HC Deb 27 May 1971 vol 818 cc549-51
1. Mr. Rose

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many forthcoming redundancies have now been notified to his Department in the greater Manchester area including Stockport and Irlam.

The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Dudley Smith)

Not all redundancies are notified to my Department, but notification of redundancies involving some 3,700 work-people have been recorded as due to occur in the Manchester travel-to-work area. In addition, some 4,300 jobs will be affected by the proposed closure of the British Steel Corporation works at Irlam.

Mr. Rose

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that is a gross under-estimate and, indeed, is less than the figure which he gave last time; that this is only the tip of the iceberg; and that many firms, like I.C.I. in my own constituency, are already preparing for more redundancies? Is he further aware that projections with re- gard to the increase in unemployment show the most alarming figures for the North-West? What action is his Department taking? Is it making special provision for the mass redundancies—2,500 alone at Hawker-Siddeley—in the way that my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) did when there were only tiny redundancies to be dealt with?

Mr. Smith

I do not accept that there are the mass redundancies which the hon. Gentleman forecasts. These are the most up-to-date figures that we have. The services of my Department are, of course, available to help actively those who are made redundant. The question of other policies in that area is one for the Department of Trade and Industry.

Mr. Orme

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that reply will not do, and that in my constituency in Salford a firm is likely to close in three weeks, making another 400 people redundant? What action are the Government taking when a prosperous area like the Greater Manchester area faces a large increase in unemployment figures? Something must be done, and what the people in my area want to know is what the Government will do to alleviate the position.

Mr. Smith

The Government have already taken action in the Budget to restore business confidence, and this will have its effect. The hon. Gentleman must also be aware that at present the Manchester unemployment rate is still below the national average.

Mr. Kaufman

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, apart from the great anxiety caused by the forthcoming redundancies, there are additional anxieties caused by misunderstandings and fears about the qualifications for redundancy payment at Irlam in relation to the B.S.C. pension fund? I have had representations about this from my constituents. It would be a great help if the Minister could find ways of clarifying this situation to remove these burdens of anxiety.

Mr. Smith

That is rather wide of the original Question, but if there is any misunderstanding, we shall be happy to look into it and try to help.

Captain W. Elliot

Has my hon. Friend noticed that it has been announced today that 90 boilermakers, who have been on unofficial strike for nine weeks against their union's directions, have been discharged from Cammell Laird and that the firm has said that unless this dispute is settled, the whole works might have to close? Is it not this sort of thing that is creating unemployment all over the country?

Mr. Smith

Of course it is a contributory factor and a lesson, I am afraid, which some people have to learn the hard way.