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Textiles And Clothing

Volume 19: debated on Monday 1 March 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether agreement has yet been reached in the Council of Ministers on the level of global ceilings on imports of textiles and clothing from all sources, including multi-fibre arrangement signatories.

The Council of Ministers agreed in principle on 25 February on global ceilings on imports into the Community of the eight most sensitive textile and clothing products.

Is the Minister satisfied that the ceilings agreed in principle will be sufficient to prevent any further erosion of our textile industries?

I am satisfied that the overall package that will emerge when the bilateral agreements within the framework laid down are concluded will provide a much tougher regime and greater protection for the British textile industry.

But just how tough is the mandate about which the Minister has boasted on the 1 per cent. growth? Will there not be a 4 to 5 per cent. growth in imports? Does that not give the lie to the Minister's claim?

I would be the last to boast of any achievements in this field. Knowing the sensitivity of the area, it would be extremely ill-judged for me to do so. The 1 per cent. growth rate relates to the most sensitive products. It is possible that there will be a higher growth rate in less sensitive products. We must wait and see. I can, however, assure the House that, in the most sensitive products, there will be a lower growth rate than that achieved in the last multi-fibre arrangement.

Has the Minister had any reaction from the textile industry to his announcement in the House on Friday?

I am happy to say that the only reaction has been an invitation to see the new headquarters of one of the associations, which I take to be a friendly invitation.

Does the Minister recognise the concern felt by producers and workers in the parts of the textile and clothing industry that come under categories two and three, dealing with such matters as suits, dresses, jackets, shirts and so on? Do the surge mechanism or the cutbacks on dominant suppliers relate to those categories? What action does he intend to take to safeguard what amounts to 50 per cent. of the industry?

No. Those categories are not covered. As the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, they are essentially non-sensitive categories. I appreciate that there are individual areas of concern. In those individual areas, the Government will endeavour to ensure that the growth rates are less than those negotiated under the previous multi-fibre arrangement. There are about 600 categories under those two groups. Many are areas where the textile industry would not press, I believe, for limited quotas.