I would have welcomed the opportunity to listen to the Remploy workers, but I was not aware that the demonstration was taking place today. I welcome the fact that the minister is working with Maria Miller, the UK Minister for Disabled People. That is very helpful and reassuring.
As Fergus Ewing said, the debate over Remploy factories is not new. In 2007, the then Labour Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Peter Hain, made the decision to close 29 out of 83 Remploy factories. He said at that time:
“The reality is that without modernisation Remploy deficits would obliterate our other programmes to help disabled people into mainstream work. With no change, in five years’ time Remploy would require £171 million a year on current trends. That would be £60 million over the £111 million funding envelope, which represents nearly the entire current annual Workstep budget.”
Peter Hain confirmed that the Government had
“managed to keep open 55 sites only on the basis of very stretching procurement targets and a tough forward plan. It will be up to everyone with an interest in Remploy—Government, management, trade unions ... MPs and other political representatives—to pull together to ensure that those factories meet their ambitious targets, otherwise they, too, could be put at risk.”—[Official Report, House of Commons, 29 November 2007; Vol 468, c 448, 449.]
That was more than four years ago. Today, the same issues must be addressed by the coalition Government at Westminster.
As Dundee has four Remploy factories, the issues are important to us in Scotland. Two weeks ago, Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, made a statement in the Commons in which she confirmed the protection of spending—currently £320 million—on specialist disability employment programmes over the spending review period and her determination to help more disabled people to enter and remain in work.