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Judy Mallaber (Amber Valley): Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the same package of help is being made available to the 2,500 workers who have been made redundant from the clothing division of Coats Viyella, including 500 in my constituency which were announced on Monday? Those workers have also been treated shabbily by the company in terms of consultation and information. Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost in the clothing and textile industry, 500,000 of them under the Tory Government. My constituents and others in the industry are angry that they do not get the same attention as others in the national media. They feel that it is because the industry has a majority of women workers.
Mr. Byers: It is a question of national media attention. As my hon. Friend knows, largely because of the work that she and other hon. Members who represent textile constituencies have done, this is an issue in which I have
Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch): The Secretary of State has been at pains to avoid any personal responsibility for this disaster for British manufacturing. Will he show his sincerity and his belief that we need to protect British manufacturing by assuring the House that, when the Health Council meets in Europe tomorrow, he and the Government will vote against the tobacco workers directive, which will threaten between 2,000 and 10,000 jobs in tobacco manufacturing in this country? If he votes in favour of the directive, he will be voting in favour of abolishing 10,000 jobs in tobacco export and manufacturing.
Mr. Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield): I can tell my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friends in Luton and surrounding constituencies that, with Longbridge in my constituency, the people of the west midlands well understand what they will be going through and the anger that will be felt about the way that General Motors announced its decision. I imagine that they will take as dim a view of the cheap political point scoring that we saw from the Opposition spokesman, the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory), as they did over Rover where the official Opposition had nothing constructive to say.
The motor industry will remain a strategically important industry for this country and, if multinationals are making this sort of decision, we need to find ways of playing to our strengths. We must look at niche and medium-volume production, as we are doing successfully in Longbridge and look to an expansion of work in telematics, motor sport engineering and high performance engineering. Those are areas in which Britain already leads the world and we can do a lot more to build on and reinforce our motor industry, which is so strategically important to Britain.
Mr. Byers: My hon. Friend makes an important point about not neglecting the fact that there are areas of strength within the car industry in the UK--not only the niche markets to which he has referred, but companies such as Peugeot, which is doing well in Coventry, and Ford with Jaguar and with Land Rover in Solihull. There are some solid areas of car production in the UK. We need to build on those strengths.
My hon. Friend makes an important point about how we can develop beyond simple car production and manufacture to look at new areas and new techniques, genuinely playing to our strengths. There is real potential to do that, but there is little that the House can do today apart from reflect on the difficult situation that will be faced by thousands of hard-working people and their families in Luton and the surrounding communities. What the House must do, and what the Government certainly
That is an active role for Government to play. It is the right role for Government--not second guessing commercial decisions by multinational companies, but working with people who are affected by the changes that have to take place in a global economy.
Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley): I am a member of the Select Committee on Trade and Industry, which has met with Vauxhall and Nick Reilly. As late as October, there was absolutely no hint of restructuring, or possible closure of Luton.
Obviously, everyone is amazed by the sudden announcement and the sheer volume of jobs that will be lost not just in Luton, but throughout the supply chain, which will affect the whole of the United Kingdom. I hope that my right hon. Friend will ensure that there will
Mr. Byers: The supply chain will be an important area. Our experience in other situations, whether Ford at Dagenham or Rover at Longbridge, showed that, often, the supply chain was the most vulnerable sector; it felt the immediate consequences of a major announcement. Because of the relatively long lead-in period in relation to the announcement on Luton, there are greater opportunities to ensure that the difficulties elsewhere do not occur on this occasion, but my hon. Friend is right to make the point. Obviously, our attention is focused on Luton and on those directly affected by the announcement. That is understandable and right, but we need to be conscious of the impact that the announcement will have on the supply chain, which is why we are specifically putting in place a programme to help suppliers to diversify, to reskill and to retool where it is appropriate for them to do so.
Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will be well aware of the controversy surrounding the changes that the Government intend to make to the human fertilisation and embryology legislation. Strong views are held by Members on both sides of the House on that important issue. Therefore, it is of great importance that any changes be fully considered in the House, with Members enjoying full access to outside expertise.
Many Members on both sides of the House will regard that as indecent haste on an important topic, and think that both the House of Commons and the public are being treated with contempt. In your role as the protector of the House's rights, can we prevail upon you to ask the Government to think again to give everyone involved in that important debate time to consider the changes that they have announced today?
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament--[Sir John Morris.]
Mr. Speaker: I have selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition. Standing Order No.33 gives me the power on the last day of debate on the Loyal Address to select a second amendment, which will be moved formally and disposed of after 10 o'clock. I have selected the amendment in the name of the leader of the Liberal Democrats.
The Gracious Speech was intended to clear the decks for an election, but that was not the only reason it was so brief. It was the speech of a Government who are now entirely devoid of ideas. During the 18 years that Labour Members were in opposition, they developed only one idea, and that was to get themselves into power. Now that they are in office, they have nothing whatsoever to offer our people. So, with no vision for the next Parliament--