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Volume 894: debated on Monday 23 June 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade what was the value of hosiery exports and of hosiery imports for the latest convenient period for which figures are available.

For the 12 months ended May 1975, exports of hosiery including knitted underwear and outerwear were £83 million and imports £133 million on the usual overseas trade statistics basis.

Is my hon. Friend aware that far too many of my constituents in Leicester who depend on this great industry, which has contributed so much and still contributes a good deal to business, are now working on short time? What is my hon. Friend doing about it, and what assurance can he give the House that the Government are aware of the crisis in this great traditional industry?

I can assure my hon. and learned Friend and right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House who share the concern of workers in the industry that something can be done to help this great British industry. The Government are taking action. I refer my hon. and learned Friend to the Prime Minister's statement on 23rd May when, among other things, he mentioned the possibilities of anti-dumping applications and said in particular that the Government would continue their powers under the Industry Act to ensure in this world-wide recession in textiles that jobs were not lost.

Will my hon. Friend accept that many people in Leicestershire and in my constituency are affected by these cheap imports, and will he recognise also that although the Prime Minister's statement was a portent of things to come in the future, nothing seems to have been done yet? Will my hon. Friend seriously re-examine the possibility of introducing anti-dumping measures and the possibility of import quotas and other action to stem the flow of imports as soon as possible?

Anti-dumping measures can be taken by the Government only on an application from a representative trade association. As for imports, we cannot take the textile industry overall. We have to look at it sector by sector. Taking two of the subjects of this Question—socks and tights—the import penetration in 1974 for socks was about 3 per cent. and for tights it was only about 10 per cent. We have to consider the problems on a central basis. Finally, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, as recently as 12th June, met representatives of the textile industry in order to follow up the Prime Minister's statement of 23rd May.