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Volume 532: debated on Wednesday 14 September 2011

1. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on Remploy’s operations in Scotland. (70960)

The Government are totally committed to supporting disabled people into employment, and the amount of money going into that is being protected. A consultation event on the future strategy of Remploy is taking place in Glasgow today, and Remploy staff have been invited to attend.

As job losses continue to increase in my constituency, can the Minister say whether he intends to engage with the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure that the Remploy jobs in Dundee are protected?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman, who is a doughty fighter for Remploy, that no decisions have been made. I understand that he attended a meeting in the Scottish Parliament organised by Helen Eadie MSP that undertook to submit a response to the consultation on Remploy, and that response will be welcome.

The Dundee Remploy factory is in the constituency of the hon. Member for Dundee West (Jim McGovern), but many of my constituents work in it. The factory makes first-class chemical and biological suits, which are required by the emergency services and the military. I urge the Minister to speak not just to the Department for Work and Pensions, however important that might be, but to the Ministry of Defence and the Home Secretary to ensure that the emergency services and the military look carefully at what Remploy produces and, in particular, the quality of the suits that the Dundee factory makes.

The hon. Gentleman will know that his constituency neighbour has already met the MOD, which has confirmed the high standard and quality of the work Remploy does in its Dundee factory. However, I urge the hon. Gentleman and everyone in Scotland with an interest to take part in the consultation.

I am sure that the Minister is aware that as well as the Dundee factory there are seven other Remploy factories in Scotland. Does he accept that while his colleagues in the Government are talking about the importance of manufacturing it would be crass and foolhardy to embark on the closure of factories that provide goods and jobs, where public sector procurement could make the difference to ensure that they are viable in future? Will he make representations across Government to ensure that the jobs in those eight factories in Scotland are protected?

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman agrees that it is not acceptable that around 50% of disabled people are out of work and that those who are in work often do jobs that are far below their potential. Closing the unemployment gap between disabled and non-disabled people could boost the overall economy by £13 billion, and the Government want to achieve that. We are undertaking a consultation; I urge him and everyone with an interest to take part in it.