Secretary of state for trade and industry Patricia Hewitt has ruled out any government moves to stem the flow of low-paid British textile industry jobs moving overseas.

Hewitt, speaking at the Confederation of British Industry's annual conference on Monday, said she would not act to protect Britain's ability to "make cheap white T-shirts", adding that the UK and US should "resist the temptation of pursuing protectionist policies".

"There's no doubt that jobs have been lost in our textiles industry to competition from low-cost and competitive countries but I also know that there's no future for low-cost, low-margin production, certainly not to make cheap white T-shirts," she said.

"We have to work with our companies to help them in areas of their sector where we can be competitive, help workers to become more skilled, and where these jobs cannot be saved they can be sure that the workers get new skills and a new job as soon as possible."