HC Deb 12 July 1995 vol 263 cc941-2
13. Mr. Kirkwood

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what further plans he has to provide assistance to textile manufacturing communities in rural areas; and if he will make a statement. [32130]

Mr. Eggar

Both my Department and the Scottish Office are working with the textiles industry to offer practical support and advice from which such rural communities can benefit.

Mr. Kirkwood

Does the Minister accept that there have been some damaging job losses in the textile sector in my constituency recently? Is he aware that the textile sector represents nearly 88 per cent. of the manufacturing work force in the Hawick travel-to-work area? Will he give a commitment that his Department will do all that it can to develop the RETEX scheme for diversification, organised by the European Union to assist the process of diversification? Will he also see what he can do to obtain new export opportunities, particularly for small firms in the region, so that they can replace the jobs that have recently been lost?

Mr. Eggar

I am aware of the importance of textiles to the hon. Gentleman's constituency, and I understand his concern about the recent job losses at Pringle of Scotland.

We are currently taking a number of steps. As the hon. Gentleman knows, RETEX II should start disbursing money in September—£25 million over three years for the United Kingdom as a whole. We want to ensure that that money is spent effectively. I also recognise the need to expand market opportunities for textile manufacturers. The starting point should be an improvement in the relationship between United Kingdom retailers and manufacturers, which should become a "win-win" relationship. My Department has joined the Trade Association in an attempt to bring that about. It recently appointed Mr. Ken Watson—whom I met yesterday—to start an initiative designed to improve the relationship, and we hope that that will lead to many new orders.

Mr. Devlin

Is my hon. Friend aware that companies such as Pringle, and other woollen manufacturers in Scotland and the north of England, import about 90 per cent. of their mohair and cashmere from abroad? The finest cashmere-producing goat in Europe was developed in Scotland, but currently kids are being exported to Spain and Italy, where they receive agricultural support, because no such support is available in England. Why does my hon. Friend not look into that, along with our hon. Friend at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food?

Mr. Eggar

I must confess that I was not aware of the position. I shall make it my duty to become aware of it, and undertake to discuss this important matter with my hon. Friend.