We announced to the House on 16 March 2006 the Government’s intention to appoint independent consultants to conduct a strategic review of Remploy’s future business options. I have no current plans to visit the Remploy factory in Dundee.
Last Tuesday the Minister announced that the review of the Remploy organisation is to be extended. The review has been extremely controversial in Dundee, where many of the Remploy workers feel that it is no more than a convenient cover to close down the Remploy factory network, particularly the Dundee factory, which has one of the best business cases not only in Scotland, but in the UK. Will my hon. Friend agree to visit the factory with me to reassure those workers and reaffirm that the review is not simply about closing their factory?
I know of my hon. Friend’s great interest in the Remploy factory in Dundee, both as a Member of Parliament and previously as a full-time officer of the GMB, which is the predominant union in the Dundee factory. Working closely with the trade unions and other stakeholders, we have tried to ensure that there is no pre-judging the outcome of the review. I await the result of the PricewaterhouseCoopers review, and at an appropriate time I will be delighted to visit Dundee and to include a visit to my hon. Friend’s factory.
Over 80 towns and cities in Britain have Remploy factories. Does my hon. Friend agree that those considerable assets in terms of buildings and the skills of the staff there could be used to establish a much closer relationship than has existed hitherto between Remploy and the other Department for Work and Pensions agencies, such as pathfinders to work?
That depends very much on the local relationships. In some areas there is a close relationship between Remploy and its interwork, as well as its factory network, and Jobcentre Plus or pathways to work. We want to ensure that we maximise the impact of the support that we give to disabled people seeking employment. I certainly take my hon. Friend’s comments on board and will ensure that as far as possible we have a close working relationship not just with Remploy, but with other supported factories and workstep through the country.