HC Deb 22 July 1980 vol 989 cc251-3
3. Mr. Greville Janner

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the latest level of unemployment in the city of Leicester; and by what percentage it has increased since the same date in 1979.

The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Jim Lester)

At 10 July the provisional number of people registered as unemployed in the Leicester employment office was 14,084, an increase of 19.4 per cent. since July 1979.

Mr. Janner

Is the Minister aware that these are the worst figures since 1932? Is he aware that the Government are destroying the prosperity of cities such as Leicester throughout the country, which depend upon traditional industries such as hosiery, knitwear and footwear? Will he take steps to help all those cities that are suffering from these intolerable levels of unemployment, which demoralise their people, both young and old?

Mr. Lester

I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman is also aware that these figures reflect the 178 per cent. increase in unemployment in his own city, which took place under the previous Government. If he does not like percentages, it represents 6,801 people. Of course we recognise that cities such as Leicester, which is part of the East Midlands have suffered considerably because of changes in the hosiery and knitwear industries. Schemes in the East Midlands have already cost £ 1.6 million in subsidising 99 projects. The simple fact is that that has not helped the hosiery industry. As my right hon. Friend said, the only thing that will help the hosiery and knitwear industries is if they produce the right products at the right price and market them effectively.

Mr. Farr

Is my hon. Friend aware that one of the main causes of increasing unemployment in the Leicester area is the big increase in imports from unfairly competitive areas? Will he undertake to meet a deputation from the Leicester area, perhaps in conjunction with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry, so that these points can be put to him carefully, to ensure that the position is fully appreciated?

Mr. Lester

I am prepared to join my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade who, I think, is the best person to see, on the question of unfair trading, dumping and import controls. The Secretary of State has made it clear that we shall act quickly and firmly on proven cases of dumping. We shall also act in cases of mis-labelling and similar types of cheating within the international market. Import controls, however, involve many problems. I ask my hon. Friend to bear in mind that the textile, hosiery and knitwear industries export £ 2,000 million worth of goods a year, and they could be affected by import controls.

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