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Courtaulds (Plant Closure)

Volume 79: debated on Monday 20 May 1985

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3.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales when he expects to complete his consideration of Delyn borough council's development strategy for Courtaulds' Greenfield plant following the announcement of the proposed closure of the plant.

4.

asked the Secretary of State for 'Wales if he will introduce further measures to alleviate the impact of job losses resulting from the closure of Courtaulds' yarn factory at Wrexham.

My officials are discussing urgently with the local authorities, the company, the Manpower Services Commission and the WDA the contribution which each can make to tackling the situation. Those discussions will cover the Delyn borough council's development plan and the county council's action response.

Will my right hon. Friend seriously consider extending the Delyn enterprise zone to include the No. 1 site at Greenfields when that site is transferred to Delyn borough council ? Is he aware that the council will have great difficulty in attracting substantial private investment to develop that site without the financial advantages of an enterprise zone, particularly the 100 per cent. capital allowances for new buildings ?

We are having detailed discussions with all the authorities about their proposals. It would be wrong to anticipate the outcome of those discussions, especially as we are also still awaiting a full response from Courtaulds about the contribution that it can make.

I welcome my right hon. Friend's commitment to consultations, but will he also bear in mind that, if the closures go ahead, the extensive public funds invested in Courtaulds over the past few years should be clawed back ? Will he see that that is done ?

Clawback is always considered in such cases and I confirm that it will be on this occasion. However, I should tell the House that Courtaulds has agreed to second a senior executive and support staff to provide management expertise for the development of local business in the Delwyn area. I welcome that proposal, but it is, of course, only one of the many aspects of the problem that we have been discussing with Courtaulds. We shall continue to hold detailed discussions with the company.

In view of the reports that the Prime Minister has intervened personally with Sir Christopher Hogg about alternative employment, will the Secretary of State also intervene personally with the chairman of BP International in order to obtain a stay of execution for Llandarcy so that the work force may be given a decent period in which to work out alternative plans, instead of a mere month ?

I will certainly draw to the attention of the senior management of BP what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said, but, as I told the Welsh Grand Committee last week, BP has set a notable example to other companies, including Courtaulds, with regard to the contribution that can be made in such circumstances. BP has committed itself in a number of ways to help create future jobs. It should be congratulated on the initiatives that it has already announced.

Order. I must draw the attention of the House to the fact that the question refers to Courtaulds Greenfield plant. I am afraid that I was confused by the names of Welsh towns.

What is the Secretary of State's reaction to the decision of the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs to launch an inquiry into the job losses both at Courtaulds and at BP Llandarcy ?

May I remind the Secretary of State that over 13,000 people are unemployed in the Deeside travel-to-work area and that there is a male unemployment rate of nearly 20 per cent.? The prospects for Flint, Holywell, Bagillt and Greenfield are very grim. The male unemployment rate in Flint and Holywell may approach 30 per cent. before long.

Will the right hon. Gentleman visit Mold and organise and chair a conference of county and borough leaders, together with the Welsh Development Agency and the Manpower Services Commission, with the objective of producing a rescue package.? What has the right hon. Gentleman done, with his Prime Minister, to see the chairman of Courtaulds in person in order to persuade him to retract these brutal decisions ?

As I have said before, I have seen the chairman of Courtaulds and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has corresponded with him. I have initiated with the local authorities discussions of the kind that the hon. Gentleman seems to want. What is required at present is not another meeting chaired by me, but a conclusion of the detailed discussions now in progress.

I am sure that, at least, the hon. Gentleman will welcome the significant announcements affecting the area made by Sharp and Data Magnetic in particular since the Courtaulds announcement was made.