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Textile Quota System

Volume 827: debated on Monday 6 December 1971

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will now take action to prevent the textile quota system ending on 31st December, 1971; and if he will make a statement.

I have nothing to add to the reply given to the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. George Cunningham) on Friday, 3rd December.

Although I should have preferred any statement to have been made in the House, I welcomed the reports over the weekend that the Government are changing their policy and are retaining the quota system. Will the Secretary of State stand firm against the pressure which he will be under from abroad and not only retain the system but retain it at a lower level, because at the present level we are still importing 55 per cent. of home consumption? Will he advise overseas countries concerned that their best interests will be served by their trying to persuade Europe and the United States to take more textiles rather than to kill the Lancashire textile industry?

I take due note of what the hon. Gentleman says; I saw the speculation over the weekend, but at this stage it is speculation only.

Does my right hon. Friend recollect that when, in 1969, the Textile Council advised on this point, it advised that there should be an overlap and that the quotas should continue for some years while the tariffs were put on? In the reconsideration of this policy will my right hon. Friend go back to that very sound advice?

I am grateful for that. This is one of the elements which it is absolutely necessary to take into account in any thinking which is now given to the matter.

Has the Secretary of State any plans to hold discussions with other countries in the E.E.C. about quotas in future?

The question of the adaptation of our own arrangements to membership of the Community is a matter which will be subject to discussion with the Community and with the Commission. This is already being undertaken in an exploratory sense, though no issue of this kind arises specifically in relation to the negotiations.