HC Deb 26 April 1976 vol 910 cc4-5
4. Mr. Cryer

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what are the figures for imported garments in 1975 and to the latest available date.

Mr. Meacher

The figures are £487 million cif in 1975, and £154 million cif during the first quarter.

Mr. Cryer

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for those figures. Does he agree that they represent a considerable effect on the British textile industry? Does he also agree that it is particularly galling for the textile industry to have to face this sort of thing when it is finding the greatest difficulty in obtaining payment from and maintaining exports to Nigeria although Nigeria cannot and does not have the equivalent industry within its own shores? Will my hon. Friend investigate the position?

Mr. Meacher

Under the Multi-Fibre Arrangement the EEC has so far negotiated nine textile restraint agreements as a result of which existing United Kingdom restrictions on cotton fibres and cloth will be extended to wool and man-made fibres and into new areas of knitwear. When these negotiations are completed the United Kingdom will have control over potentially disruptive imports of textiles and clothing from all major low-price sources. I hope that this provides a measure of protection under the MFA, although I recognise the limitations of that arrangement.

Mr. Madden

Representing as he does a textile constituency, the Minister will know that there is concern not only about the volume of imported garments but about the prices at which those garments are received. What steps are the Government taking to restrain the volume of imports and to ensure that the prices at which they come into the country are truly competitive with those of the British industry?

Mr. Meacher

When representations are made to us that textile or any other imports are dumped—that does not mean cheap imports, but dumped imports according to the technical meaning—action will be taken by my Department, as it was taken on the imports of men's and boys' woollen suits from Romania, Czechoslovakia and East Germany. The Clothing Manufacturers' Federation has also applied for anti-dumping action on man-made fibre suits from East Europe, and this is now being discussed. Any other examples will be dealt with quickly by the Department.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Has the Under-Secretary of State—whom I congratulate on his appointment—any information to give us about the large sum of public money which the former Prime Minister said was to be spent on the garment industry and its modernisation?

Mr. Meacher

That is primarily a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry, but £20 million was to be allocated to the clothing industry, and there have been representations to extend the allocation to knitwear and hosiery. The assistance was designed primarily for the clothing industry, and it is possible for applications under Section 8 of the Industry Act 1972 to be made by other sectors of the textile industry.