HC Deb 26 November 1969 vol 792 cc406-7
15. Dr. Gray

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make special arrangements to mitigate the damage caused to India and Pakistan by the proposed 15 per cent. tariff against their cotton textile exports to this country.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody

My right hon. Friend the former President of the Board of Trade said in his statement on 22nd July that he saw no reason to think that, with the possible exception of India, the developing countries of the Commonwealth generally will be able to export less to Britain over the proposed tariff than under a continuation of the present quota system. So far as India is concerned, in determining the level of aid after 1972 we shall be willing to take into account against the background of her general aid requirements at that time any adverse effects on her exports arising from the tariff.

Dr. Gray

In view of the damage done to India, why were there no consultations with the Indian Government before the decision was taken? Why has my hon. Friend decided to strike this blow at the Commonwealth in favour of Portugal, which, as a member of E.F.T.A., will benefit?

Mrs. Dunwoody

The Board of Trade is opening discussions in Delhi this week with the Indian Government. I hope we shall be able to reach an agreement.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Is the hon. Lady aware that when I sought to put a similar Question on this subject to the Board of Trade, I was told that responsibility had been transferred to the Ministry of Technology? Since she has now accepted responsibility in the case of the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Dr. Gray), may I ask whether it is not the fact that South Korea, much more than Portugal, will be a beneficiary of this change? Will not the Textile Council soon be regretting its decision to remove from the British manufacturer the protection of the quota?

Mrs. Dunwoody

It is true that there were some alterations in those countries which supply goods to Great Britain, but we have said that we shall take great care to promote the interests of Commonwealth countries in future talks, and I hope that those countries which are able to be efficient in world markets will be able to maintain more than their share of the British market.

Mr. Blackburn

Will my hon. Friend bear continually in mind the needs of our own domestic textile industry, which has suffered more than any other industry in this country from cheap imports? If India and Pakistan have to be helped, surely the best way in which to help them is by not killing our own industry.

Mrs. Dunwoody

I do not think there is any intention of doing anything which will kill our own industry. I am sure that, under the reorganisation schemes, the cotton industry will be able to compete in world markets.