HC Deb 21 May 1979 vol 967 cc683-5
12. Mr. Arnold

asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether he is satisfied with the working of the multi-fibre arrangement; and if he will make a statement.

24. Mr Cryer

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make a statement on the operation of the multi-fibre arrangement.

Mr. Parkinson

I am generally satisfied with the working of the renegotiated multi-fibre arrangement, which the Government fully support.

Mr. Arnold

In addition to the bilateral agreements, is my hon. Friend satisfied with the arrangements for voluntary restraint negotiated recently between the EEC Commission and Portugal? Is he aware that there appears to be some concern in the North-West, for example, that there may be problems in this regard?

Mr. Parkinson

As my hon. Friend is aware, the arrangements will have to be negotiated with Portugal on its entry into the EEC. We hope that it will be possible to reach satisfactory arrangements and we have grounds for believing that it will.

Mr. Cryer

Will the Minister accept that there is concern in the industry about the exceeding of quotas and the problem of outward processing? Will he assure us that he will be prepared to stand up to the EEC and negotiate abrasively for an industry which, in both Lancashire and Yorkshire, has had a great deal of investment and is modern and competitive? Will he be trampled on by the EEC, or will he be prepared to negotiate firmly and even abrasively?

Mr. Parkinson

What we shall not be doing is making speeches in the House which impress our colleagues, but make it impossible for us to reach the agreement we want in Brussels. Yes, we will make sure that the British industry's interests are protected, and that we speak loudly for British interests. However, we shall do it as committed Europeans.

Mr. Hal Miller

Will my hon. Friend follow up an earlier suggestion that there should be a review of the operation of the MFA, and in the course of that review will he pay particular attention to the fact that the restrictions imposed on Hong Kong have not benefited this country but have benefited other exporters?

Mr. Parkinson

We are continuously—if I may use that word after only two weeks in office—monitoring the working of the MFA. I shall bear in mind my hon. Friend's suggestion.

Mr. Meacher

Is the hon. Gentleman proposing to permit any increases in the global ceilings, or does he propose to keep them stable? I am thinking particularly of the example of China. How does he expect confidence and investment to be produced in the textile industry if he can give no assurance that the MFA will continue beyond two years' hence?

Mr. Parkinson

The hon. Gentleman is simply making trouble. He knows that we are just as committed as he is to the existence of a viable textile industry in this country. When the renegotiation takes place, we will ensure that the interests of our industry are taken care of.

On the question of China, the hon. Gentleman knows that the whole matter is under review. We must bear in mind the opportunities that exist for us generally in China and weigh them against the problems that could be created for our textile industry. The negotiations are going on and I hope that they will reach a satisfactory conclusion.