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Hebburn Offices

Volume 406: debated on Monday 9 June 2003

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If he will make a statement on the future of his Department's offices in Hebburn. [117284]

The Hebburn offices accommodate 607 officials from the Department for Work and Pensions and the Inland Revenue. The lease on the building, which is held by the Inland Revenue, is due to expire on 23 June 2006. The Department for Work and Pensions is working with the Inland Revenue to identify suitable alternative accommodation in the Tyneside area. Alternative accommodation has already been found in Tyneside for more than 500 staff that are based at the Hebburn site. My hon. Friend will also be pleased to learn that the new Jobcentre Plus service in Jarrow will be rolled out by the end of this year. In addition, Gateshead and south Tyneside have been successful in gaining one of the new incapacity benefit pilot areas. That will be welcome news to local people, not least because it will give those who thought they had left the traditional shipbuilding and engineering industries for ever a chance to return to some of the jobs that are coming to the river.

I am aware that more than one Government agency is situated in that building. However, as the Minister stressed, many hundreds of south Tynesiders' jobs are in that building, and the closure will have a massive, adverse economic impact on the local Hebburn shopping centre. Will he get together with his fellow Ministers to review the position and ensure that the offices do not close?

I can give my hon. Friend two assurances. He knows that I want to do everything I can to help. First, I assure him that the jobs will not be lost: they are being relocated on Tyneside. Secondly, I realise the impact that this move is bound to have in the Hebburn area, and if he would like a meeting with me and officials from the Inland Revenue to discuss what can be done to redevelop the site once the lease runs out, I would be happy to arrange a meeting with him to see whether we can find a constructive way forward for the people of Hebburn.