HC Deb 25 March 1996 vol 274 c448W
Mr. Chris Davies

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what contractual obligations to protect the jobs of existing employees of HMSO at its plants in Norwich, London and Oldham the prospective purchasers of the organisation will be required to meet. [22268]

Mr. Freeman

The level of HMSO staffing now, in all locations, largely depends on the amount of business it wins in competition with other suppliers. That will not change after privatisation, and I can offer no guarantees as to the future staffing levels. The hon. Member will note the recent high level of redundancies across HMSO, which reflect the need for it to streamline itself to remain competitive.

HMSO has a major presence in Norwich, and to a lesser extent elsewhere in the country. Relocation is a very expensive process, and as I made clear during the 18 March debate, Official Report, column 89, I cannot envisage circumstances in which the new owner would wish to move significant numbers of staff away from their current locations. This is especially true in locations such as Oldham, where current facilities include a large amount of specialised plant. Bidders will be required to submit their plans for the development of the business, and an assessment of their overall plans will assist us in selecting the winning bid.

However, I would not wish to pre-empt the commercial judgment of the new owner to reorganise the business in the future if circumstances dictated. That would cut across the whole purpose of the sale, which is to give the business the freedom necessary for it to prosper.