HC Deb 08 February 1967 vol 740 cc1651-2
59. Mr. Arthur Davidson

asked the President of the Board of Trade what further plans he has to help the textile industry; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Jay

This Government have already introduced major measures of assistance to the industry, notably in the control of cotton textile imports from most countries in the world for a period up to 1970. We have the industry's problems constantly in mind in other international discussions; and we are working with the new Textile Council on a major survey of productivity in all its aspects. I expect the industry, for its part, to take the fullest advantage of the breathing space we have provided to increase its own competitiveness.

Mr. Davidson

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the grave position in my constituency, where most of the mills have either reduced shift working or have cut back production by closing part of the mill? Is he further aware that both sides of industry agree that this situation is due in the main to the import of cotton and man-made fibre fabrics? Is he also aware that his answers today are far from satisfactory and will give very little pleasure to Lancashire?

Mr. Jay

My hon. Friend will realise that cotton textile imports in 1966 were rather lower than in 1965. Consumption of textiles in the country has hardly fallen. There has been a de-stocking operation, however, at retail level and all indications are that this should be temporary.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that investment in the textile industry is estimated in 1967 to be 20 per cent. down on 1966? Is he satisfied with that situation?

Mr. Jay

It is not surprising that the textile industry should not be that in which investment is increasing very rapidly, because some sections are contracting and others are expanding. The essential thing in the textile industry is to concentrate on the expanding sections which have the best prospects.

Mrs. Renée Short

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is considerable scope for exporting textiles particularly to countries of Eastern Europe? Would he encourage British textile manufacturers to appear more often at trade fairs abroad?

Mr. Jay

I agree with my hon. Friend. To be fair to the British textile manufacturers and distributors, they have been very prominent, particularly on the wool and knitwear side, in a number of British Weeks and exhibitions last year.

Sir F. Pearson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the sheeting sector of the textile industry has been badly hit, particularly by imports coming from Portugal? Can he tell the House what steps he is taking to cope with this very difficult problem?

Mr. Jay

I am well aware of this. This is precisely the point which I am now discussing with the Portuguese Trade Minister.