07/03/2012 14:30 GMT | Updated 07/05/2012 06:12 BST

Government Defends Closure Of Remploy Factories After Labour Outrage

The government has defended its decision on Wednesday to close 36 Remploy factories across England and Wales, threatening to place up to 1,700 people out of work.

The factories provide jobs for disabled people, but ministers have decided they are not a cost-effective way of helping them into work because the factories don't have enough orders.

In an emergency statement to the Commons on Wednesday night, employment minister Maria Miller insisted the decision was "not about money", saying the factories involved were failing to turn a profit and hadn't done so for many years.

Miller said that the move was about sticking to the coalition's view that "money to support disabled people into employment should follow individuals not institutions," and that the factories being closed made "significant losses year after year."

Amid objections in the Commons from the opposition, Miller insisted that had it been elected, Labour would have been forced to take the same decisions, reminding the Shadow Cabinet that Labour had warned in 2007 that Remploy was "simply not viable."

Miller insisted that the decision "commanded the support of disabled people's organisations and disabled people themselves," and said she wanted to stop disabled people doing "government funded, segregated jobs. "

Responding for Labour, shadow employment minister Anne McGuire acknowledged that many disabled people do not like Remploy, but said: "For many people Remploy does offer a real job in a real supported environment."

She claimed that the consultation now being launched on the closure of the factories was flawed from the beginning, because ministers were "minded to accept" the outcome of the consultation, suggesting it was a fait accomplis.

Earlier on Wednesday workers at one of the Remploy factories to close were said to be in tears at the news.

Elaine Newell, production controller at the factory in south Leeds spoke of "devastation" and "tears in the canteen".

"We are completely and utterly devastated in here. We really didn't think that the Government would do this to the disabled workforce here," she said.

"There have been tears, people are so very, very anxious - they don't know what's going to happen to them."

"It's not just a job here for a lot of people, it is like their second family and we do a lot with them besides just work, they have had training, we help them with other aspects of their life and these people are just absolutely devastated.

She added: "It's appalling that they are going to put disabled people into mainstream employment when they're not going to have the same support as they have here.

Earlier the GMB union obtained a list of the factories earmarked for closure:

Aberdare, Aberdeen, Abertillery, Acton, Ashington, Barking, Barrow, Birkenhead, Bolton, Bridgend, Bristol, Chesterfield, Cleator Moor, Croespenmaen, Edinburgh, Gateshead, Leeds, Leicester, Manchester, Merthyr Tydfil, Motherwell, Newcastle, North London, North Staffs, Oldham, Penzance, Pontefract, Poole, Preston, Southampton, Spennymoor, Springburn, Swansea, Wigan, Worksop and Wrexham.