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Textile Industry (Lancashire)

Volume 984: debated on Tuesday 6 May 1980

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I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the accelerating number of mill closures and redundancies in the Lancashire textile industry".
I make the application because of the shattering announcements at the end of last week by Courtauld and Carrington Viyella of the closure of eight mills and establishments, together employing 1,500 people or more. One of the mills, Courtauld's Imperial mill, is in my constituency and employs more than 300 people. It survived the economic ravages of the 1930's but has been unable to survive those of this Government. The Courtauld announcement brings the total of that firm's job losses over the past 18 months alone to a staggering 7,200.

These closures come hard on the heels on announcements by Messrs. Tootal of 1,200 redundancies in the Lancashire textile industry and of many other annonuncements of closures and redundancies. In the spinning and weaving sectors alone, announcements have been made this year of closures of 20 mills. and 22 other firms have announced redundancies short of closure.

The total of job losses announced in just four months of this year stands at 4,600, which is almost equal to the figure of 5,300 for the whole of last year—itself one of the worst years on record.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House have repeatedly warned the Government that closures on such a scale would occur if adequate support for the industry were not forthcoming. But the Government have taken no effective action. They have sat on their hands and have repeatedly refused requests for debates from hon. Members on both sides. Given the Government's attitude, it is clear that it is unlikely that the issue could come up for urgent debate by any means other than an application under Standing Order No. 9.

The urgency of the matter is that, unless there is prompt Government action, there will be even more closures and large sections of the industry will, without question, be wiped out. In an urgent plea to me this morning, the Blackburn and District Textile Manufacturers Association said that unless the decline is arrested the industry will suffer "irreparable losses".

Textile and clothing is still the third largest industry in this country, and for the communities involved, as well as for the country as a whole, the closures are at least as serious as those taking place in the steel industry. Sadly, however, they have received less attention, because the total job loss figures are made up of many separate closure and redundancy decisions rather than one single dramatic decision and announcement, as in the steel industry. The numbers to be thrown out of work in the textile and clothing industry are equivalent to, for example, those made redundant at the Shotton and Corby steel works.

With those considerations in mind, you, Mr. Speaker, may recall that on 16 July last year you granted an application made under Standing Order No. 9 by my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mr. Jones) regarding the Shotton steel closure. I respectfully ask you to do likewise on this equally important matter.

The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) gave me notice before 12 noon today that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the accelerating number of mill closures and redundancies in the Lancashire textile industry".
The hon. Member referred to the emergency debate on Shotton, but I remind him and the House that every application stands on its own. There was an application for an emergency debate on Corby which was not successful.

The House has instructed me not to give reasons for my decision. The hon. Gentleman and the House are aware that his is one of a series of recent applications under Standing Order No. 9 for debates about redundancies in individual constituencies. I merely remind the House that the hon. Gentleman is not alone in his application.

The hon. Gentleman has drawn the attention of the House to a serious matter. I listened with care and concern to what he said, but I have to rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.