HC Deb 08 February 1971 vol 811 cc10-1
16. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what additional countries will have the right to send duty-free leather gloves into the United Kingdom as a result of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development generalised preference scheme recently agreed to by the British Government; and what steps he is taking to safeguard the leather glove industry in the south-west.

The Minister for Trade (Mr. Michael Noble)

The question of which countries should benefit from U.N.C.T.A.D. preferences is under discussion between the industrialised countries. We have reserved under our scheme the right to withdraw a product from preference if it results in such increased imports and under such conditions as cause or threaten serious injury to domestic producers.

Mr. Wingfield Digby

Would my right hon. Friend exercise that right in regard to leather glove-making, which is an important, and indeed essential, industry in North Dorset and South Somerset, since this is a serious matter for those areas?

Mr. Noble

I had recently what I hope was a satisfactory meeting with the National Association of Glove Manufacturers, which put its case to me clearly and well. There are certain things which may be needed to provide the statistics which would be required to take any necessary action. The association is co-operating with my Department to provide the statistics, but I cannot guarantee to keep out gloves altogether.

Mr. Maclennan

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that imports of leather gloves from Portugal, the products of sweated labour, are already making the position extremely difficult in regard to the domestic manufacture of leather gloves?

Mr. Noble

Imports of gloves from Portugal come under the E.F.T.A. treaty and are not affected in any way by this Question.

Mr. Skeet

Would my right hon. Friend also bear in mind the difficulties of leather manufacture in North Bedfordshire due to importation and competition from plastics?

Mr. Noble

If my hon. Friend's question relates to gloves, of course I will.