HC Deb 22 June 1976 vol 913 cc1340-1
6. Mr. Madden

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the latest total of unemployed people in West Yorkshire whose last employment was in the textile industry.

The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. John Grant)

At 13th May the total was 4,569.

Mr. Madden

Does my hon. Friend agree that, for the most part, this tragic toll of unemployed men and women are victims of unfair competition by foreign textile industries? Would he further agree that there is little point in applying sticking plaster to an industry which is bleeding to death? Will he therefore make representations to the Secretary of State for Industry asking for urgent and extensive import controls to be introduced? Secondly, will he take specific measures to assist the textile industries, which are suffering from additional problems of decline, since ways of boosting employment are urgently needed in these areas, which are suffering very badly?

Mr. Grant

My hon. Friend knows that the present coverage of import restraints for the textile industry as a whole has never been wider. I think he also knows the Government's views about the difficulties of widespread and non-selective controls and the fears of retaliation. However, I shall certainly draw his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Industry. I think that my hon. Friend is to meet the Minister of State at that Department in the near future to discuss these matters.

Mr. Viggers

Has the Minister made an estimate for national unemployment in the coming months and years? If so, will he share it with the House and the country?

Mr. Grant

I do not think that that arises on this Question.

Mr. Noble

Does my hon. Friend accept that the situation in the cotton and allied fibres industry in the North-West is at least as bad as that in West Yorkshire and that in industries employing a large number of women the unemployment figures tend to be understated? Will he take note of the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Madden) about import controls, particularly the point that, although we have wide and all-embracing controls, they are so high that they make no damned difference?

Mr. Grant

I certainly share my hon. Friend's anxiety about the North-West, but I have already answered the question about import controls. Despite what my hon. Friend says, I should not have thought it was true to say that they are having no effect at all. I think that they are having a substantial effect.

Mr. Joseph Dean

Is my hon. Friend aware that all the people involved in the industry—employers and unions—believe that the present import controls, although they have been extended, still fall far short of being adequate to deal with the problem and that when they are imposed they are far too little and far too late to be effective? The stuff is already here before action is taken.

Mr. Grant

I cannot add to what I have said, except to repeat that I will certainly draw my right hon. Friend's attention to what has been said today.