Skip to main content

Textile And Footwear Industries

Volume 981: debated on Tuesday 18 March 1980

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what retraining opportunities there are for those made redundant in the textile and footwear industries.

I am informed by the Manpower Services Commission that workers made redundant in the textile and footwear industries are eligible to apply for the full range of courses available under the training opportunities scheme. I should like to point out however, that potential redundant jobs in both the textile and footwear industries may be supported under the temporary short time working compensation scheme and that help or assistance under this scheme has been of particular benefit to the textile industry.

May I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the fact that his departmental officials who are responsible for checking the applications under the temporary short-time working compensation scheme in the footwear industry are disallowing holiday pay benefits which are paid to those workers on short-time working in the textile industry? Is this not a grave anomaly which should be rectified?

I do not think it is so much a matter of principle. In the textile industry holiday pay is credited to employees on a weekly basis, and it stands to their credit. That does not apply to other industries. I agree, however, that it is an anomaly and I shall look at it carefully.

While the temporary short-time working compensation scheme is of some value to the textile and footwear industries, it is of no value when the firm faces not a lack of orders but an inability to sell at the right price because of high exchange and interest rates. Given the fact that we are now entering a more serious recession than that which existed even in 1976–77, will the Government agree to look carefully at the possibility of instituting a successor to the temporary employment subsidy which would be of great value both to the textile and footwear industries?

The policy of high interest rates, which is being pursued by the Government, is being pursued by the Western world as a whole, and at present our interest rates are particularly favourable compared with those of America and Germany.

The temporary employment subsidy fell foul of the Treaty of Rome and was regarded as an unsuitable system for subsidising industry. For that reason we have the temporary short-time working compensation scheme, which is working.

While paying full tribute to the Government for continuing the temporary short-time working compensation scheme, may I ask my hon. Friend whether he agrees with me that preventing the redundancies—which lies within the Government's power—is a far better way of dealing with this problem? Will he not agree that the textile and footwear industries are suffering unfair competition? Will the Government now consider using selective import controls to give fair competition for these two strategically important industries?

I know that my hon. Friend is vigorous in the defence of the textile industry and his own constituency interests. The imposition of selective import controls is not a matter for my Department. I am assured by the Department of Trade that all measures are being taken to protect the textile industry from unfair competition. In fact since May 1979 all the measures that have been available have been used extensively—far more than ever before—to protect the industry from unfair competition and low cost imports.

Has the Minister had any discussions with his right hon. and hon. Friends in the Department of Education and Science about the possibility of capital resources available in technical colleges in the textile areas being used for retraining textile workers who are made redundant?

I am delighted to inform the hon. Member that we have regular consultations with the Department of Education and Science on the best way of using further education policies and educational training within schools as well in the way that the hon. Member has suggested.

I am delighted to hear the praise and support that the Minister is now giving to the benefits of the short-time working compensation scheme. It strikes me as odd that the Government, on taking office, dropped proposals for a statutory permanent scheme. Will he now review the short-time working scheme and resuscitate and bring back to the House the propsals for a more permanent scheme?

The right thing for any Government to do is to look at these schemes annually and judge them against the unemployment situation and take whatever measure is necessary.