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Industrial Development Advisory Board

Volume 933: debated on Monday 13 June 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he proposes to make any changes to the powers or the constitution of the Industrial Development Advisory Board.

I welcome that reply. Can the Minister explain why the Government rejected the advice of IDAB on the use of taxpayers' money and made a further grant to the Kirkby workers' co-operative despite its advice that the fresh application for assistance to that co-operative did not accord with the Government's criteria? Is not that an example of political pressure overriding sensible commercial advice on the use of taxpayers' money?

Since its inception in June 1972, the Board has considered 367 cases. In only seven cases did the Government conclude differently from the Board. The hon. Member must accept that the final decision rests with the Government. In the case of the workers' co-operative at Kirkby, severe unemployment factors rightly influenced the Government.

It is interesting that the hon. Member should raise this question. The Government took the advice of IDAB into account and decided to rescue 700 jobs in Kirkby. Are the Opposition saying that the Government should have put 700 people on the dole? Are the Opposition opposed to this type of assistance, which will help towards a solution of the unemployment problem.

Can my hon. Friend confirm that not far from Kirkby, in Skelmersdale, Courtaulds—the industrial giant which has had £6 million from the taxpayer in order to continue with its factory and employ people in the textile industry and which made a profit of 9 per cent. generally over the last 12 months—is now discarding its employees and throwing them on the dole? Would it not be better to have more worker enterprises of this type fostered by the Government to keep more people in employment?

That is an interesting point. The Opposition did not raise the question of taxpayers' money being given to Courtaulds when that company announced 4,500 redundancies. Significant sums of taxpayers' money have been advanced. Some of that money has been the subject of recovery action. Courtaulds made a commercial judgment which resulted in 4,500 redundancies. There is strong political prejudice on the part of the Opposition spokesman. He fails to raise questions about Courtaulds but seems only too eager to raise the question of a workers' co-operative which has saved 700 jobs in an area of high unemployment.