UK which contravene EU rules on subsidies.
British business secretary Vince Cable said last week no major taxpayer subsidies had been offered to GM but that Vauxhall was free to apply for regional grants for training.
The U.S. carmaker said its decision to invest 125 million pounds ($197 million) at Ellesmere Port, where assembly of the new vehicle will start in 2015, was helped by workers at the site agreeing to changes in their working conditions.
($1 = 0.6330 British pounds)
(Reporting by Rhys Jones, Writing by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by David Hulmes)
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