HC Deb 27 February 1978 vol 945 cc12-4
5. Mr. Madden

asked the Secretary of State for Industry how much financial assistance has been given to Great Britain's wool industry over the last five years.

Mr. Cryer

In the period 1st January 1973 to 31st December 1977, a total of £21,984 million financial assistance was given to the British wool textile industry as follows:

£ million
Wool textile scheme (stage 1) (Section 8 of the Industry Act 1972) 13.161
Wool textile scheme (stage 2) (Section 8 of the Industry Act 1972) 0.018
Selective financial assistance (under Section 7 of the Indus try Act 1972) 1.931
Temporary employment subsidy 6.874
Regional development grants totalling more than £45 million were paid to the textile industry as a whole in the period April 1972 to September 1977. Separate statistics for the wool textile industry are not available.

Mr. Madden

Does the Minister agree that full returns on this most substantial public investment and on private investment in the British wool industry are being stunted because of the effective 50 per cent. tariff barriers operated by the Americans against British wool exporters? Will my hon. Friend make representations to the Secretary of State for Trade and others to try to persuade the Americans to reduce this damaging tariff barrier against British wool exporters?

Mr. Cryer

My hon. Friend has pointed to a valuable contribution that the Government have made to setting the wool textile industry in a modern competitive position. I shall draw my hon. Friend's remarks to the attention of the Secretary of State for Trade because, as a Member representing a textile constituency, I know that the United States of America tariff barrier of 50 per cent. is very relevant and important to the industry.

Mr. Crawford

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the severe difficulties being faced by the textile industry in my constituency as a result of the threat posed by the Common Market to the temporary employment subsidy?

Mr. Cryer

The question of the TES, the EEC and developments after the end of the current TES is still under negotiation. The Government have taken a strong line, namely, that TES is an important component in preserving jobs in the textile and clothing industry.

Mr. Hoyle

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the benefits of TES is that there has been joint consultation between trade unions and employers, and that if any scheme is to continue it must be that of joint consultation between those bodies? Does he agree that we ought to tell the Common Market to get off our ground?

Mr. Cryer

Our relations with the Common Market involve extensive negotiations on this sort of issue. I shall draw my hon. Friend's remarks to the attention of the Secretary of State for Employment, who is, I know, pursuing these negotiations with vigour, bearing in mind the textile industry's cause for concern on this issue.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the strictures of the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Madden) about United States tariff restrictions, which received a sympathetic reply from the hon. Gentleman, would be somewhat stronger if he and other Labour Members were not constantly demanding increased protection against foreign imports for the British textile industry in this country?

Mr. Cryer

My hon. Friends have been demanding the sort of arrangements which the Government reached through the Multi-Fibre Arrangement, which both sides of industry felt were of enormous benefit to the industry and which have preserved jobs. If the hon. Gentleman were seriously to investigate the industry, he would see that the burden of low cost imports on the British textile industry has been far greater than it has been on the rest of our European partners. Therefore, it seems reasonable that tariffs should be examined with a view to encouraging trade, and at the same time at least preserving to some degree a viable textile industry of our own.