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Several hon. Members rose--

Mr. Speaker: Order. In granting this private notice question, I realised that we have an Opposition day and are eating into Opposition time, so I appeal to the House for brief questions.

Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham): May I add my sympathy to that expressed for members of the work force and their families, and welcome the taskforce? May I ask specifically whether the £16.5 million repayment will be available to the taskforce to help retraining and assist the work force?

In the Secretary of State's discussions with the company, how did it explain the fact that it is closing its Scottish installation, but not its installation in Flensburg in Germany? Is that because the company judged that the German manufacturing environment is more competitive

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than ours for exchange rate or other reasons, or is it because the German plant is an R and D unit? Is not one of the lessons of the exercise the fact that our selective industrial policy has channelled large sums of money--a cumulative total of £6.5 billion in Scotland, I think--to subsidise jobs, rather than provide the added value and permanence of more developed approaches to regional policy?

Finally, since the Secretary of State, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor have been speaking to company executives about that commercial decision, what was the basis of their representation? Did the Secretary of State resist the pressures from the industry to change retrospectively the terms of their auction licences and allow anti-competitive mergers in the industry?

Mr. Byers: In the conversations that I had with the company, the cost of the third-generation auction was not an issue that it raised. The debate was always about the relative costs of the plant in Germany compared with those at the Bathgate facility. Those were not employment costs. The company was examining the totality of provision. In that context, it felt that there were reasons--partly because of the different nature of the facility in Germany--why on balance it made greater commercial sense for the Bathgate facility to be the one that should suffer from this decision.

As for the repayment of regional selective assistance, the Scottish Executive have already indicated that up to £10 million will be available to support the work of the taskforce. I am sure that when the money is repaid, it will be examining how it can use the regional selective assistance in a way that will support economic regeneration and job creation.

Ms Rachel Squire (Dunfermline, West): As someone who lived in Bathgate during the late 1980s and early 1990s, I saw for myself the devastation of communities under the previous Conservative Government. May I express my deep regret to my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) and to the communities that are so affected by the decision on redundancies?

My constituency suffered 10,000 job losses under the previous Government but has seen successful regeneration under the policies of the present Government. I welcome the announcement of the taskforce, and I welcome Motorola's commitment to the Dunfermline facility, which is within my constituency. That creates much confusion. Does my right hon. Friend agree, as I am sure my constituents in Dunfermline and West Fife would agree, that it is to be hoped that when Motorola opens its new facility in Dunfermline, some of the new job opportunities will be available to people who are now working at Easter Inch as well as to the people of Dunfermline and West Fife?

Mr. Byers: My hon. Friend makes an important point. It is worth reminding ourselves, as my hon. Friend has reminded us, of the number of jobs that have been lost in the not too distant past, including 10,000 in her constituency, and the change that we are seeing in the employment scene in Scotland. Although such figures represent the total picture, an individual on the production facility at Easter Inch will not derive great comfort from them if he is threatened with the loss of his job within the

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next few months. That is why it is important that Motorola recommits itself to its Livingston facility as well as the one at Dunfermline, and provides, with the Scottish Executive and the Employment Service, customised training, as my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow requested, so that the vacancies that become available at these facilities can be taken up by people from Bathgate. They will be able to do so if they have the necessary training and skills.

That is how we must look forward. I know that it is especially difficult to do so within 24 hours of such a decision. We need to work together to provide new opportunities and skills and training for the individuals who are affected by Motorola's decision.

Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher and Walton): The worry for the families of those who have lost their jobs is evident. The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) was right to say that Motorola has been an extremely important inward investor into this country, and has tried to treat its employees well. There is no doubt that such inward investment showed merits under the Conservative Government as well as under the present Government. I hope that the Secretary of State will draw the right conclusion, which is that inward investment creates jobs, but there can be risks to those jobs in an open world market.

Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake not to follow the reactionary policies being introduced in France, which are more likely to deter inward investment into France? Also, the Australian Government blocked Shell's acquisition of Woodside Oil only this week.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take note of the fact that one of the reasons why Motorola decided to continue in Germany rather than in Scotland is that there are significant tax advantages to the company through rolled-up losses in Germany, which shows that within a single market it is important to consider how one tax in one country relates to tax treatment in another country? Will the Secretary of State please put it on the record again that Sir David Brown, the chairman of Motorola, is not alone in British industry in understanding that the competitive problem of the United Kingdom is associated with the fact that we are not part of the eurozone?

Mr. Byers: The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point about the views of Sir David Brown, the UK chairman of Motorola, regarding the UK's membership of the single European currency. He has gone on record as saying that in his view, it would be beneficial to companies such as Motorola if that were the case. With regard to the particular announcement, UK membership of the single European currency was not an issue that affected the decision. Some 12,000 jobs worldwide are being lost as a result of the decision.

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about the nature of inward investment. We are an extremely favoured location within Europe for a number of reasons: one is the economic stability, another is our labour market regulation, and a third is the fact that we can attract companies to come to the UK as a bridge into the rest of Europe. It is important that we maintain that position and do nothing that would act as a disincentive.

The hon. Gentleman is right to flag up the difficulties that can arise. That is an issue to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred yesterday. At a time when world

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economies are beginning to slow down, there is always a danger that national Governments will move to protectionism, close off markets and adopt policies that may be popular in their own countries in the short term, but which in the medium and long term create real difficulties for economic growth and prosperity. History teaches us the dangers of that. We must make sure that we do not repeat those mistakes--and we certainly will not.

Mr. Frank Roy (Motherwell and Wishaw): Unfortunately, Motorola is well known for using employment agency workers, who are paid less and given fewer rights than others who work beside them. Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that those agency workers will be given the same employment assistance as people employed by the company?

Mr. Byers: I will certainly do that. I am informed that all those affected are full-time employees, but we need to check that and make sure that some of the workers affected are not discriminated against because of their employment status.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan): I support the creation of a taskforce for an area that I know extremely well. Can the Secretary of State tell us whether the figure of £10 million, which has been announced by the Scottish Government, is a ceiling figure, or will the financial commitment behind the taskforce be as much as it takes to deal with an economic catastrophe on a substantial scale? The right hon. Gentleman sounded very confident about the future of inward investment. Can he tell the House anything more about the reasons for that confidence?

Finally, 32,000 fewer people are employed in manufacturing in Scotland now than in 1997. Many of the job losses have been related to the exchange rate, and many have been associated with non-membership of the eurozone. Why, then, is the Secretary of State so confident that no aspect of the decision was related to the eurozone, despite the fact that the decision was made to retain a similar plant in Germany?

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