HC Deb 05 May 1975 vol 891 cc1008-10
20. .Mr. Cronin

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make a statement on quota levels for low-cost woollen imports from Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea; and how he expects them to affect the knitwear industry in Leicestershire.

Mr. Deakins

There are no quotas at present but restraints will be imposed when negotiations between the EEC and Hong Kong and South Korea under the multifibre arrangement are concluded. Similar arrangements will be negotiated with Taiwan. The effect of the restraint together with the Community's burden-sharing formula, will be to ensure that knitwear imports can increase only very gradually.

Mr. Cronin

Will my hon. Friend consider sending one of his officers to Leicestershire to discuss this matter with representatives of the hosiery industry, because it is causing great disquiet?

Mr. Deakins

We have had a number of representations, of course, not only from the hosiery industry and from local Members of Parliament on both sides, working in their constituents' interests, but also from the British Textile Confederation. I assure my hon. Friend that these representations arc being urgently considered.

Mr. Richard Wainwright

Did te hon. Gentleman's original answer cover made-up, tailored woollen garments from these countries, the flood of which into this country is causing great disruption?

Mr. Deakins

My answer covered knitted clothing and hosiery—knitted jumpers, pullovers, cardigans and things like that.

Mr. Ford

Nevertheless, I hope that the Minister will carry from the woollen textile industry to his right hon. Friends the message that it is extremely concerned about imports of made-up clothing and the fact that the Government have not included it among their surveillance activities. Is he aware that there is a rumour that the Government are considering selective action between the cotton and woollen textile industries, and that this would be greatly regretted in woollen textile circles?

Mr. Deakins

I am aware that virtually the whole industry—woollens and cottons, made-ups and raw materials—is in serious difficulties. The Government are urgently and sympathetically considering what can be done—particularly, what further action can be taken to help all sections of the trade

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

What is the timetable as regards the multifibre arrangement? When can we expect some finality on that?

Mr. Deakins

If the hon. and learned Gentleman is referring to the particular restraint negotiations which are currently going on among the Community, Hong Kong and South Korea, these will obviously be concluded as quickly as possible. It is not for Britain to say when they should be concluded, but we are associated with those agreements and we want to see them concluded as quickly as possible—as I am sure do other textile-producing members of the Community.

Mr. McCusker

Can the hon. Gentleman give us details of the new French proposals to control imports into that country? Does he intend to implement similar legislation here?

Mr. Deakins

I am sorry; I cannot give the details because I do not know about them yet. We shall obviously get a report from our commercial counsellor at the embassy in Paris on the implications of what the French are doing, and certainly we shall look closely at what our industrial competitors in Western Europe are doing to deal with a problem which affects them as much as it does us.

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