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Volume 550: debated on Monday 10 September 2012

15. What estimate he has made of the proportion of workers from the recently closed Remploy factories who have gained alternative employment. (119828)

In the short period since closure, 35 people have immediately found jobs, and the vast majority of workers have already taken up the offer of personalised support with caseworkers, which this Government have introduced to ensure that there is support and which the previous Government did not do. The Remploy board is still considering nine factories at the best and final offer stage. When it has made that decision, I will write to the Members affected and place a copy of the letter in the Library.

I thank the Minister for that answer and welcome her to her new position. I am disappointed to learn that there is low uptake, but any new job is most welcome. Remploy Marine in my constituency, in Leven in Fife, which has an unemployment rate of 18%, manufactures high-quality life jackets that are sold internationally, and its order book is full. Nevertheless, the employees are anxious about their future, and the phase 2 bidding process seems to be shrouded in secrecy. When will we get details of the process and the time scales?

First, I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind words about my coming into this new position. If Mr Speaker will indulge me, I want to say how delighted I am to be here, particularly at the close of the Paralympic games, which have been such a sensational success. As Sir Philip Craven, the international Paralympics president has said, these have been the greatest Paralympic games of all time, with more medals in more sports— 120 medals—for Team GB and record ticket sales of 2.7 million in London compared with 480,000 in Beijing.

Let me return to the hon. Gentleman’s question. I know how much work he has done on this and that he delivered a 100,000-signature petition to the Prime Minister. Further work and analysis is continuing to determine the stage 2 process for the Remploy sites. Work is going forward. He, like me—I have read the words he said—wanted a viable business. That is exactly right, and that is what we are looking for. Where there is a viable business, it will continue, because we are looking for sustainable, long-term employment for all those employees.

I, too, welcome the Minister to her position. Will she remind the House how many more disabled people will benefit from the transfer of funds from Remploy, which is getting more disabled people back into work than was the case under the previous system?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. He is quite right. At the moment, the money for sustained employment for disabled people goes to just a fifth of the number of people it should. We are maintaining the budget of £320 million and we want it to work more effectively for more people. We are aiming to have people getting sustainable work as we move forward.

I thank the new Minister for her swift reply to my letter, in which I raised the question of the tax rates that redundant Remploy workers have been issued with. They have been given a temporary tax code, so some of them are paying 50% of their money in tax. They cannot wait until the beginning of the next tax year, so will the Minister do something urgently about the situation, because it is adding insult to injury?

I thank the right hon. Lady for her question. We have worked on the issue immediately. Straight away, she will be pleased to know that everybody affected will have their redundancy pay and, therefore, money. She is right to say that a 50% emergency taxation rate was put on that. We have spoken to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and to the personal caseworkers they will all get, who will help them fill in the forms and get the money back as soon as possible. I thank the right hon. Lady for highlighting that issue.

First, I welcome the hon. Lady to her post and wish her well. She has a very special role as a champion for disabled people both outside and, perhaps more importantly at times, inside Government.

The hon. Lady wrote to her local paper about her local Remploy factory in Birkenhead and was highly critical of management and very supportive of, in effect, a workers buy-out. Now that she is in a position to make a real difference, will she consider halting the current Remploy programme in order to allow workers throughout the rest of the country to benefit from a workers buy-out, which is the very policy that she supports?

I visited my local Remploy factory and met its workers, and I was hugely impressed with them. I was horrified to find out what had and had not happened with their proposed business plan, so I pursued the matter. The automotive industry on Merseyside was expanding at the time—we now have 24-hour work at Jaguar in Halewood and Vauxhall has been saved—and I thought that something could be done. That did not happen and I tried to get to the bottom of it—I was most disappointed with the management and that is on the record. What we are looking for is viable businesses, which we will support in every which way we can. I am also meeting various disability groups to consider the shape of the Remploy business in the 21st century and what we can do. I will be a champion for disabled people and I am looking at future job opportunities for them.