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Mr. Byers: On the latter point, that was because of conversations that we had with Motorola, and its public statements since the announcement about the reasons for its decision. The hon. Gentleman should consider the company's decision to close its facility in Dublin, which was clearly within the eurozone but still felt the effect of the global downturn. Those are the reasons that have been given by Motorola.
As for the work of the taskforce, the Scottish Executive said today that £10 million would be available. That is not a capped figure. More will be made available if necessary to meet the needs of the individuals affected. It is important that they should be aware that there will be support and training, and that the necessary steps will be taken to put them in a strong position to get the jobs that will be created in a strong Scotland in the future.
Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde): I have to be honest, Mr. Speaker, and say that I missed the first two minutes of my right hon. Friend's statement. I was delayed in coming to the House.
Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton): I welcome the establishment of the taskforce. I have some practical experience, as I chair a taskforce in Dumbarton in relation to the J&B Whisky bottling plant, which closed three years ago with the loss of 500 jobs. With a partnership approach, fewer than 60 people out of the original 500 have not secured employment, and there are reasons why some of those who remain unemployed have not secured work. In the light of the experience of myself and others, does my right hon. Friend accept the fact that the private employer is the key to the taskforce? The private employer has to be committed, just as Diageo was in my constituency. I pay tribute to Diageo for its involvement. Motorola has to be centrally involved, so that it leaves the community an economic and social legacy as a result of its many years in Bathgate.
Mr. Byers: My hon. Friend, drawing on his personal experience, makes an important point about the role of the private sector. Given Motorola's 32 years of involvement in Scotland, and given also the nature of the company, I am sure that it will want to be involved in the work of the taskforce. I know from my experience in north-east England that, as my hon. Friend said, taskforces will be successful when the private sector is actively involved with the public sector. We welcome the fact that the STUC is a member of the taskforce. Partnership will often be the most successful approach.
Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset): Will the Secretary of State welcome the fact that the European Information Society Group, or EURIM--the all-party group that deals with Information Society issues--decided almost a month ago to set up a mobile working party? There is a meeting on Monday to deal with the issues. Will he consider carefully the fact that the payment of £22.5 billion by the networks has meant that they have not invested in current roll-out of the GPRS system? Motorola is the first company in the world to have made handsets available, but there is no network for them. That is a significant issue, as Motorola would have been manufacturing the handsets now if the networks could afford to make the investment and had not given £22.5 billion to the Chancellor.
Mr. Byers: I hope that the working party will deal with that point, as I think that the hon. Gentleman has got it wrong. The working party might be able to illuminate him about the exact consequences. I know that the Conservative Opposition have been trying to turn the proceeds of the auction--the £22.5 billion received by the Government for the third generation--into an issue.
Mr. William Ross (East Londonderry): Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I had an Adjournment debate in Westminster Hall only yesterday on job losses in the electronics industry in Northern Ireland? I think that those losses are, in total, of the same magnitude per capita for Northern Ireland as the loss announced today is for Scotland. Is he also aware that I was somewhat surprised not only to secure that debate, but to learn that he was to speak on the subject today, as we have devolution in the two affected areas of the United Kingdom? I am gratified that the Government are indicating through him a measure of responsibility for resolving the difficulties caused by such job losses. Will he assure me that whatever is done with regard to Motorola and Scotland will be done in every other region of the United Kingdom where such job losses occur?
Mr. Byers: As you know, Mr. Speaker, because we have communicated about the matter, some aspects are reserved. For example, we have direct responsibility for social security benefits and employment legislation, whereas industrial assistance issues are devolved to the Scottish Executive.
However, I have always believed that devolution is about maintaining a partnership approach, and that we achieve far more together. Some people do not agree, but we achieve more together than by claiming that matters are not our responsibility. I was therefore more than happy to talk to Motorola, and the Prime Minister believed that it was also his responsibility to do that. We cannot instruct a commercial company, but we can make representations. Sometimes they are successful and sometimes they are not, and we regret it. However, it is far better to make the effort on behalf of workers wherever they are in the United Kingdom--Scotland, Wales, England or Northern Ireland--than to stand to one side and do nothing.
Mr. Michael Moore (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale): Motorola has a huge presence in Scotland and the closure of the plant will be a massive blow to the whole country as well as the immediate Bathgate area. Does the Secretary of State accept that it is a warning of a wider problem in the telecoms sector? Signum Circuits in my constituency in Selkirk has laid off a significant part of its work force, and although the company had begun to repair the damage that Viasystems did to the borders region, it is now on short-term working.
Some sectors--telecommunications is only one--are experiencing global difficulties for some of the reasons that we discussed this afternoon. The best thing that the Government can do is to ensure a climate of economic stability. We operate in a global economy and multinational companies can go anywhere in the world. It is therefore clear that they will go to countries where there is some economic stability.
Clearly, there is market pressure on the telecommunications sector, especially because of the dramatic downturn in the American economy. We must do all we can to support companies, through R and D and further assistance of that nature. We are more than willing to work with the relevant industries, sector by sector, to identify the steps that need to be taken to ensure that they are in a strong position to meet the challenges ahead.
Mr. Chris Pond (Gravesham): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I want to raise the falsification of a letter that was written by one of the most senior Officers of the House. A member of the public falsified the letter to support his wrongful allegations of misconduct and impropriety against me.
The Serjeant at Arms recently considered a complaint about letters that I had written on Commons notepaper to young people in my constituency. On 26 March, the hon. Member who had complained received a reply from the Assistant Serjeant at Arms. He passed it on to my political opponent, the prospective parliamentary Conservative candidate for Gravesham, Mr. Jacques Arnold, who was the original source of the complaint.
The reply exonerated me, but Mr. Arnold has now admitted to having removed a section of the letter from the Assistant Serjeant at Arms before circulating to the press a now fraudulent document, which still carried the letterhead and signature of the Assistant Serjeant at Arms. The passage that he removed stated:
Some may consider this a rather ham-fisted, if dishonest and deceitful, attempt at forgery by a Tory prospective parliamentary candidate. However, forgery for personal gain is generally considered a criminal offence. How does the House consider incidents of forgery for political gain, and what can Parliament do to make sure that this sort of practice does not continue elsewhere?