HC Deb 19 February 1980 vol 979 cc223-4
9. Mr. Spriggs

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will estimate how many jobs will be lost in the period immediately following the closure of British Steel Corporation plants in each part of Great Britain, including those most likely to be affected in small businesses and the retail trade; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Jim Lester

Employment levels depend on many factors which cannot be forecast with any degree of certainty. It is not, therefore, possible to estimate how many jobs will be lost following the closure of BSC plants. I can, however, assure the hon. Member that all the resources of the Manpower Services Commission will be available to help those workers affected by the closures.

Mr. Spriggs

Will the hon. Gentleman consider allowing the British Steel Corporation to offer another 1 or 2 per cent. above that already offered to the trade unions involved? After all, the Government gave the higher taxpayers £4 billion in tax relief. Is he aware that there is a danger of growing unemployment becoming a danger to the State?

Mr. Lester

I am not in a position to offer the steel workers 1 or 2 per cent. That is a matter for negotiation between the management and unions involved. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that there has already been an increase of 1 or 2 per cent. on more than one occasion.

Mr. Sever

Will the Minister agree to undertake research into the likely effects of the problems surrounding steel on small manufacturers and engineering shops, particularly in areas such as Birmingham? Those firms are desperately worried about the steel industry's difficulties. While the Minister has admitted that the figures are not readily available, will he take steps to find out what they are?

Mr. Lester

I accept that there is a need for research. My Department is researching into the position of the longterm unemployed. As a result of the closure announcements, local authorities have come together with the Government and with the steel industry to try to secure the future on a better and broader basis.