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Mr. Byers: My hon. Friend is a powerful advocate on this issue. For some time, he has been concerned about Bathgate's prospects and the possible decision by Motorola. He has set the right tone for the House. We need to be conscious of the needs of the individuals affected by the decision. They will be very uncertain about their prospects and need to know that their Government in Westminster and the Scottish Parliament and Executive want to put in place measures to assist
We understand Motorola's difficulties. Some 21,000 jobs are being lost worldwide because of the downturn in the mobile phone market and Bathgate is paying a heavy price because of the industry's commercial decisions. We need to engage with Motorola and find a new owner for an excellent facility at Easter Inch. My hon. Friend mentioned the repayment of regional selective assistance. Motorola has been clear on that. It received the assistance subject to certain conditions and has been open in stating that if it does not meet them, it is only right and proper to repay the money. It said that in the last 24 hours.
I agree with the comments made by Bill Speirs of the STUC. This is an opportunity to work in a real partnership. My hon. Friend made an important point about the strengths of the work force in Bathgate. Many of the employees are young and have been through excellent training as a result of Motorola's efforts. It is true to say that education and training are probably the best economic policy that any community or country can have. Motorola's employees will be in a strong position to take advantage of the new opportunities that it is to be hoped will be available to them in the next six to 12 months. We have a breathing space to ensure that those opportunities exist for the people affected by Motorola's decision.
The Conservatives sneer when we talk about establishing a taskforce to help those people, but in the north-east, when Siemens closed its plant in my constituency and Fujitsu closed its plant at Newton Aycliffe further south, taskforces were set up and within 12 months the majority of people who were affected were in work. That is in stark contrast to the Conservatives' approach. They would simply say, "This is about market forces. Government should not intervene." We are following an active policy in which we make representations. However, if a decision is taken, of which we do not approve--as in this case--but which is in response to commercial realities, we want to work with the people and community affected so that we can be far stronger in addressing their needs and concerns. That is exactly what we will do in Bathgate. We will work with the Scottish Executive and Motorola to ensure that people affected by the decision will have new opportunities.
Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells): The job losses at Motorola are disastrous for the staff and work force, especially in the constituency of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). However, the effect will be felt more widely, both in Scotland and the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, the losses follow more than 350,000 manufacturing jobs lost since the last general election. That compares with 69,000 extra manufacturing jobs created by the most recent Conservative Government. Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm those figures and that contrast? Will he also comment on today's CBI industrial trends survey, which shows that orders, output and business confidence are sharply down? The terrible job losses may be the latest but not the last in the sector.
Most importantly, will the disaster at Motorola finally shake the Government out of their complacency on employment? Last-minute emergency telephone calls from the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry do not repair the damage caused by four
Will the Secretary of State today start to listen to what companies and industry have been telling the Government for four years about the need to retain competitiveness and the damage that will be caused to future jobs if that is not done? Will he start to stand up for the interests of British industry? Will he resist the endless Treasury demands for more and more revenue from business and industry which have reduced the Department of Trade and Industry to the role of a spectator as the job losses mount, month after month?
Finally, is it the case that Motorola was hit by the slow take-up and orders for its new GPRS handset, caused in turn by the £22.5 billion paid by the industry to the Treasury last year as the licence fee for the next mobile phone spectrum auction? That was a transfer of debt from the public to the private sector which weakened the telecom sector and threatened to put this country further behind in the whole technology sector.
Mr. Byers: I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman got his last point totally wrong. He was talking about a second-generation capability mobile phone, and of course the auction related to third-generation capability. Perhaps that is the sort of detail that he does not want to go into.
Most importantly, we should look at the reasons that Motorola has given for its decision. Let us listen not to the right hon. Gentleman or me, but to Motorola, which has made it very clear that the decision was made because of a downturn in the global mobile phone market. That is why 12,000 jobs are being lost worldwide--not only in Scotland, but in America, Brazil and Dublin. We are in a global economy and we feel the consequences of that.
The right hon. Gentleman made a comparison with the loss of manufacturing jobs. He was very selective in the period from which he quoted figures. He said that some 300,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in the past four years under this Government, but he failed to look at the record on manufacturing of 18 years of Conservative Government. Let us consider that period--1979 to 1997. The right hon. Gentleman does not like it because he knows that 2.5 million manufacturing jobs were lost in that time. That is an average loss of 150,000 manufacturing jobs every year for 18 years, not just one or two years. That is why Labour Members will take no lessons from the Conservatives about our commitment to manufacturing. In Scotland, there are now 100,000 more people in work than when we came into office. In the United Kingdom, there are now 1.2 million more people in work than in May 1997. Those are the true figures, which the right hon. Gentleman will not allow to get in the way of his prejudice.
It was interesting that there was nothing in the Conservative spokesman's remarks, not even a sentence, about the steps to help the individuals affected by the decision, because the Conservatives simply do not care. We know that because we have been here; we know their attitude to the loss of manufacturing jobs. In Scotland, hundreds of thousands of jobs in manufacturing were lost
Mr. Joe Ashton (Bassetlaw): Is my right hon. Friend aware that the collapse of the mobile phone industry is affecting not just Motorola in Scotland but 950 jobs at Ericsson in my constituency? Is it not time that there was an inquiry by the Office of Fair Trading into that industry's marketing? It costs £100 to make each mobile phone, yet the networks--Orange, Vodafone, BT and so on--are putting them on sale at £15 to £20, hoping to make their money from the cost of calls. They have expanded the market into a fashion industry, as phones are given as children's presents at Christmas. Kids are given phones only to find out that they cannot afford the £5 or £10 vouchers to keep using them. Suddenly, virtually overnight, a major worldwide industry has collapsed.
There should be some inquiry, even if it is conducted by a television company, into how a high-tech industry can pull that sort of stunt and put hundreds of people--indeed, thousands across Europe--out of jobs while being irresponsible about marketing. Will my right hon. Friend ask the Office of Fair Trading to conduct an inquiry into how the collapse came about?
Mr. Byers: I do not think establishing an OFT inquiry would serve the purposes about which my hon. Friend feels strongly. If there is any evidence of anti-competitive behaviour, clearly that should be referred to the OFT. However, there are wider issues. I fully understand my hon. Friend's concerns about Ericsson's decision in relation to his constituency. We are working closely with Ericsson to try to identify a new owner for that facility and its other facility just outside Scunthorpe. There has been a lot of interest from people wishing to acquire those plants. I hope that there might be some good news concerning those individuals. There are therefore issues that need to be addressed, but starting an OFT inquiry now will not serve the objectives that my hon. Friend wishes to achieve.