§ 2. Mr. Janner
To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will provide extra assistance for Leicester's traditional industries.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Technology (Mr. Edward Leigh)
The DTI already has in place a number of schemes that are helping traditional industries and other companies in Leicester and elsewhere.
§ Mr. Janner
Is the Minister aware that those schemes are totally inadequate and that while in previous recessions Leicester's traditional industries—knitwear, footwear, hosiery and textiles—survived well, they now face catastrophe and high unemployment, and businesses are closing by the day? What practical measures, if any, do the Government propose to help pull those industries and those who work in them out of this misery?
§ Mr. Leigh
Leicester's economy has successfully diversified over the years and its unemployment rate is below the national and the regional average. The hon. and learned Gentleman did not mention in his usual litany of lament about Leicester that textile exports by one of Leicester's traditional industries jumped by 8 per cent. in the first half of this year to a value of £1.4 billion. He did not mention the measures in the autumn statement. We now have one of the lowest rates of inflation in the EC and the lowest rate of corporation tax. Those are the sort of measures that will promote business in Leicester, rather than the measures promoted by his party to allow secondary action and a minimum wage. I challenge the hon. and learned Gentleman to name one business man who is currently asking for a minimum wage.
§ Mr. Jim Marshall
May I ask the Minister to allow his blood pressure to come down a little? Does he accept that one of the reasons for the textile industry being able to export in the manner in which he has outlined is that it has been assisted by the multi-fibre arrangement? There is some concern in the local textile industry about the phasing-out of that agreement as part of the new GATT arrangements. Could he tell the House and the industry whether that phasing out period started at the beginning of the present GATT negotiations or whether it will commence when the new agreement as a whole is signed?
§ Mr. Leigh
The hon. Gentleman can be assured that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade will ensure that there are adequate safeguards for the textile industry in the period until the GATT review is agreed. Over the years, the textile industry has successfully restructured and that is how we have ensured its record level of exports in the first half of 1992.