§ Mr. Jim Lester
My right hon. Friend announced in the House on 14 February our programme of special employment measures for 1980–81.
By maintaining, for a further 12 months, the overall impact of the special employment measures, including the temporary short-time working compensation scheme, the programme will make an important contribution towards reducing unemployment in North-East Lancashire, as in other parts of the country.
§ Mr. Straw
Is the Minister aware that the crisis in the North-East Lancashire textile, clothing, footwear and engineering industries, and the thatching industry—which is now so bad that we have lost it altogether—is at its most serious since the war? Is he aware that the employers who write to me are in no doubt that the blame for that crisis rests with the Government? Can he say how much more serious the situation must become before he and his right hon. and hon. colleagues will consider reinstating the industrial aid to the region that it lost last July?
§ Mr. Lester
I remind the hon. Gentleman that the unemployment rate in North-East Lancashire is, at 5 per cent., similar to the rate 12 months ago. We take seriously the question of the footwear and textile industries. The hon. Gentleman will know that delegations have recently visited the Under-Secretaries of State at the Department of Trade and the Department of Industry. We take seriously the problems affecting the industry, but they will not necessarily be solved by delegations visiting Ministers. They will be solved by the industry itself, facing the challenge of design and production. Many parts of the industry succeed and export successfully.