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Multi-Fibre Arrangement

Volume 19: debated on Friday 12 March 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade what effect the possible 22 per cent. increase in the amount of low-cost textiles and clothing entering the United Kingdom under the terms of the new multi-fibre arrangement protocol will have on future employment prospects in the textile and clothing industry; and if he will make a statement.

[pursuant to his reply, 8 March 1982, c. 284.]: I understand that the possible 22 per cent. increase in imports of low-cost textiles and clothing to which my hon. Friend refers, is derived from a comparison of actual imports in 1980 and potential imports in 1983 if all quotas likely to be opened by the Community on behalf of the United Kingdom were fully used.The entitlements to import low-cost textiles and clothing into the United Kingdom in 1983 will not in fact be substantially different from those in 1980 and, in my view, it is damaging to confidence in the domestic industry to suggest that if all quotas were used, such a dramatic increase would be likely. Not only is some inherent under-usage of quotas probable, but under arrangements negotiated in connection with the protocol of renewal of the MFA the potential for the full utilisation of quotas is likely to be inhibited partly by reductions in flexibility arrangements and partly as a result of use of an anti-surge mechanism introduced on a British initiative.As regards future employment in the industry, this must depend upon a wide range of factors, such as improvements in productivity, changes in demand, the industry's export performance and the world economic situation. The high level of job losses in 1980 was largely the result of a rapid fall in domestic demand and de-stocking; imports of textiles and clothing were generally well below 1979 levels.