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Multi-Fibre Arrangement

Volume 78: debated on Thursday 9 May 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will meet representatives of the textile industry in the Province to discuss renewal of the multi-fibre arrangement.

The multi-fibre arrangement is principally a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade and there will be a debate on the matter this afternoon. If I receive any requests for a meeting I will of course give them full consideration.

I welcome the Minister's response, but will he recognise that the matter concerns not only the rest of the United Kingdom but has specific implications for job opportunities in Northern Ireland? Will he use his influence with his right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade to have such an agreement speedily implemented, for the good of all the textile industry?

I realise, as does the hon. Gentleman, that the percentage of people employed in the textile and clothing industries in Northern Ireland is three times greater than in the rest of Britain, and that is an important matter. If the hon. Gentleman is staying longer this afternoon, I suggest that he tries to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, in the debate on the multi-fibre arrangement.

Does the Minister not realise that that answer is not acceptable to those who work in the textile industry in Northern Ireland? Does he not recognise that it would be socially intolerable to increase the existing pressures on employment in Northern Ireland through non-renewal of the multi-fibre arrangement? Will he give the House an assurance that he is prepared to fight his corner with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry?

Obviously, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I put forward the views of Northern Ireland. But, as the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) knows, the decision is made by this Parliament and not just by Northern Ireland. Indeed, those hon. Members who are integrationists want the decision to be made by this Parliament. Consequently, this afternoon's debate will be the decisive factor.