Previous SectionIndexHome Page



25 Oct 2000 : Column 356

Earl Shilton Bypass

11.56 pm

Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth): At almost midnight, I wish to present a petition on behalf of the Earl Shilton bypass action group. In my constituency Earl Shilton is an important community, and the bypass was planned nearly 20 years ago. Now, it is a priority scheme of Leicestershire county council. The bypass is particularly important and its significance is highlighted because a decision will be made in December about the additional allocation of resources for transport schemes.

The leaders behind the petition were in my advice bureau last week to argue the case, and I agreed without any doubt to deliver the petition tonight on behalf of the 2,500 petitioners in Earl Shilton.

The petition reads:

To lie upon the Table.

25 Oct 2000 : Column 357

Unemployment (Bassetlaw)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.--[Mr. Mike Hall.]

11.58 pm

Mr. Joe Ashton (Bassetlaw): I am grateful to have the opportunity to put the case of my constituents, and I would like to thank hon. Members, especially my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, for staying up until this late hour.

My constituency of Bassetlaw in North Notts is where three counties meet--Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire. I am surrounded tonight by hon. Friends with problems similar to mine. My constituency covers 300 sq m, has 38 parish councils and also a traditional coal, textiles, food, glass and farming industry base. Like many other regions in the area, it was devastated by pit closures between 1986 and 1993.

In 1997 a new Labour Government came in and granted enterprise zone status to Bassetlaw, giving substantial tax breaks and aid to certain parts of the constituency. In January the outlook was so promising that the Bassetlaw development agency confidently forecast that 12,500 jobs would be created in that area of north Nottinghamshire and north Derbyshire in the very near future. That was just 10 months ago. The Manton Wood regeneration site attracted Solway Foods, Haslewood Foods, Cacao's French Chocolate and other firms, and other expansion created 1,000 jobs. However, since then this millennium year has consisted of 10 months of disaster.

Last January, Deema Glass at Harworth, which employed 420 people, went up for sale because its order books were running out. That caused much despair and distress in the area. The good news is that the firm is being bought by Marlin Lighting and Sylvania International, but no one knows how many jobs will be saved or what will be done with the firm.

In July, Courtaulds announced 650 job losses resulting from Marks and Spencer's policy of buying abroad rather than in Britain. Factories controlled by Courtaulds and supplying Marks and Spencer are in future to be built in Morocco and Sri Lanka. Courtaulds is training workers there to earn £20 and £13 a week to replace British jobs. In effect, it is exporting British jobs abroad.

Why should such small countries be allowed access to the European Union market? That will simply create more profit for Courtaulds. Although those small countries need to be bolstered with aid and have in the past received concessions, the profit created for Courtaulds in Morocco and Sri Lanka simply puts more workers in Worksop on the dole.

It gets worse. In September, Coats Viyella said that 260 jobs would be lost in Worksop. We must remember that about 18,000 people are in employment in Worksop, so losing 1,000 jobs is pretty devastating. Moreover, the effect of the Coats Viyella decision went beyond Worksop; all of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire is affected. Of the 3,000 jobs to go at Coats Viyella, 2,000 involved skilled workers in areas still reeling from pit closures.

25 Oct 2000 : Column 358

On 29 September, the Worksop Guardian ran a story under the headline "Batchelors Bombshell". The sub-headline stated "450 Workers Face Axe in Factory Shock", and an article on the inside pages asked

Unilever announced that the 450 jobs at Batchelors were at risk because Unilever had formed a merger with United States food producer Bestfoods, which gave that firm too big a share of the market. Batchelors makes Oxo cubes, mushy peas, chicken noodles and other basic foods. However, Unilever will have to axe 25,000 jobs over the next five years, many of them in places such as Worksop.

Factories and jobs based in north Nottinghamshire and north Derbyshire are being moved around Europe as though they were chess pieces or counters on a monopoly board. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale) is present for the debate. In his constituency, Johnsons, a firm run from Cologne, closed with 550 job losses, even though it had received a grant worth £1.75 million from the Department of Trade and Industry in 1991. Other jobs have been lost at the local breweries and other plants, which will in future be relocated to Czechoslovakia. That country wants to enter the EU in four years time, and such jobs will attract wages of £50 a week.

The steel firm Corus has plants in neighbouring Rotherham, Sheffield and Scunthorpe. Almost 4,000 of its workers have been made redundant nationwide--more than at Rover. Another 700 jobs have been lost at the Biwater plant on north-east Derbyshire. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes) is present for the debate.

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): I am glad that reference has been made to the Biwater plant. The situation there is disgraceful. The multinational company Saint Gobain has moved in to buy the plant and close it, so that the order book can be stolen and moved overseas. The jobs lost will go to South America, China and elsewhere, even though there is a viable industry in this country producing material for overseas.

Mr. Ashton: My hon. Friend is right, and he has hit the nail on the head. These are not bust and derelict factories that are going rusty because their trade has been exhausted. They are suffering from a deliberate policy of wheeling and dealing in jobs from the north midlands region. There is not a level playing field within the EU in that regard. It is much cheaper to close down plants and transfer jobs in Britain than in other EU countries. That is why ours are the first to go. Redundancy costs are cheaper here because often the Government, not the factory, bear the cost.

European competition laws demand that new buyers must abide by the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981. It means that they have to pay the same wages. However, not very long after the transfer has been made, the new owner has taken over and the dust has begun to settle, a restructuring is allowed if market forces demand it. So the downsizing starts, because people can easily prove that the market demands restructuring.

Pension rights are not covered. Unilever provides very good pension rights, but there is no guarantee that the new buyer will maintain them. The new owners will constantly rationalise the industries to get their money back, and jobs will go.

25 Oct 2000 : Column 359

Over the past 12 months, the forecast has been that north Nottinghamshire and north Derbyshire will lose 4,000 jobs, with only 1,600 being created. Unemployment could rise well over 5 per cent., and wages in our area are already £2 an hour below the national average.

The Government announced on 10 October that £800 million of aid would be given to the 88 most deprived areas of the country, yet unbelievably, although Bassetlaw is the eighth most deprived area in the east midlands development area, it was not included. I am not protesting about the fact that Bolsover--my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is here--Mansfield, Ashfield, Rotherham, Doncaster and Sheffield will all receive some of the £800 million of extra aid for the most deprived areas, but why has Bassetlaw not been included?

We cannot understand why the new neighbourhood renewal fund that the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions announced has a formula for inclusion that obviously does not include a place like my constituency, where unemployment has rocketed in the past 10 months. We have some very deprived areas; they were once thriving coal mining areas but sadly there has been nothing much there since the pit closures. We are seeing sweeping changes in north Nottinghamshire that are almost as bad as the pit closures in terms of the number of jobs lost.

There is chronic insecurity. Cottam power station, in my patch in Bassetlaw, has just been sold to London Electricity for £400 million. Seven hundred jobs are involved. What will happen to the people working there? Will there be redundancies? Nobody knows.

R.J.B. Mining, whose headquarters is at Harworth in my constituency, recently tried to sell the industry. Despite picking up a £75 million cash handout from the Government, it tried to do a deal with an American buyer, Renco.

We are all loyal supporters of the Government, and we accept that they are doing sterling work. They are doing marvellously well to bring in new jobs, but doing that takes at least two years from the planning stage to getting the grants, and the jobs are being lost virtually overnight. That is due not to redundancy but to the work being shifted to countries with cheap labour costs, such as Czechoslovakia or Hungary, which are trying to enter the European Union, or to existing EU countries where it is much more expensive to shut something down.

There must be some control of this wholesale wheeling and dealing in jobs. Lives, and even whole towns, are being destroyed by accountants, not because the industries are losing money but because they can make more money taking British jobs abroad. I am sure that I speak for my hon. Friends here tonight when I say that the workers cannot understand why the Government do not insist on some sort of EU regulation to stop this happening so easily and quickly.

Next Section

IndexHome Page