HC Deb 12 November 1979 vol 973 cc888-90
11. Mr. Woolmer

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what assessment of the future of the wool textile industry he has made in the light of the West Yorkshire metropolitan county council report "Economic Trends" of September 1979, a copy of which has been sent to him, showing an acceleration of job loss in the industry; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. David Mitchell

This report illustrates the concern felt in the area about the future of the wool textile industry which has been raised by representatives of the industry.

Mr. Woolmer

As the wool textile industry has lost 130,000 jobs during the last 20 years, over 60,000 jobs in the last 10 years and this report forecasts that a further 26,000 jobs will be lost in the three years up to 1980, is the Minister aware that employers, unions and local authorities are united in demanding an urgent and thorough review by the Government and the EEC of industrial, regional and trade policies towards the wool textile industry and those communities that are suffering so badly as a result of this decline?

Mr. Mitchell

Some of the jobs lost are accounted for by rationalisation of the industry, which has proceeded with assistance from the Government under section 8 of the Industry Act. I believe that the wider question raised by the hon. Gentleman is to be debated in the House tomorrow.

Mr. Cryer

Is the Minister aware that following rationalisation under the Labour Government there was a slight increase in the number of people employed in the industry? Does he accept that the present increase in the number of unemployed in the industry is due to the inertia of the Government over the application of the MFA and the determination of the EEC to do absolutely nothing and thus defeat the aims and objects of the MFA?

Mr. Mitchell

When the Government are given real evidence of unfair trading practices they are prepared to raise the matter with the EEC, as we have already done in the case of Prato.

Mr. Burden

Is not one of the problems of the wool textile industry that wool textiles are being replaced in many areas by other fabrics?

Mr. Mitchell

There are commercial problems that affect the industry, and my hon. Friend has put his finger on one of them.

Mr. Les Huckfield

Does the hon. Gentleman realise the seriousness of the situation in the areas represented by my hon. Friends? Those areas have seen about 2,000 redundancies declared by 23 firms in the past six months. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the answer that he gave during the Adjournment debate on 6 November, when he virtually washed his hands of the industry, caused a great deal of concern on both sides of that industry?

Mr. Mitchell

The hon. Gentleman has unfairly misinterpreted the answers that I gave during the Adjournment debate. If he is in the House tomorrow he will hear that matter further embroidered in the course of debate.