HC Deb 01 December 1975 vol 901 cc1243-5
14. Mr. Greville Janner

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he will take steps to assist the hosiery, textile and footwear industries in the Leicester area.

Mr. Kaufman

The Government are always ready to consider specific requests for assistance where these are compatible with our policies and our international obligations.

Mr. Janner

Will my hon. Friend take it that there is grave concern in Leicester at the continued decline of our traditional industries—a concern which is aggravated by the announcement of forthcoming redundancies just made by two electronics companies on the New Parks estate? Can my hon. Friend give a positive indication of the way in which the Government intend to help these traditional industries?

Mr. Kaufman

My hon. and learned Friend will be aware that during this year agreements have been reached or restrictions imposed on major Far Eastern suppliers of knitwear and, for the first time, levels of imports for most of these items are controlled. Moreover, we announced in May that, following discussions with Czechoslovakia, Poland and Romania, these countries would be reducing their exports to the United Kingdom of men's leather footwear during this year. The Department of Trade is considering requests from the footwear industry for surveillance licensing of imports and reductions of imports. I assure my hon. and learned Friend that we are well aware of the concern in his constituency and elsewhere.

Mr. Boscawen

If the hon. Gentleman is ready to consider suggestions, I suggest that he asks the Department of Trade why it has done nothing about dumped imports of cheap shoes coming into this country from Iron Curtain countries during the past 15 or 16 months. Why has the Department done nothing about that dumping? Will he hurry it along and make it do something soon? Irrespective of the industry's present difficulties in other respects, it is the import of cheap shoes manufactured behind the Iron Curtain at less than the cost of production in this country that is causing grave concern.

Mr. Kaufman

The hon. Gentleman could not have paid attention to the answer I gave a moment ago to my hon. and learned Friend. We have reached agreements with Czechoslovakia, Poland and Romania about reductions of footwear imports from those countries.

Mr. Madden

The Prime Minister recently said that he hoped to make an announcement about selective import controls in days rather than weeks. Can my hon. Friend confirm that pressure in this matter is being put on the United Kingdom by America, the EEC and others? Will he recognise that if action is not taken soon the textile industries not only in Leicester but in many other parts of the United Kingdom will be in complete disarray, and the position, which is already very bad, will deteriorate yet further? Will this again be a matter of too little, too late?

Mr. Kaufman

Whether it is too little or too late will depend upon my hon. Friend's judgment. What I can confirm is the undertaking given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that an announcement about the Government's consideration of selective import controls will be made shortly.

Mr. Hoyle

My hon. Friend, of course, will be aware of our concern. I appreciate that he is saying the usual thing—that before very long we shall be hearing from the Department—but may I remind him that in the meantime people are on short time and more mills are closing? Does he mean that there will be controls on footwear as well as on textiles?

Mr. Kaufman

I can confirm to my hon. Friend that an announcement will be made shortly. I can also confirm that that announcement, whether or not it is satisfactory to my hon. Friend, will to a considerable degree be the result of pressure put on the present Government by my hon. Friends, on behalf of their constituents.