More than 600 workers made redundant by W&J Whitehead are in line for a payout of more than a million pounds after the defunct firm was found to have broken employment laws.

An employment tribunal found the 143-year-old textile producer had not given its employees sufficient notice or made any attempt to consult them when the business got into trouble.

Tribunal chairman John Hepworth decided workers should be able to apply for a pay-off worth 90 days' wages.

Because the company has collapsed, the Department of Trade and Industry has agreed to fund the payout.

After the hearing former employees of the company said they were pleased with the decision but angry with the way they were treated.

Keith Sedgewick and Leslie Kaye, who worked at the Laisterdyke-based factory for a combined total of 44 years, claimed they were given ten minutes' notice they had lost their jobs.

Former spinning overlooker Mr Sedgwick, said: "We feel let down but at least we have got what we felt we were owed."

His colleague Mr Kaye, an ex-maintenance worker, said: "I was given ten minutes' notice after working there for 26 years. It was upsetting but life goes on."

Shop steward Tariq Hussain, who worked for the company for six years, said he received a letter in the post saying his employment was terminated with immediate effect.

"I am very pleased. I wasn't really expecting to get as much as 90 days' pay," he said.

"I felt seriously let down by the company, everyone feels that way."

When the company went into receivership in 2001, Bradford North MP Terry Rooney demanded a full explanation from the Department of Trade and Industry.

Yesterday a spokesman for his office said: "We are pleased the tribunal has found in favour of the workers.

"This decision can in no way compensate them for the loss of their employment in extremely dubious circumstances.

"We will push for an investigation into the circumstances of the closure of W&J Whitehead to make sure no one is put in this situation unjustly again."

Anthony Barrow, of the T&G Northern, one of four unions who applied for the payout, said: "We are delighted with the outcome. A lot of people lost their livelihoods. They were really badly treated.

"There was no consultation. The company can't even plead ignorance because the unions warned them about what they were doing."

At the hearing Susan Routledge, representing T&G Northern, said: "The company knew for some time there were difficulties. But they went ahead with a blatant disregard for the regulations and dispute union involvement."

She added the company had a duty to consult workers and unions at the earliest opportunity when it was likely that 20 or more people would be made redundant, and that if possible a 90 day notice period was required.

"This clearly didn't happen," she said.

The defunct company was not represented at the hearing.

In delivering his ruling Mr Hepworth said he would word his decision so that as many employees as possible would be eligible for the payout.