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Carpets And Wool Textiles

Volume 986: debated on Monday 16 June 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade what were the changes in the volume of exports and imports of carpets and of wool textiles for the latest 12-month period.

Based on weight, it is estimated that, in the year ended April 1980, exports of carpets decreased by 17 per cent. and imports increased by 38 per cent., compared with the previous 12 months. On the same basis, exports of wool textiles rose by 2 per cent. and imports fell by 2 per cent.

Does the Minister recognise the serious consequences that these disastrous trade figures have for the job prospects of textile workers in West Yorkshire? In view of the fall in output of the woollen industry by 6½ per cent. last year, and the 9½ per cent. fall in the output of the carpet industry, what specific measures will the Government take to help these vital industries to compete in the battle for jobs and markets? Will the Government ensure that the textile industry faces a future instead of a rapidly impending crisis?

There is a range of agreements under the multi-fibre arrangement designed to give a measure of protection to these industries. May I put some other figures to the hon. Member? Although, last year, import penetration was 21 per cent., we exported 23 per cent. of everything that was produced on the carpet side. Although we imported 23 per cent. of wool textiles, we exported 34 per cent. Therefore, we have a very strong interest in making arrangements which will work within the rules of world trade, rather than breaking those rules. Both these industries are valuable exporters as well.

While recognising that the Government have taken some action, albeit inadequate, against the United States to assist the British carpet industry, may I emphasise that the quotas that have been imposed against the United States are being breached by free circulation to other members of the EEC? I see the Secretary of State shaking his head, but it is true. What action are the Government taking to ensure that free circulation does not take place in accordance with the assurance given to the Government by the Commission?

Since we took office, we have under article 115 taken action about once every fortnight to prevent quotas from being undermined by free circulation. We watch the quotas very carefully and we monitor them. I have been in touch with the Commission already about the new rules under article 115 to make sure that they do not prevent us from taking action. I promise my hon. Friend that on a daily basis, we are taking action to prevent the quotas from being undermined.

Is the Minister aware that since the Tories came to office they have presided over disaster areas in wool textiles, carpets, cars, shoes, steel and everything else on the manufacturing side? In that same period they have encouraged the big banks to make £1,500 million in profits. Also, Ladbroke's has announced a 71 per cent. increase in its profits and Pleasurama Ltd. has just announced a dividend increase of 141 per cent.

I know that the hon. Member lives in a world in which everything that is bad began after 3 May last year. Very few people in this House believe that, and no one outside cares a fig for his views.