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North Devon Manufacturers Association

Volume 165: debated on Wednesday 17 January 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assistance he is giving to the North Devon Manufacturers Association.

Through my south-west regional office, which maintains excellent relations with the North Devon Manufacturers Association, my Department has supported and will continue to support events sponsored by the association whenever possible.

Will my hon. Friend accept my thanks and congratulations on the good work of his Department in sponsoring a genuine multinational, locally based collection of industries, which is leading the way in skills training, information technology and happy co-existence to provide a good basis for prosperity in north Devon?

I accept my hon. Friend's comments. Our efforts have been very successful. I recently studied the unemployment figures for the Barnstaple and Ilfracombe travel-to-work area and for Bideford, and then contrasted the figures for November 1984 with those for November 1989. In November 1984, the respective figures for Barnstaple and Ilfracombe and for Bideford were 14·7 per cent. and 17·2 per cent. In November 1989, the figures were 6·7 per cent. and 8·1 per cent. That is a dramatic improvement.

What representations has the Minister received from employers in Devon about the difficulties that might face their employees should they be forced into short-time working? Is the Minister aware that, as a result of changes in Government regulations, if an employee earns more than £43 a week on short-time working he is prevented from claiming unemployment benefit for the days that he is not employed?

Will the hon. Gentleman urgently investigate the impact of the regulations in Devon and elsewhere? Will he ensure that the Secretary of State for Social Security changes the regulations soon so that they do not force short-time workers to be penalised in that way?

I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Gentleman, but none of the members of the North Devon Manufacturers Association has made representations to that effect. However, they are pleased with the substantial improvements to the infrastructure in north Devon and, in particular, the large sums of money that the Government are spending on improving road links—for example, the £109 million spent on the north Devon link road.