asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many people were helped by the temporary short-time working compensation scheme in the last 12 months for which figures are available.
A precise figure is not available, but I estimate that almost 1·3 million people have shared short-time working under the scheme in Great Britain in the past 12 months.
Would my right hon. Friend like to elaborate on the actions that he has taken to deal with the present unemployment problems and compare those actions with what was done under the previous Government?
We have dramatically increased the amount spent on special employment measures. Indeed, at a time when Government expenditure as a whole is tending to decrease, expenditure on special employment measures this financial year has increased by 50 per cent. over the previous year.
Is the Minister aware that the recent decline in the number of textile and clothing workers covered by the short-time working compensation scheme has nothing to do with the alleged recovery in the economy, and that trading conditions in these industries remain seriously depressed? Will he look favourably at the two proposals from the trade unions and employers in the industries—that firms that have already used their full entitlement can reapply after a suitable time, and that firms that go back to full-time working before using their full entitlement can save the unused portion for later use if demand declines again?
I am ready to consider constructively any proposal to help the textile industry. I have recently received two deputations about the scheme from firms and groups in textile areas. The temporary short-time working compensation scheme is not a counter-cyclical measure to help the textile industry. It is designed to support jobs that are basically viable in the medium term.