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Textiles (Imports From Hong Kong)

Volume 720: debated on Thursday 18 November 1965

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20.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will give an assurance that there will be no further erosion of Hong Kong's position regarding the import of textiles into the United Kingdom.

The proposals which I put to the exporting countries for the control of imports into the United Kingdom from 1966 to 1970 do not involve subjecting Hong Kong to any reduction in her present quota. We shall maintain close contact with the Hong Kong Government during the international discussions on these proposals.

The right hon. Gentleman has not answered my Question. Would he give an assurance that he will ensure that there is no further erosion of Hong Kong's textile position in view of the recent decision not to allow a carry-over into next year? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, unlike an independent country such as India, Hong Kong is wholly dependent on the United Kingdom Government? Will the right hon. Gentleman try to look after our dependent territories and not attack them?

The hon. Gentleman has not got the facts quite right. So far from there having been any erosion of Hong Kong's position, under the previous Government Hong Kong had a fixed textile quota whereas in future it will have a rising quota.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the intense satisfaction in the North-West with the policy which he is pursuing for the home industry and in resisting the squalid implications of this Question? Will he be in a position to make an interim statement on the negotiations well before the end of the year?

So far as I know, all the policies which I am pursuing for all the industries concerned are giving satisfaction to those industires.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether his new quota arrangements are intended to apply only against under-developed countries such as Hong Kong, which in addition has to cope with 2 million refugees? What pressure is he bringing to bear on the advanced countries, such as France and America, to liberalise their textile imports?

21.

asked the President of the Board of Trade why he has refused to carry over Hong Kong's unused textile quota for 1965 into 1966.

The present restraint arrangement terminates at the end of the year, and it was not possible to provide for the carry-over of any unused quotas for Hong Kong or any other country into the new arrangements which we have proposed.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Hong Kong feels betrayed through the Government disregarding their obligations in this way, particularly as the reason for the large amount of textiles to be carried over into next year has been largely caused by the present Administration's import duties which apply to made-up goods? Will the right hon. Gentleman please look at this again?

Anybody who feels betrayed has not read the agreement which was made by the previous Government. That agreement, as is made perfectly clear in the first sentence, terminates at the end of 1965.

In view of the strong feelings in Hong Kong about the Government's action in this connection, can the Government undertake to make strenuous efforts to protect the interests of Hong Kong at the forthcoming G.A.T.T. discussions?

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.