HC Deb 30 April 1969 vol 782 cc1429-30
35. Mr. Hastings

asked the President of the Board of Trade what proportion of the home market for textiles is taken up by importers from underdeveloped countries.

Mr. Dell

The value of imports of textile products in 1968 from the developing countries—that is, countries included in Economic Class II of the United Nations trade statistics—amounted to about 6 per cent. of the total sales of the textile industry to United Kingdom buyers outside the industry. These imports exclude, of course, cotton, wool and other natural fibres, but include those imports which are incorporated in exports.

Mr. Hastings

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that reputable people connected with the industry have put the figure very much higher than that and that, depending on what one takes into account, it could, they say, be as high as 40 per cent.? While we must do all we can to help the under-developed countries, would not the hon. Gentleman agree that it is possible that, on this matter, we are going beyond reason?

Mr. Dell

The first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question may be confusing the original Question, which was concerned with the home market for textiles, with the undoubtedly large imports of cotton cloth from developing countries, which, in 1968, reached about 32 per cent. However, the hon. Gentleman will be aware of the Textile Council's recent report and the fact that my right hon. Friend is currently considering the recommendations made therein.

Mr. Arthur Davidson

Does my hon. Friend anticipate the figures which he quoted being altered in any way as a result of the increase in Purchase Tax on textiles in the Budget, about which much concern has been expressed in Lancashire?

Mr. Dell

I hope that the increase in Purchase Tax on textiles will not affect these figures. I believe that the main factors which affect the figures are the competitiveness of the British industry and the degree to which it responds to market demands.