asked the Minister of Labour what estimate he has made of the men and women employed at the Whitworth-Gloster factory at Hucclecote who are unlikely to find suitable work in the Gloucester area in the event of the factory closing down before a new tenant has been found.
No such estimate is possible. There may be some temporary difficulties especially for certain categories of workers, but I would not expect any long-term problem.
Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that committees responsible to his Department have estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 people are likely to suffer long-term unemployment? Does he not think that he should pay more attention to this instead of relying on panaceas such as, "I am not worried about it" and, "There ought not to be any long-term trouble "?
That is an unfair inference to draw from what I said. The hon. Gentleman asked me for an estimate and I said that I did not think that an estimate could be given. The reason why I do not think that the estimate he asked for could be given is that it is not possible to say how many of the vacancies held or jobs in prospect will be taken by the redundant workpeople who are on the unemployment register. As for the prospects of these people obtaining work, there is a very high labour demand in the area, I am glad to say, and it has a current unemployment rate of 1·6 per cent. To give an illustration, of 900 workers who have been discharged from this factory or have left voluntarily since 1st October, 1961, only 35 are now registered as unemployed.
Can my hon. Friend confirm that there is a strong likelihood that a new tenant will be found for this factory, in which case the problem would be obviated to a great extent?
I imagine that this is a very attractive place of work to many industrialists. One problem would be that, if a very large firm came there, I suspect that there would probably be a very grave labour shortage.