HC Deb 26 April 1965 vol 711 cc5-10
4. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Minister of Labour how many persons are likely to become redundant in Wolverhampton as a result of the cancellation of TSR2; what progress he has made in finding alternative employment for those displaced; and how many workers are unlikely to find equal alternative employment.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Richard Marsh)

I cannot say how many persons are likely to be redundant; I understand that no redundancy arising from the cancellation of the project has been declared in Wolverhampton as yet; generally any of the workpeople becoming redundant should have little difficulty in obtaining suitable alternative work within daily travelling distance of their homes.

Mrs. Short

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, which will go some way towards relieving the anxiety felt in my constituency about this matter. Will my hon. Friend also keep an eye on this question from week to week and see how the situation develops? Will he do everything he can to see that the men who are declared redundant are given alternative employment?

Mr. Marsh

The Ministry will certainly do that. It is worth noting that in April there were 1,032 unemployed in Wolverhampton and 2,465 notified vacancies. The Ministry is actively engaged in getting these people fixed up.

Sir A. V. Harvey

The hon. Gentle-may says that these men will get alternative and comparable work. Will he also say whether they will get the wages which they were earning in the aircraft industry?

Mr. Marsh

The hon. Gentleman does not seem quite to understand. If we do not know who the men are who will be redundant it is difficult to say how much they earn now and how much they will earn in the future.

12. Mr. Hamling

asked the Minister of Labour what steps he is taking to deal with the problems of those made redundant by the cancellation of TSR2.

Mr. Gunter

My employment exchanges are ready, as soon as word reaches them of impending redundancies, to register the workers concerned with a view to arranging alternative employment or any necessary retraining.

Mr. Hamling

Is there any evidence of large-scale redundancy coming to the exchanges as a result of this cancellation?

Mr. Gunter

So far, about 1,700 workers have been given notice of discharge, over 1,000 of them in the Preston neighbourhood, some 450 at Weybridge, and the remainder by subsidiary contractors at Hamble, Tipton, Woking, Bognor, Stockton-on-Tees and Cambridge. I have no reason to expect difficulties in these areas.

Mr. Harold Walker

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Hawker Siddeley factory in Oldham has publicly announced its willingness and ability to absorb great numbers of the displaced TSR2 workers?

Mr. Gunter

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Lubbock

Is the Minister aware that Rolls-Royce has declared that it has a very large number of vacancies available for skilled aircraft workers? Will the teams which he is sending to the factories at Preston and Weybridge draw these opportunities to the attention of the workers concerned?

Mr. Gunter

All those opportunities will be drawn to their attention.

13. Mr. Hamling

asked the Minister of Labour what is the estimated number of redundancies that will arise from the cancellation of TSR2; and what are the prospects of employment in the immediate future for the people concerned.

Mr. Gunter

It is not possible to forecast how many workers the firms concerned will find it necessary to discharge. Generally speaking, the prospects of alternative employment are good.

18. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Minister of Labour what retraining facilities are being offered to graduates declared redundant in the aircraft industry, to enable them to continue fully to employ their skills.

Mr. Marsh

The majority of highly qualified redundant aircraft workers are looking for immediate alternative employment and good progress is being made in resettling them. One has already been accepted for a higher degree course at a university and two have applied for training as teachers. No others have been reported to me as requiring further training but our staff are keeping a close watch on the position.

Mr. Hamilton

Can my hon. Friend assure the House that the facilities are available for even substantial numbers of graduates who might require such training? Can he state whether there is any evidence that there has been what is called a "brain drain" of these graduates on the basis that they cannot get alternative employment in this country?

Mr. Marsh

As I said on an earlier occasion, it is a pity that this problem was raised in the way that it was in the beginning by some hon. Members opposite. We have no separate records for graduates, but of 201 people who have some form of professional or executive qualification or experience, we have 19 registered as unemployed at the moment.

19. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Minister of Labour how many of the workers recently made redundant in the aircraft industry have applied for and are receiving retraining.

Mr. Marsh

Six persons who have been made redundant in the aircraft industry since February, 1965 have applied for training under Government vocational training schemes. Two have withdrawn their applications, one has been found unsuitable for the course desired and the other three are still under consideration.

Mr. Hamilton

Can my hon. Friend say whether this is because all the workers who have been declared redundant have in fact found for themselves alternative employment without the need for retraining? Can he give any statistical information which might bear that contention out?

Mr. Marsh

Since February 1965, 1,049 persons have been made redundant in the aircraft industry. Of these, only 136 are registered as unemployed. I was asked about the training facilities in the country. By the end of this year we shall have the capacity to train about 12,000 adults per year. There is no evidence at all that the present Government are unable to deal with the problem considerably better than did the previous Administration.

Mr. Godber

The hon. Member will accept that the figures which he has given do not allow for the additional number who, as we have heard in the last few days, will be coming forward in the next few weeks. I am sure he will agree that there is a great need to take a very sympathetic view of all those cases in the next few weeks. Nobody wishes to magnify the problem, but we want to see that these people get effective employment as soon as possible.

Mr. Marsh

I accept this and welcome very much the right hon. Gentleman's attitude on this matter. It is not the attitude which has been displayed at Question Time in recent weeks by some of his hon. Friends behind him. It is a big problem, but the Government are quite capable of dealing with it.

25. Sir A. V. Harvey

asked the Minister of Labour what progress he has made in facilitating the re-employment in suitable work of designers, aerodynamicists, riggers and fitters in the aircraft industry who are rendered redundant by the cancellation of the TSR2 construction programme.

Mr. Gunter

So far, one design draughtsman and 39 fitters have sought our help. My employment exchanges have already placed the design draughtsman and six of the fitters in suitable work and the prospects for the other 33 fitters are, generally speaking, good.

Sir A. V. Harvey

In view of the gravity of the situation and the concern of these men and their families, would the Minister undertake to keep a register showing as far as possible how many of these men go overseas and the type of work they go to—whether it is for exports, for instance—and whether they will get for it wages similar to those they were earning before? Will he take into account the housing problem? The Joint Parliamentary Secretary said recently that jobs were available in the north for men from Weybridge, but when people are buying their houses on mortgage it is not easy to transfer 200 or 300 miles away. Will he pay particular attention to this and to the effect of all this on the men's families?

Mr. Gunter

I have answered the Question on the Paper.

Hon. Members

Answer the supplementary question then.

Mr. Hector Hughes

As it seems likely that many of these highly skilled workers referred to in this Question may not be able to find re-employment in their own particular sphere of science or engineering, could my right hon. Friend say what steps he is taking to have them retrained for engineering in the shipbuilding industry, where they would be welcomed and are urgently needed?

Mr. Gunter

Every one of these cases will, of course, be dealt with individually. If training of that character is felt to be appropriate we shall offer all the facilities we have.

27. Mr. Jackson

asked the Minister of Labour what plans he has to utilise those skilled workers available for alternative employment as a result of the cancellation of the TSR2 project.

Mr. Gunter

There is a keen demand for skilled workers. My staff in the employment exchanges are already taking action to find alternative work as quickly as possible for those redundant workers who desire their help.

Mr. Jackson

While thanking the Minister for that answer, may I ask if he will bear in mind those employees made redundant who are over the age of 50, who have special needs, and not only semi-skilled but unskilled workers?

Mr. Gunter

As I have said before, the position of the older workers is the hardest part of the problem and we shall pay it special attention.

Mr. Doughty

Will the Minister keep in touch with these workmen, because the result of redundancy is the breaking up of design and manufacturing teams which for a long time have worked together?

Mr. Bence

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that this problem of re-employing people from the aircraft industry is indeed a very difficult problem—when men have worked for twenty years or more in an industry based on Government subvention, and with open-ended contracts, where high wages can be paid; and when it is difficult for other industries which are not getting Government subvention to pay similar wages?

Mr. Gunter

I appreciate the problem the hon. Gentleman has mentioned, and we have it in mind.

Mr. William Clark

In view of the number of employees involved in the TSR2 cancellation, will the right hon. Gentleman not respond to the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) of maintaining a register, so that we can see what happens to this large body of workers who are made redundant because of the cancellation of the TSR2 irrespective of the pledges made on the other side?

Mr. Gunter

The reason why I did not reply to the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) was that his suggestion is impracticable. We cannot make men register. How can we bring back and compel to register the skilled men who go to Australia or America, or wherever they want to go?