Vince Cable visits Group Lotus HQ

Business secretary Vince Cable hailed the expansion of a Norfolk sports car manufacturer, but gave no clues as to whether it was set for a government cash boost.

The minister was given a tour of the Group Lotus factory at Hethel today and took a spin in an Evora S at the company's new-look test track.

The Liberal Democrat admitted that he had held a lifelong ambition to get behind the wheel of a Lotus, but gave no guarantees over whether the company would be financially backed with an almost �30m regional growth fund loan.

The Malaysian-backed manufacturer, which is currently making five new Lotus models, has submitted a second bid for government funding to stimulate its expansion after failing with a regional growth application earlier in the year.

Mr Cable said the second round of the regional growth fund process was 'competitive', but he had been 'massively impressed' by the work of the Norfolk company.

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'It is a very successful company and there is a lot of ambition and this is the best of British and there is a high level of skill and engineering. I welcome its growth and it is a vote of confidence in the UK and the workforce.'

'I have no concern about foreign ownership here. The foreign-owned car companies in the UK have made a fantastic contribution to the country's economy and invest highly in the supply chain,' he said.

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Mr Cable, who also took a ride to the Hethel Engineering Centre in a Lotus developed hydrogen-powered taxi, said the government had given support to Lotus through the Technology Strategy Board and was investing in more apprenticeships.

The business secretary's visit comes after three Norfolk MPs - Simon Wright, Richard Bacon, and George Freeman - met with Mr Cable at Westminster earlier this year to stress the importance of a government loan for Group Lotus.

South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon added that it was 'exciting' to see the new models in production at Lotus, which recently announced almost 100 redundancies at the sports car firm.

'Sometimes even when a garden is doing well it still needs a prune and from everything I have seen, there is a commitment to these new models and expansion,' he said.

Chief Executive Officer Dany Bahar added that it was a 'positive' sign to receive a visit from the business secretary.

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