Government plan for textiles industry branded `inadequate’

An action plan to bolster the UK’s troubled textiles industry, unveiled this week by trade and industry secretary Stephen Byers, has been labelled `inadequate’ by many in the sector. The 12-point plan, which follows the recommendations of a year-long investigation by the British Clothing Association, fails to commit the government to any significant extra spending […]

An action plan to bolster the UK’s troubled textiles industry, unveiled this week by trade and industry secretary Stephen Byers, has been labelled `inadequate’ by many in the sector.

The 12-point plan, which follows the recommendations of a year-long investigation by the British Clothing Association, fails to commit the government to any significant extra spending but offers a package of measures which, if taken up, could cost around £15m.

The plan includes support for a new supply chain initiative to establish closer relationships between manufacturers and retailers; funding for export promotion; setting up a Centre of Manufacturing Excellence in textiles at Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University; and deployment of Employment Service `rapid response units’ wherever large redundancies occur.

Some were sceptical that the plan would arrest the decline of the industry, which has seen almost 100,000 jobs axed since Labour came to power.

`The report is fine but it will only be as good as the resources put behind it,’ said John Edmonds, general secretary of the GMB union.

Joan D’Olier, textiles analyst at Deutsche Bank, said the initiative could not reverse the industry’s fortunes. `This sounds like a lot of hot air. The government is just trying to avoid adverse publicity. It is willing to pour money into Rover, but the textiles sector is in far worse condition than the car industry – that’s politics for you.’

She added that competition from countries with lower labour costs meant traditional textile manufacturing would have to change.

`Inevitably there will continue to be a rapid decline in terms of manufacturing capability. The UK industry has to go down the high-quality, high-design, quick response route.’

News of the plan came too late to save Scotland’s last large-scale wool yarn spinning business, Laidlaw & Fairgrieve, which this week announced that it was to close after 140 years with the loss of 290 jobs at sites in Selkirk and Dalkeith.

And the UK’s quoted textiles sector appeared to be on the verge of disappearing this week as the last big listed textiles group, Coats Viyella, received an approach to be taken into private hands by Lord Jacob Rothschild.

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