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Textile And Clothing Products (Imports)

Volume 21: debated on Monday 29 March 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade what steps he has taken so far to monitor possible surges in imports of textiles and clothing products in 1982.

Officials of the Department of Industry already closely monitor import statistics and they will be paying particular attention this year to any increased utilisation of quotas.

In view of the figures that the Secretary of State quoted earlier, which showed an increase of over 20 per cent. in imports during the past 12 months, does he confirm the importance of properly controlling surges in imports to take advantage of the British market? Is he satisfied that the measures to control the surge in imports during the next 12 months will be adequate? Can he remind the House whether he will employ further staff in his Department to monitor textile and clothing imports so as to prevent an unwarranted surge?

The hon. Gentleman's figure of 20 per cent. refers to value and not to volume. However, I certainly take his point about staff numbers. I assure him that the Department of Industry is paying especially close attention to the matter.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that if there is a surge in imports, that may well be because that is the only way that consumer demand, or a changing pattern of consumer demand, can be met in the absence of supplies from United Kingdom sources? Will he consult carefully with the retail trade before taking any action on that?

Yes, but my hon. Friend will appreciate that the mechanism has been devised in consultation with those who advised us at the time of the multi-fibre arrangement.