Marks and Spencer

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:55 pm on 2 April 2001.

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Photo of Helen Jones Helen Jones Labour, Warrington North 4:55, 2 April 2001

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 24, to debate a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration.

Last Thursday, Marks and Spencer announced a restructuring programme, including the closure of its direct catalogue business. That closure will have more impact on my constituency than on any other, as both the call centre and the fulfilment business in Warrington, North will close with the loss of 686 jobs. Most of the staff who work in those operations are recruited locally. In view of the impact that that will have, it is important to have an urgent debate on the matter in the House so that we can hear from Ministers what consultations they have been able to have with the company, and discuss how to mitigate the impact on Warrington, North.

The implications for the local area are serious, so it is vital that we have an opportunity to discuss what assistance can be given to find alternative jobs for those staff and the possibilities of bringing into the area another firm or firms that can make use of the premises and find employment for those who are already well trained and well motivated. The matter is urgent, if we act quickly, we have a very good chance of finding employment for many of the staff involved, especially the call centre staff, of whom there is a shortage nationally. It is also important that we resolve the dilemma in which many people in the firm now find themselves, as they do not know what their future will be. Like the rest of us, they have bills and mortgages to pay, but they have been left in limbo. It is important that the House takes an early opportunity to discuss the matter so that their future can be assured and we can play our part in making that future secure.