HC Deb 31 January 1978 vol 943 cc223-4
3. Mr. Edwin Wainwright

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he is aware that the unemployment in the Mexborough and district employment exchange area is now in the region of 10 per cent. and that there are threatened redundancies of 200 employees at the Manvers Main chemical plant; and if he will make a statement on his future plans to find work for these unemployed persons.

The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. John Grant)

At the latest count the unemployment rate in the Mexborough travel-to-work area was 9.7 per cent., which is a matter for serious concern. I have seen reports of a possible reduction of capacity at the Manvers coking plant which suggests that any reduction of manpower which may be necessary will be achieved by natural wastage or by special arrangements for older men. So far, I understand, no decisions have been taken and discussions between National Smokeless Fuels Ltd. and local union officials continue.

Mr. Wainwright

Is my hon. Friend aware that when redundancies of this kind are declared the whole work force fears that the plant itself might close? Is he aware that the promise was made that the plant would be rebuilt to replace obsolete equipment but that no action has been taken? Will my hon. Friend do everything in his power to make certain that the old plant is replaced, thus ensuring employment in the district?

Mr. Grant

I appreciate my hon. Friend's anxieties. I have seen reports only that the firm must reduce its manpower, and I hope that it can do that by means other than redundancies. On the second part of the question, I shall draw my hon. Friend's points to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy.

Mr. Hardy

May I endorse my hon. Friend's diligent concern for unemployment in this and the surrounding parts of the Yorkshire coalfield area? Will he look again at the problem, because it is most serious and is likely to last a considerable time unless action is taken?

Mr. Grant

I shall draw to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy the remarks by both my hon. Friends.