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Market Harborough

Volume 21: debated on Tuesday 30 March 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on employment prospects in the Market Harborough area.

Future job prospects in Market Harborough, and elsewhere, will depend on the development of a soundly based economy, which means, among other things, bringing down inflation and continuing to improve productivity and competitiveness. That is the only way to create the new and secure jobs that we all want to see in Market Harborough and throughout the country.

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for his reply, and I am glad that unemployment in the Market Harborough area declined again last month, but is he aware of the drift of jobs and companies towards the nearby enterprise zone of Corby? Will he bear in mind the possibility, as is happening in other parts of the country, that enterprise zones may attract old-established companies away from their existing sites?

Corby is facing a particularly difficult unemployment problem as a result of the closure of the steelworks. I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that it was necessary for the Government to do everything possible to help. I believe that enterprise zones there and elsewhere will attract new industry. My hon. Friend is right to point out that what is happening in Market Harborough gives us room for cautious optimism, as the unemployment rate there has reduced in the last quarter compared with a year ago.

Is the Minister aware that there is no optimism whatever in the county of Leicestershire, where it has been a catastrophic week, with redundancies at British Aerospace and Metal Box, and wicked decision and indecision by the Secretary of State for the Environment on the Belvoir mines? Will he consult the right hon. Gentleman to see what can be done to bring back employment to what will otherwise become an area of ghost towns?

I think that the statement made by my hon. Friend was very welcome. With regard to the situation in Leicestershire, it is true that there have been redundancies at British Aerospace. How British Aerospace distributes its work between different factories is a matter for the corporation, but in the country as a whole Ministry of Defence work given to British Aerospace has increased steadily in the past three or four years.

Does the Minister recognise that today's statement will be received with hollow laughter in Market Harborough in view of the announcement in the past week of the loss of 1,600 jobs in Leicestershire? When will he realise and inform his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that it is the Government's economic policy that is driving firms to make redundancies, not any lack of efficiency in the Leicestershire firms which have announced those 1,600 redudancies?

I am sure that it will not have escaped the notice of the people that the remedy suggested by the Labour Party in its alternative strategy is precisely the recipe that the Labout Government put into effect in 1974 and 1976, which doubled unemployment and brought the IMF on to the scene.