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Wool Textile Industry

Volume 974: debated on Thursday 29 November 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he will take steps to ensure the continuance of the Wool Textile Economic Development Committee which is currently under review by the National Economic Development Council; and whether he will also ensure that a second Atkins report on the future of the wool textiles industry is prepared in view of the considerable changes affecting the industry since 1969.

The decision about the continuance of the Wool Textile Economic Development Committee is a matter for the National Economic Development Council. There has been no recent discussion in the Wool Textile Economic Development Committee of the need for a further report on the strategic future of the wool textile industry on the scale of the 1969 report, and I have no plans for commissioning such a report.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry where the 28 firms, from which the wool textile industry scheme—stage 1—grant of £130,239 was reclaimed, are located in the United Kingdom; where and why the grant was reclaimed; how many redundancies there were; and, in view of the results of this policy, if he will ensure that the industry is not in the future forced to dispose of valuable assets as a consequence of unfair trading conditions.

The following is the regional location of the 28 firms from which grant of £130,239 was reclaimed under the first stage wool textile scheme:

Yorkshire and Humberside17
Northern Region6
North-West Region2
The reasons for reclaiming the grants were:—

(1) Items in projects not qualifying3
(2) Assets disposed of8
(3) Assets taken out of use for wool textiles9
(4) Assets scrapped1
(5) Company liquidation or receivership3
(6) Machinery returned to manufacturer1
(7) Overcharge in claims2
(8) Assets exported1

Grants were reclaimed at various dates between January 1975 and September 1979. No figure is available of redundancies due to the events which caused grant to be reclaimed nor is it possible to say if such redundancies as may have occurred were due to grant reclamation. The policy of reclaiming grants made under industry schemes is related to the use and retention of the assets and not directly to unfair trading.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if the Wool Textile Economic Development Committee has recently undertaken a research investigation into the trade and industry problems of the industry.

The Wool Textile Economic Development Committee and the National Wool Textile Export Corporation recently commissioned a study of buying attitudes to wool textile products from the United Kingdom in West Germany, France and Italy, and resources needed by the wool textile industry for exporting. The report of the study is being considered by the Wool Textile Economic Development Committee.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry, in view of the fact that 90 per cent. of the projects under the wool textile industry schemes were completed before this year, to what reasons he attributes the present substantial loss of jobs in the wool textile industry.

No assessment has yet been possible of the second wool textile scheme and so no conclusion can be reached about redundancies arising from the scheme in 1979. Of the 268 projects in the two schemes, 58 had not been completed by December 1978. The loss of jobs in the industry during 1979 has been variously attributed to falling demand for worsted fabrics; shifts in demand from wool to lighter fibres; fashion changes to less formal clothing; imports of fabrics and made up garments from EEC and low cost sources and loss of exports, particularly for worsteds, in the Middle East.