HC Deb 08 February 1967 vol 740 cc1624-5
5. Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

asked the President of the Board of Trade what representations he has made to the Portuguese Government about the increase in the import of Portuguese textiles into the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement.

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Douglas Jay)

I have discussed this matter with the Portuguese authorities and I know that they appreciate my concern that the restrictions which have been imposed on imports of cotton textiles from other low-cost countries should not result in a diversion of trade to Portugal.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Has the President of the Board of Trade come across the fairly well-founded suggestion that these Portuguese exporters of textiles to the United Kingdom receive a 20 per cent. premium on all the sterling they earn thereby? If so, is not this a flagrant breach of international trading? Will he not examine that as a matter of urgency?

Mr. Jay

I have not heard that suggestion in that form, but if the hon. Gentleman sends me evidence of it I will look at it.

Mr. Hale

Can my right hon. Friend say why we have agreed that a tariff preference should be given to the Salazar dictatorship where wages in the textile industry are about equivalent to those in Hong Kong, whose colonial and African policy is consistently hostile to us, and from which the effects are already being observed in the depression in Lancashire?

Mr. Jay

All these facts, of course, do not affect the fact that Portugal is a member of E.F.T.A. and a co-signatory with us of the Stockholm Treaty, but I have discussed this matter in Lisbon and corresponded since with the Portuguese Trade Minister who is very well aware of our views on it.

Mr. Thornton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of our best mills in a narrow sector of the industry, completely re-equipped and operating on three shifts, are facing extinction because of these ridiculously low-priced imports?

Mr. Jay

Yes, but I am sure my hon. Friend would not wish to exaggerate this particular trouble. Actually, imports from Portugal last year were no higher than the average for 1962–64 which has been set as the limit for the imports from countries to which the quota is applied.