HC Deb 02 August 1976 vol 916 cc1193-5
11. Mr. Madden

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what are the latest conclusions in the manpower implications of any extension of the wool textile scheme; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Alan Williams

The applications by the Wool Textile EDC for a further scheme of assistance is still under consideration by my Department. The effect on manpower of a new scheme, if it is approved, will depend on the number and kind of projects put forward by firms. The EDC's proposals, which are fully supported by unions and employers in the industry, do not include assistance to firms closing down, as was the case in the original scheme. However, the possibility of redundancies arising in any new scheme cannot be ruled out.

Mr. Madden

Does the Minister appreciate that there is growing concern within the industry about the possible shortage of capacity and the shortage of skilled workers when the upturn in world trade brings about increases in demand for the wool textile industry? Will these matters be taken into close consideration in any further consideration that is being given to an extension of the scheme?

Mr. Williams

I am aware that some people have expressed such concern. However, we are satisfied that there is sufficient capacity and that there are adequate supplies of skilled manpower available. I emphasise that the proposals have been supported by both sides of the industry.

Mr. Richard Wainwright

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the great efforts of the industry during the past three years, assisted by the Government's wool textile scheme, have put it in a splendid condition for taking advantage of the expected upturn in world trade? Will he do his best to hasten on a further scheme so that the wool textile industry can join the ranks of the well-paid communities?

Mr. Williams

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct in praising the efforts of the industry, involving both employers and employees. It has had a remarkable record over recent years. The latest proposal was discussed at the EDC on 6th July, and on 20th July the EDC submitted a supplementary paper to the Department, which we are now considering. We hope to be able to announce a decision very soon.

Mr. Cryer

Does my hon. Friend accept that the announcement of the wool textile scheme is awaited with a great degree of interest and, in some cases, urgency? Does he agree that the industry should be looked at in the round? If capacity is to be retained that will make the textile scheme worth while, something must be done about cheap imports. In 1975 15,000 jobs were lost in the textile and clothing industries. Does my hon. Friend agree that we must examine imports in order to stop that sort of loss?

Mr. Williams

The whole situation must be considered. As my hon. Friend is aware, the situation in the wool sector has improved already. I am glad to say that the upturn has already started in that sector. Only last week, with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade, I attended a meeting with the representatives of the clothing industry to discuss the very points that my hon. Friend has mentioned. I am sure that he will appreciate that decisions in that respect lie with the Department of Trade.