HC Deb 11 July 1961 vol 644 cc184-5
10. Mrs. Castle

asked the President of the Board of Trade what progress has been made by the cotton industry regarding the renewal of the agreement between the Hong Kong textile industry and the Cotton Board, due to expire in January, 1962; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Maudling

The Government have proposed that the present undertaking by the Hong Kong industry should be extended with certain modifications until 31st December, 1962. These proposals have been conveyed by the Hong Kong Government to the Hong Kong Trade Associations concerned and their replies are awaited.

Mrs. Castle

Is the Minister aware that the uncertainty about the extension of this agreement is jeopardising the success of the Cotton Reorganisation Scheme? What steps does he intend to take to ensure that the agreement is extended for a sufficiently long period to enable the international talks about to take place on the integration of these cheap exports into world trade to reach a conclusion which will not severely jeopardise the cotton industry in the countries concerned?

Mr. Maudling

We recently made clear our view about the importance of continuing suitable arrangements during the re-equipment phase in Lancashire. The difficulty is that we are torn between two duties—on the one hand the interests of the Lancashire textile industry and on the other hand the interests of the Hong Kong people, for whom we are responsible. We are trying to find the proper way between those conflicting views.

Mr. Thorpe

Will the Minister bear in mind that even that arch-protectionist Lord Beaverbrook believes in Empire free trade? Will he bear in mind that if the excuse for the Government dithering over the Common Market is our ties with the Commonwealth, it makes hypocrisy of that claim if we try to restrict trade with the Commonwealth? Will he bear that in mind?

Mr. Maudling

As far as I understand that very involved supplementary question, I think that I disagree with it.

Mr. S. Silverman

Will the Minister bear in mind that these voluntary agreements arose in the first place out of universal consent that some kind of restriction of this kind was necessary and that it was preferable to do it by voluntary means, if possible, rather than by compulsion? But as the indications are at present that the voluntary arrangements are not likely to be extended for any substantial period, have the Government any measure in mind for dealing with the situation which will arise if they are not extended?

Mr. Maudling

This is a hypothetical question. I repeat that the Government attach the greatest importance to the continuance of this voluntary agreement.

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