HC Deb 17 April 1973 vol 855 cc251-3
21. Mr. David Clark

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many people were employed in the wool textile industry at the latest convenient date; and what was the comparable figure for June 1970.

The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. R. Chichester-Clark)

There were 113,500 in January 1973 and 142,000 in June 1970. The figure for January 1973 is provisional.

Mr. Clark

Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that such a shortfall in employment in an area so heavily dependent on the wool textile industry is very severe? Will he bear it in mind that, in spite of the very welcome prosperity of industry at the moment, the cyclical trade may cause a downturn? When that happens, will he do all he can to try to reassure the industry and possibly introduce a redundancy scheme for the older workers, on similar lines to the schemes in the coal industry and the docks?

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I understand that the "Neddy" on wool has some proposals, which I have not yet seen and which will of course be studied. The hon. Gentleman is right in that prospects for wool textiles are looking up. Order books are full in most firms, I understand, and unemployment has fallen by more than 2,500 over the year, from 5,840 in March 1972 to 3,100 in March 1973, so that is encouraging.

Mr. Wilkinson

Would not my hon. Friend agree that all sections of the wool textile industry deserve warm congratulations? They have increased aggregate earnings to £32.7 million in January and February, which is a 45 per cent. increase on the commensurate period last year. Will he speed up the consultations which are being undertaken under the Industry Act with the NEDC for the textile trade, because it is important that it be made fully competitive for the next decade?

Mr. Chichester-Clark

While I can endorse the achievements that my hon. Friend has mentioned in relation to the industry as a whole, I will draw my right hon. Friend's attention to what he has said.

Mr. Ford

Is the Minister aware that, although I follow the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. David Clark) in the long term, in the short term there is a shortage of skilled men in the wool textile industry, and not only in that industry but in the engineering and building industries? What are the Minister's proposals to rectify this shortage?

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I pay tribute to the work of the training board for the wool industry and I hope that the proposals which are now being discussed in Committee on the new Bill will help if further in its work.

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