Letter: British clothes losing unfairly

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The Independent Online
Sir: There is another dimension to the decline of employment within the clothing industry ("Job fears amid radical shake-up", 11 September). Less than 30 years ago the numbers employed were 1.5 million, whereas today it is 400,000 and heading downwards rapidly. Today we can no longer produce the clothes we wish to wear and the result is a balance of trade deficit even bigger than foods at some pounds 6bn - by far and away the biggest trade deficit for any product group including cars and electrical goods.

The textile industry is now hi-tech in spinning, weaving, dyeing and finishing, as are the clothing factories, due to sophisticated computer equipment. UK suppliers of such machinery, together with the employment they gave, have also declined, which with the car industry problems of the last 25 years has contributed to the general decline of the engineering industry.

All this of course must be taken in the context of the UK's genuine free trading policies over many years. Since most of the low-cost producer countries do not have reciprocal free trading agreements, the UK's attitude leaves us in a very weak position. Another 50,000 jobs may not seem much to you, but you would make a big fuss if it was happening in your own industry.


London W1

The writer is chairman of Marks

& Spencer plc