HC Deb 07 November 1995 vol 265 cc724-5
9. Mr. Purchase

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what contribution her Department is able to make to economic regeneration in the travel-to-work area containing British Steel Tubes Division, Wolverhampton. [40046]

Mr. Paice

This Department makes a major contribution through the activities of the Employment Service and Wolverhampton training and enterprise council, which has formed a task force with other bodies to help those who are made redundant by British Steel.

Mr. Purchase

That is welcome, but does the Minister not understand that, by Christmas, 1,000 more people in Wolverhampton will lose their jobs at British Steel, Manders Paints and Edge Shoes, with all that that means to those workers and their families? Does he think that it would be meaningful to make a special contribution to the local partnership that we have formed so that we can investigate fully, question and, if necessary, fight those closures and so that we can help those workers who may well be displaced at the end of this particular debacle?

Mr. Paice

I am sure that everybody understands the sadness of people who lose their jobs. I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's concern, which he has explained on a number of occasions in the House. It is not for me or the Government to question the commercial judgment of the businesses which employed those people. We have to recognise that the redundancies take place against a background of falling unemployment in the hon. Gentleman's constituency: it has fallen by almost 1,000 in the past year. He will be aware that Wolverhampton has succeeded in the first round of the single regeneration budget in obtaining an extra £16.5 million to be spent in the area. Of course, there are other businesses taking on new staff. The hon. Gentleman should recognise the good things that are happening, not just the bad things.

Mr. Budgen

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the sympathetic way in which he deals with this sad situation. Will he point out that, in the past two years, Wolverhampton has enjoyed a considerable increase in prosperity, particularly in the metal bashing industry, which has enjoyed an enormous increase in exports directly as a result of the depreciation of the currency which followed the events of September 1992?

Mr. Paice

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his words. I can count on him always to introduce the European dimension into any question. I am pleased to hear what he has to say about Wolverhampton.