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Textile And Clothing Workers

Volume 19: debated on Tuesday 2 March 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many textile and clothing workers have been made redundant in the last six months for which figures are available, nationally, in the North-West region, and in the Macclesfield and Congleton travel-to-work areas.

The provisional number of redundancies reported to the Manpower Services Commission as due to occur in the textile and clothing industry in Great Britain between August 1981 and January 1982 inclusive was 13,453. The figures for the North-West, Macclesfield and Congleton were 3,313, 37 and nil respectively. These figures are not comprehensive; they do not, for instance, include redundancies affecting fewer than 10 employees.

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for that reply. Is he aware that the textile and clothing industry is the second largest employer of labour in this country? If the Government had allocated even a tiny percentage of their advice and assistance—financial and otherwise—to that dynamic industry, the dramatic unemployment that it has experienced in the last three years would not have taken place. Will he advise us whether we shall take action along the lines of Belgium and other European countries to help that vital industry?

I fully appreciate the importance of the textile and clothing industry. Provided that we continue with a tough policy on imports, the textile industry, like others, will benefit from the revival in the economy for which we are working. The European Commission has sole competence in the application of the competition rules of the Treaty. We have argued strongly to the Commission that aids for textiles and clothing should be reduced and made more transparent, to ensure fair competition.

Is the Minister aware that many of the redundancies to which he referred in his answer were caused not by a slimming down in the industry but by the closure of textile mills? Is he further aware that it will be necessary to attract new industry to the areas where those closures have taken place? As many of those closures have been in my constituency, will the Minister explain why the Government are taking away its development area status this year?

The hon. Gentleman knows that I, too, come from a textile area. Throughout my life, I have been concerned with its fortunes. I must remind the hon. Gentleman that the question of development area status is one for the Department of Industry. He would not expect me to reply to that question now, but what he has said will be noted.

Is the Minister aware that over the last 10 years textile and clothing areas have lost 350,000 jobs and that towns such as Batley in my constituency have an unemployment rate among men and youths of about 30 per cent.? Is it not time that the Government acted constructively in textile and clothing areas, in the same way as action was taken to deal with the steel and coal industries?

I fully appreciate the problems of the industry. I remind the hon. Gentleman that it is not as if the textile industry had recently encountered difficulties. It has encountered difficulties for years and years. Provided that we adopt a tough policy on imports, the textile industry will benefit, as will others, from our economic policies.