HC Deb 21 May 1979 vol 967 cc677-8
6. Mr. Jim Marshall

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he is satisfied that the multi-fibre arrangement provides sufficient protection for the United Kingdom's hosiery and knitwear industry.

Mr. Parkinson

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Marshall

Will my hon. Friend give an undertaking that, in future discussions with his colleagues in the EEC, he will attempt to convince them of the need to bring exports from Lomé countries within the overall global ceilings laid down in the MFA?

Mr. Parkinson

This whole area is now being reviewed. I undertake to look into the point my hon. Friend raises and to write to him.

Mr. Michael Latham

Will my hon. Friend examine the method by which the Department and EEC monitor this agreement? The industry itself and the Leicester and District Hosiery Manufacturers' Association were very critical about the monitoring conducted under the Labour Government.

Mr. Parkinson

It is a little difficult for us at present to complain about monitoring arrangements because the computer section has been on strike for several weeks. The worst monitored part of the EEC is our own. I suggest that, until we put our own house in order, it is difficult to criticise other people.

Mr. John Smith

Will the Minister undertake, on behalf of the Government, to seek to have the MFA extended when it expires at the end of its present period? He will know that the Labour Government by and large achieved that aim within the EEC. Will he undertake that it will also be the objective of the present Government, since he must know of its great importance to the textile industry?

Mr. Parkinson

I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the present agreement has two-and-a-half years still to run. We accept, as does the right hon. Gentleman, the importance of the textile industry, and we shall make sure that its interests are safeguarded in discussions with our EEC colleagues in Brussels.

Mr. Smith

I ask the hon. Gentleman to be quite clear about this matter. I asked specifically whether it was the Government's objective to seek a renewal of the MFA. Do I understand that that is not one of the Government's objectives?

Mr. Parkinson

It would be difficult for the right hon. Gentleman to draw that conclusion from what I have just said. What I am saying is that there is still two-and-a-half years of the agreement to go—an agreement which has just been renegotiated by the Labour Government. We do not intend not to look after the interests of our textile industry. We prefer to review the position towards the end of the agreement and to renegotiate with our EEC colleagues.