§ 7. Mr. Robert Atkins
asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the current rate of unemployment in the Preston travel-to-work area.
§ Mr. Jim Lester
At 9 October, the provisional unemployment rate in the Preston travel-to-work area was 8'7 per cent.
§ Mr. Atkins
Does my hon. Friend accept that I do not find that figure particularly pleasant—indeed, I find it quite the reverse? In view of the commitment by companies as successful as British Aerospace and Leyland Vehicles, does he believe that an enterprise zone on the site of the soon-to-be "former Preston docks" is a good idea?
§ Mr. Lester
Of course I accept that no rate of unemployment is acceptable or pleasant for any hon. Member. My hon. Friend's suggestion is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. I understand that a site is under consideration. I shall pass on my hon. Friend's views.
§ Mr. Stan Thorne
Reference has been made to productivity and pay. In view of the high productivity and low pay in the textile industry in the Preston area may we have an explanation for the closures there?
§ Mr. Lester
No one claims that pay is the only factor affecting the industry and unemployment. Pay is a critical factor in many industries, but it has never been a factor in the textile industry. The factors in the textile industry are the transfer of technology, goods coming in from developing countries and the failure to link production to products which people want to buy, such as light-weight suits. The problem has existed for many years. It is not recent.