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Short-Time Working Compensation Scheme

Volume 979: debated on Tuesday 19 February 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment what decision he has now made on the future of the temporary short-time working compensation scheme for the textile industry.

I refer the hon. Member to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on Thursday, 14 February 1980.

Is not the Minister aware that, in the light of the Government's failure to secure adequate protection for the textile industry—which was condemned by all parties yesterday—there is an urgent need for conditions relating to the scheme to be improved? Will he at least consider improving the scheme?

We are always prepared to consider improving any of our schemes within the budget allowed.

Will my hon. Friend take note that the measure to increase the amount of money allocated to the industrial language training scheme for those on short-term work and those who are unemployed has been widely accepted and welcomed in my constituency?

I shall be delighted to take note of that. It demonstrates that we change the rules where beneficial.

Does the Minister accept that many thousands of jobs in the textile industry have been lost during the past few months? Does he further accept that tinkering about with such schemes provides no solution? Will he impress upon his colleagues in his Department and in the Department of Trade that there is no substitute for more stringent controls on imports into the United Kingdom, particularly from low-cost countries?

As my constituency is close to that of the hon. Gentleman I recognise clearly that the textile industry has not contracted only during the past few months. It has been contracting during the past few years. It is the most protected industry in Britain. I recognise that imports cause a grave disturbance in the textile industry. Basically, the textile industry is a good industry. It works well and has a high productivity rate. However, there has been a change in world demand. The question of low-cost countries producing goods without subsidies for sale in Britain and competing with our factories, must be dealt with. The future of the textile industry depends on the up-grading of its products. We must concentrate on higher quality and higher technology, as that side of the industry is still expanding.