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Volume 959: debated on Tuesday 28 November 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many textile workers are currently unemployed in the North-West region and in the United Kingdom as a whole.

At 10th August, the latest date for which this quarterly information is available, the numbers of people registered as unemployed who last worked in the textile industry were 7,734 in the North-West region and 30,187 in the United Kingdom.

I thank the Under-Secretary for that reply, but is he aware that in the year ending 30th September 1978, 13,400 textile workers have been made redundant? Is he further aware that output per head in this industry compares very favourably with that in all other industries, particularly the vehicle industry, in this country? Will he pay more attention to the importance of the textile industry and also bear in mind the problems which could result to it from enlargement of the EEC?

The hon. Gentleman has often attacked me for advocating public expenditure. Through the new multi-fibre arrangement the Government have paid a great deal of attention to this industry. We have saved 43,700 textile jobs through the temporary employment subsidy, which has been attacked by members of the Conservative Front Bench, and we have introduced a special short-time working scheme, which again did not receive the acclaim that it should have done from Opposition Members.

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the difficulties for the textile industry is that the EEC Commission reduced the amount which this country could pay in temporary employment subsidy, and that an EEC Commissioner, Christopher Tugendhat, a former Conservative MP, is going around the country outlining plans for further reductions? Does not that indicate the severe difficulties of our current membership of the EEC?

Certainly no one on the Labour Benches welcomed the reduction in the effectiveness of the temporary employment subsidy which we had to negotiate earlier this year.