HC Deb 13 November 1979 vol 973 cc1173-238
Mr. Speaker

Before I call the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin), may I say that there are 20 hon. Members who have direct constituency concerns in the textile industry? As the House is aware, we have already lost time. It is possible for those hon. Members who have a constituency interest to be called only if speeches should last less than 10 minutes as the debate will finish, I presume, at about 7 o'clock.

4.12 pm
Mr. John Silkin (Deptford)

I beg to move, That this House condemns Her Majesty's Government's policy of reduction in financial aid to the regions and its failure adequately to support industries such as wool and textiles, which are the victims of unfair competition, or to deal with the consequent unemployment occasioned by this failure. We are about to discuss an industry which is one of the most important in our country and which employs nearly 809,000 people. It is a bigger employer than steel and coal put together. Last year the industry's sales totalled £8 billion and its exports totalled over £2 billion. What is happening to the industry is something in the nature of a catastrophe.

The crude trade balances this year have shown an appalling deterioration. Whether in textile fibres, textile yarns or clothing, they are all showing the same disastrous trends. The total deficit in the first six months of this year was over £550 million. The trend is accelerating. With that trend are coming major closures and redundancies affecting families in various parts of the United Kingdom who are in no way able to cope with the situation.

In the past six months there have been large losses in employment in the fibre sector. Courtaulds Ltd. has started a series of closures totalling more than 5,000 jobs. Monsanto Ltd, in Dun-donald has lost 1,500 jobs. ICI has reduced its fibre work force, or proposes to do so, by an average of 4 per cent. a year. In the wool sector, in this year alone, 4,500 jobs have been lost, and the list is growing. Between July and August, one month, in this year, according to the latest figures, the textile and clothing industry suffered a loss of 5,000 jobs. There is no reason to believe that that effect will grow any less in the months ahead.

People in the rest of the country do not see the industry in the terms in which they see perhaps Shotton or Corby, where whole towns are being massacred, because this is a scattered industry. I quoted the large scale closures and redundancies, but they are going on in much smaller works all over the stricken areas. We are dealing with a series of Corbys and Shottons. If the trend goes on, in West Yorkshire alone the collapse could cost 52,000 jobs.

This is not an industry that pays excessive wages, whatever that may mean, to its workers. On the contrary, it is a low-paid industry. This is not an industry of the kind about which we are told, often erroneously, that strikes and industrial unrest are causing all the trouble. On the contrary, industrial relationships in this industry have been extremely good for more than two generations.

What are the reasons for its decline? There are immediate reasons, for which the Government are responsible, whatever other reasons there may be. The Budget and the increase in VAT to 15 per cent. meant an immediate decline in consumer demand. What is left of the consumer demand is going far too largely to foreign imports and not to our own products. In their Budget the Government doubled the rate of VAT, although members of the Conservative Party promised in the election campaign that they would not do so. They raised interest rates to their highest level in the history of our country. They are engaging in a bank credit squeeze of unparalleled proportions. While all that is going on, there are effects on an industry which exported £2 billion worth of goods last year. The Secretary of State for Trade may laugh, but I wonder what his prophecy of this year's exports will be. Last year they totalled £2 billion. With a strong pound and the recent deliberate collapse of exchange controls—

The Secretary of State for Trade (Mr. John Nott)


Mr. Silkin

As I have only a few minutes in which to speak, I shall not give way.

I have referred to the reasons for the decline and the Government's contribution to the crisis that is upon us. However, there is a deeper crisis, and again one to which the Government are contributing. In the last election, the Conservative manifesto said: We will vigorously oppose all kinds of dumping and other unfair … practices that undermine jobs at home. The Tories had to say that because the then Secretary of State was busy trying to deal with these matters in Brussels at the time.

Man-made fibres are not only an important part of the industry in their own right. They have a kind of domino effect on other parts of the industry. As we know, the clothes that we wear are often partly man-made fibres and partly wool or cotton. In the past two years, imports of man-made fibres from the United States, which were running at a rate of about $20 million two years ago, increased to over $200 million in the first six months of this year. Due—let us be frank about it—to dramatically lower oil costs, both in oil feedstock and in energy usage, but which are the result of a deliberate dual pricing, added to an unfair cheap oil price in the first place, the difference in some of the products—not all—is as high as 30 per cent. While that advantage is given to United States man-made fibres, the United States has a tariff of 40 per cent, in many cases against our products, and against the EEC tariff of about 13 per cent. That is the first factor.

The second factor affects associates under various EEC agreements, particularly Greece, Spain, Portugal and Turkey. These are areas of low cost, low wage industries—even lower than our own—which are competing unfairly with ours.

There is also the problem of outward processing in Greece and Portugal, and the habit looks as though it is likely to spread. Outward processing, which merely means that the goods are finished cheaply in another country and then re-imported, is actively encouraged by the Commission which does not count it against the limits for normal imports, except in the case of the United Kingdom, thanks to my right hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Mr. Smith). Unfortunately, my right hon. Friend ceased to occupy his position in May of this year. Although the United Kingdom is the only country in the EEC to have this benefit, fully processed clothes enter the EEC and are then exported to the United Kingdom as EEC products.

Dr. Keith Hampson (Ripon)


Mr. Silkin

I hope that the hon. Member for Ripon (Dr. Hampson) will not interrupt. I must watch the time. Interruptions help to prevent other hon. Members from speaking.

Dr. Hampson


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

Is the right hon. Gentleman giving way?

Mr. Silkin


Dr. Hampson

The right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) gave way and then kept talking.

Mr. Silkin

I acted out of natural courtesy when the hon. Member rose to his feet and wanted to tell him so.

I now turn to the question of direct and unfair competition from inside the EEC. I have never had a satisfactory answer to the simple question "What benefit has the EEC ever been to us?" Nor have I had an answer to the second simple question—" What possible benefit do we expect the EEC to give us?" What happens at present within the EEC is directly disadvantageous to the producers and manufacturers in our textile industry. It is happening throughout the EEC. We are all aware of the problem in the Prato area of Italy—the hidden subsidies for wool cloth, the cottage industry and low social security payments.

The Minister for Trade (Mr. Cecil Parkinson)

The problems in the Prato region have been known for years. The right hon. Gentleman's Government tried to deal with them in 1976 and were totally unsuccessful.

Mr. Silkin

That illustrates what a waste of time it is to give way. I said earlier that this was the fault of the EEC because of its inability to introduce fair competition. This is one of the few matters on which the Secretary of State for Trade and I have some measure of agreement.

Competition is unfair because the French give export rebates and freight subsidies to their wool producers. France and the Federal Republic of Germany subsidise worsteds, spinning and weaving. The latter will deny this, but, in fact, it does so through its Länder.

What should be done in the circumstances? There are four steps that are absolutely immediate. First, textiles need protection. The wool textile scheme, under section 8 of the Industry Act 1972, has been a magnificent catalyst for increased productivity and production in the industry. It is interesting to note that the small amount of £16.5 million has generated nearly £87 million worth of investment. That has helped the productivity in textiles to grow much faster over the last decade than in British manufacturing as a whole.

Secondly, the appalling decision of the Government on regional policy must be reversed and the definition of assisted areas changed. I note that in the amendment the Government congratulate themselves on concentrating regional aid in the areas of greatest need. Do not they understand that half the textile industry is in the North-West and West Yorkshire and that to withdraw assisted area status will hit hardest in those areas?

Thirdly, we must press for the renewal of the multi-fibre arrangement in 1981. I notice that the Government again congratulate themselves on their continued support of the MFA. They do not mention 1981. The present arrangement will fall into disuse within a short time. Nor do the Government say anything about strengthening the MFA, which should be done. This is one occasion when the British Government are well behind the Commission in backing British interests.

Fourthly, our industry must be protected from foreign imports. We should do what my right hon. Friend did on 3 April, when he persuaded a reluctant Commission to accept that there had to be some sort of countervailing duties against the United States to deal with the problem. That approach seems to have gone. If that is so, we must achieve unilateral protection against foreign imports.

There is a very good precedent which is worth noting—the way in which the French deal with imports of lamb. We have had a short history lesson from the French about this very industry. Only two years ago, on 20 June 1977, the French restricted textile imports from Third world countries. Three weeks later the Commission was forced to take Community measures replacing those of the French. If we are to safeguard employment we must ensure that as long as we remain in the EEC our textiles are protected. The whole history of this century shows that we are vulnerable to unfair competition in the textile industry. We must be prepared to give our industry the sort of protection we give to agriculture which produces only £3,000 million per year compared with £8,000 million by the textile industry.

This is not a new problem. It has continued throughout this century. I conclude with the words of Joseph Chamberlain in 1905. On this problem he said: The manufacturer may save himself—he may invest his capital abroad where profits are higher. But it is not for him that I am chiefly concerned, it is for you—the workers. I say to you the loss of employment means more than the loss of capital to any manufacturer. You cannot live on your investments in a foreign country. You live on the labour of your hands and if that labour is taken from you, you have no recourse except perhaps to learn French or German. The problem remains with us, yet the Government take no action. Because of the need to reverse these policies, I call on my right hon, and hon. Friends to support the motion in the Division Lobby.

4.28 pm
The Minister for Trade (Mr. Cecil Parkinson)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: supports the Government's policy of concentrating regional aid in areas of greatest need, and notes with approval its continuing support for the multi-fibre arrangement. I am sorry to say that the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) is earning a reputation in the House for being a one-string violin capable of playing only one tune, which is an anti-EEC tune. It is the only speech he makes whatever subject the House happens to be debating.

I do not propose to deal with the right hon. Gentleman's criticisms of our regional policy. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Industry will deal with that in detail, if he is able to catch the eye of Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is the responsibility of the Department of Industry.

When we came to power and examined regional policy, we found that 40 per cent, of the working population was entitled to preferential treatment. The more widely one spreads support, the smaller its impact. Moreover, even with such a large coverage the system was manifestly unfair as many places outside the assisted areas had far bigger problems and much greater unemployment than those within. That is why the Government aim to concentrate their regional policy on the areas with really intractable problems and to put real effort into helping them.

I intend to devote most of my speech to dealing with the problems of the textile industry. This is one of the country's largest and most important industries. The right hon. Member for Deptford talked about the industry's achievements in recent years, and I agree that by any standards they have been impressive. At a time of rapid technological change, and in the face of heavy foreign competition, the industry has carried out substantial restructuring, has invested in new equipment and new techniques and has made and is making a valuable contribution to our balance of payments.

The right hon. Member was pessimistic about the contribution that the industry will make this year. But the half-year's figures show a reasonably substantial increase on those of the year before. His pessimistic forecasts may well turn out to be wrong. We accept, as he does, that through co-operation between management and unions, the industry has restructured without great industrial unrest. More than 226,000 people have left the industry without trouble or turmoil in the past 10 years. That is a matter for congratulation to all those in the industry—trade unions and management alike.

Listening to the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon, I gained the impression that he was talking about a once-great industry, struggling for survival in a world in which it can no longer cope. People who talk like that do the industry a grave disservice. Its achievements in rationalising and modernising itself in order to meet the challenge of the last quarter of the twentieth century have been impressive. Its record on labour relations is excellent. Its export record is very good. It achieved exports worth £2,000 million last year and the value is expected to be even more this year.

The question before us today is not the one that the right hon. Gentleman seemed to pose—how do we breathe life into a corpse? It is a question of how the Government can best help an industry which is showing every sign of vigorous life and which has within it some of the most advanced and enterprising firms in the country. Admittedly parts of that industry have severe problems. On that the right hon. Gentleman and I agree.

The right hon. Gentleman called for more positive support for the industry. No doubt that sentiment will be echoed by many other speakers in the debate. Let me describe the type of support that the industry receives at present. The Government accept their continuing duty to this important industry. Under the multi-fibre arrangement, the clothing and textile industries now receive more comprehensive protection than ever before in their history.

Mr. D. A. Trippier (Rossendale)

Does my hon. Friend accept that there would be an immediate revival of support and encouragement for the industry if he were to give a firm commitment today that the Government would actively renegotiate the multi-fibre arrangement in 1981 and the bilaterals the year after, instead of talking about orderly marketing in such vague terms?

Mr. Parkinson

I hope that my hon. Friend will listen carefully to the rest of my speech. The Government are committed to renegotiating the multi-fibre arrangement. The Government accept that there will be orderly marketing arrangements—there is no doubt about that—under the MFA.

Mr. Les Huckfield (Nuneaton)


Mr. Parkinson

The hon. Member is rarely present at trade debates. If he came occasionally, he might know what he was talking about instead of just sitting there muttering. I was about to outline the support the industry now receives.

There are formal bilateral arrangements with no fewer than 27 low cost supplying countries. Under these agreements, all products for which the EEC is a significant customer are under quota. There are arrangements for imposing additional quotas where imports of new products pass certain levels. In addition, there are voluntary restraint arrangements with seven countries in the Mediterranean area which have preferential trade agreements with the EEC. There are autonomous restrictions on Taiwan and on certain State trading countries. All these arrangements, which were negotiated under and approved by the previous Administration, have the full support of the present Government.

The Government have not been backward in maintaining these arrangements. Since we took office in May, seven new quotas have been imposed under the so-called "basket extractor mechanism." New bilateral agreements have been signed with China and Bulgaria and new voluntary restraint arrangements have been concluded with Malta and Cyprus. The European Commission has, at our request, taken safeguard action against Turkey to limit exports of cotton yarn. My right hon. Friends and I have seen representatives of the British Textile Confederation, of the clothing and knitwear industries, of the Lancashire cotton industry and the TUC textiles committee.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)

None of them is satisfied.

Mr. Parkinson

If the hon. Member has a word with his right hon. Friend, he will find that that is the experience of all Secretaries of State for Trade.

At this point, I pay tribute to the work done by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), who continually presses the case for the industry. One of the House's newest hon. Members, my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Trippier) has in his short time here made his mark as a powerful advocate for his constituents' interests. Hardly a day passes when I am not personally involved in problems of the textile industry.

I do not think that our record supports any claim that the Government have neglected the textile industry. On the contrary, our record demonstrates that we have fully implemented the pledge that we gave in opposition to continue to support the multi-fibre arrangement, which we accept is of great importance to the industry. That is why we support it and that is why, in spite of all the innuendoes of the right hon. Member, who repeated just about every rumour that has ever floated around about unfair competition, I think that we should keep the question of low cost imports in perspective. To listen to some hon. Members, one would think that the entire industry was about to drown in the flood of imports. In fact, imports take up about 30 per cent, of the United Kingdom market. Of the total, about 12 per cent, come from low cost sources. Of course, those broad figures simplify a complex picture, and there are movements within the figures which are much higher than those I have just given. But I must stress that low cost imports are not the main problem facing the industry.

Perhaps we should consider in more detail the essence of the multi-fibre arrangement and what it intends to achieve. I doubt whether the right hon. Member for Deptford has actually ever read it. I quote from the arrangement, which says that its objectives are to achieve the expansion of trade, the reduction of barriers to such trade and the progressive liberalisation of world trade in textile products, while at the same time ensuring the orderly and equitable development of this trade and the avoidance of the disruptive effects on individual markets. In short, the MFA is not a charter for protectionism of the kind that the right hon. Gentleman thinks it is. It is not a means of stopping the clock or halting the process of industrial change. On the contrary, it is intended to promote the orderly development of trade, avoiding both rigid protectionism, on the one hand, and the disruption which a sudden surge of imports can cause, on the other. I emphasise that the Government remain committed to the maintenance of the present MFA and its associated bilateral agreements. I shall be confirming again what the right hon. Member for Deptford is pressing me to confirm.

The MFA is a device for protecting the interest of the producer. Mr. Edmund Dell, the Secretary of State for Trade in the previous Administration, said quite openly and at, of all places, a conference convened by the Consumers Association I am afraid that I must say to any consumer audience that, although consumers are the residual beneficiaries of the open trading system, negotiations will take place from the point of view of producers". I was born and brought up in a textile town—Lancaster. In the High Street there was a large shop called Weaver to Wearer selling men's clothes. There are 750,000 people working in the textile and clothing industry. I certainly do not underestimate their importance. But there are 56 million customers, and they are important, too. So there are 750,000 weavers to 56 million wearers.

Some hon. Members will have seen the recent study from the Consumers Association of the effects of the MFA on the price of clothing. We do not agree with all the arguments put forward, but hon. Members cannot possibly argue that the MFA is not designed to keep up the price of clothes. That is an inevitable consequence of restricting the market to lower cost imports.

Mr. John Smith (Lanarkshire, North)

The Minister is talking about a balance of consumer and producer interests. Will he give a clear-cut commitment that the Government's objective will be to renew the MFA in 1981 on terms no less favourable to British producers than they are at present? That is a simple question. Will the Minister answer "Yes" or "No"?

Mr. Parkinson

I shall deal with that point in my own way. The right hon. Gentleman knows that it is absurd to make a commitment now about what one will do in 1982. We accept the need for an orderly marketing arrangement. The industry itself is already saying that in certain areas the arrangement is not satisfactory. However, there will be an arrangement. I have seen representatives of the industry and I have written to them. They have circulated my letter and have expressed agreement with what I said.

I was explaining that the Consumers Association had put out a paper showing that one of the results of the MFA has been to put up the price of clothes. The Retail Consortium, in a letter to all Members of Parliament today, confirms that that is so. It is the inevitable and logical outcome of restricting the choice of the consumer and forcing him to buy goods at a price higher than he would otherwise have to pay. If that were not so, there would be no point in the arrangement.

I need hardly remind the House that higher prices put up the cost of living. Labour Members are always berating the Government for any increases in the index of retail prices. Yet in calling for increased protection, as the right hon. Member for Deptford did today, they are calling for measures to increase the cost of living. In effect, the customer is being asked to pay to maintain employment in the textile industry.

The Government accept that that is currently necessary and that the alternative could be serious social disruption as a result of leaving the industry open to unrestricted and unfair competition. We recognise that the consumer has to pay a price, and it is a price worth paying to protect the industry. But Labour Members never talk about the price paid or about the effects of their demands on the cost of living index.

The right hon. Member for Deptford and his hon. Friends have said that the answer to the problem is further to restrict imports. However, we live by our exports. Every month £3,500 million of British goods are sent abroad, and that includes £180 millions of textiles. If we are to survive in the world, it is vital that the open trading system which ensures for us a market for those goods should be maintained. That is one of the many reasons why we reject the call for general import controls, which are so popular with Labour Members.

Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West)


Mr. Parkinson

I shall not give way.

No group of countries is more vulnerable to a trade war or to restrictionist policies than the developing countries. It has often struck me as ironic that so many Labour Members, who are rightly concerned about the need to support and encourage the development of the Third world, should be at the same time so eager to prevent the British customer from buying the products of those countries.

The right hon. Member for Deptford suggested today that our policy for textiles should be like our farm policy. I always thought that he believed that the British should buy their surpluses where-ever they could find them. Today, however, he is arguing that we should not even buy products from low cost countries. Apparently cheap food is all right, but cheap textiles and shoes are a threat and are totally unacceptable.

Last year we had a substantial surplus on our balance of trade with the developing countries, even excluding the OPEC countries. Very many of these low cost suppliers, therefore, who are attacked by Labour Members, are already trading with us at a deficit. I hope that the Opposition will recognise that fact.

Dr. Hampson

Does my hon. Friend recognise that the balance of trade in clothing has deteriorated dramatically in recent years? Given that fact and the tremendous job loss, which has been greater in this industry in the last few years than anything we may see at Corby and Shotton, may we expect some move by the Government to get from the EEC for textiles the sort of help that it is giving the steel industry for its rundown?

Mr. Parkinson

We have operated policies to help the restructuring of the industry. For instance, £100 million has been invested in the wool textile industry with the object of re-equipping the industry and reducing employment. The first programme involved £72 million and the second £30 million.

We clearly recognise that it is vitally important if we are to support the multilateral trade negotiations and have an open trading system, that there must be satisfactory anti-dumping procedures and satisfactory procedures for investigating complaints. As the right hon. Member for Deptford said, this is now the responsibility of the EEC Commission.

Very shortly after we took office my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I went to Brussels to see for ourselves how its anti-dumping machinery operates, and to impress upon the Commission the importance that we attach to this matter. The Commission's anti-dumping unit has been considerably strengthened since the end of the transitional period, and the pace of investigation is improving. Certainly the level of activity of the unit is very high.

The Government have recently reissued a booklet advising United Kingdom firms how to use the anti-dumping machinery, and I have made it quite clear in the foreword to that booklet that the Government stand available to help any sector of industry which has a complaint and wishes to put it to Brussels.

Mr. David Ginsburg (Dewsbury)


Mr. Parkinson

No, I shall not give way.

One of the points that the right hon. Member for Deptford demonstrated clearly was that it is very difficult to take action on general assertions and allegations not backed up by fact. The main part of his speech was a reiteration of a number of those allegations. I shall make the right hon. Gentleman this offer. If he will send me specific information to back up his allegations, I shall take them up as a matter of urgency. The right hon. Gentleman will find it easier to make assertions than to come forward with evidence.

I wish to deal with two problems that the right hon. Gentleman raised—United States feedstock prices and the Prato region. I stress straight away that the Government recognise the urgency of the feedstock prices problem for some sectors of the textile industry. Other factors, however, have contributed to the increase in American exports.

The first thing that I did at the July Council was to demand that the Commission set up a fact-finding body and at the same time come forward with a range of options for action and report to the September Council on the facts and options. At the September meeting we were informed that there was to be a high level meeting with the United States authorities early in October and that the problem would be raised as a matter of urgency and a report given to the October Council. At the October Council the Commission reported that the October meeting with the American authorities had taken place, work had been started and further work would continue in November, and a full report and recommendation would be made to the Council on 20 November. I stressed our anger at the delay in dealing with this important matter, and I assure the House that at the Council next week we shall press for the implementation of the Commission's recommendations.

The right hon. Gentleman appears to forget that he and his right hon. and hon. Friends were the Government until five months ago.

Mr. Meacher


Mr. Parkinson

No, I will not give way.

Mr. Meacher


Mr. Deputy Speaker

The Minister is not giving way.

Mr. Parkinson

I believe that the right hon. Gentleman was misleading himself, if not the House, in asserting that we should take unilateral action. It would not be effective, would not be supported by our Community partners, would hardly be possible to monitor and would damage relations with our leading trading partner, the United States.

On the problem of the Prato region, the Labour Government referred the matter to the Commission in 1976. After an investigation it was found that the allegations could not be substantiated, and the previous Government accepted that finding. When we came to office we were not happy with the finding. We again referred the matter to the Commission and demanded a further investigation, which is taking place. We are determined to use the machinery of the Commission to make sure that the Italian Prato region companies, if trading unfairly, should be made to stop.

Much has been made recently of the fact that many developing countries keep out our exports of textiles and clothing by high tariff barriers or direct quantitative restrictions. It is recognised in GATT that developing countries need time to strengthen their industries, and that is a fundamental part of the arrangements. I suspect that the right hon. Gentleman also grappled with the problem of how to persuade developing countries to surrender their status and start to reduce their tariff barriers. We recognise the problem and, although it is difficult to find an answer at present, we are continuing our efforts.

Most clothing and textile imports come not from low cost countries but from developed countries. It is no good saying, as did the right hon. Gentleman, that all competition is dumped or subsidised. Some of it may be, and if it is we shall take action. Most of it is not. In this country we have a substantial advantage in labour costs over most of our developed country competitors, and there is no excuse for our inability to compete.

I pay tribute to the industry's record, adaptability, resilence and export record. It has its full share of problems. The fact remains, however, that the industry is still losing ground to competition that it should be able to beat. It is not enough to blame that on the iniquities of foreigners or Government neglect. The Government have done a great deal to help the industry and will continue to play their part, but we cannot do the industry's job for it. We cannot make the industry improve its productivity, the quality of its output, the standard of its designs or its ability to meet delivery dates. Whether we like it or not, we live in a harsh competitive world. We shall not reverse our industrial decline by permanently sheltering any industry from those realities. The task of the Government is to provide through their economic policies a climate in which industry can flourish, and we shall continue to try to do that.

We make no apology for placing the maximum emphasis on the first priority, which is the defeat of inflation. If we do not achieve that, there is no prospect of returning to a steady path of economic growth.

The Government are also committed to the maintenance of the open trading system. That is, not out of any free trade dogma but is because, as we are a major trading nation, it is in our interest. We shall continue to support the MFA. The Labour Government had enough problems maintaining that tight network of restrictions, and in opposition they should understand why we cannot always do everything that the industry wants. There will be a need for a continuing orderly marketing arrangement in textiles after the present MFA expires, and we shall play our full part in negotiating that arrangement. We shall continue to act vigorously against instances of dumping or unfair competition where the evidence justifies doing so, but we can only set the scene.

Labour hon. Members talk as though the Government have all the answers and Government alone can cure industry's troubles, but industry is not made more competitive by subsidising it or shielding it from competition. The future of the British textile industry lies in its own hands. Its achievements in the past have been great and its performance in many areas is still impressive, and I am much more optimistic than the right hon. Gentleman about the industry's ability to deal with its problems.

The motion is the pathetic product of a part-time and uninterested Opposition, too busy with their internal squabbles to do their job. They criticise the Government for changing a policy that has failed, for continuing and strengthening a set of international agreements that they negotiated when in government and for unemployment which their policies caused. I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to reject their pathetic motion.

4.58 p.m.

Mr. Ben Ford (Bradford, North)

I am sorry that the Minister was not more positive in his approach, but I hope that the debate will proceed in a constructive manner. I and other hon. Members with constituency interests wish to help the industry and not score petty party points.

On behalf of the all-party group, which wishes to help the textile industry although it may not subscribe to the motion, I thank the Opposition Front Bench for providing the opportunity for the debate. If from time to time I speak in verbal shorthand, it is because I am trying to save time to allow colleagues to speak.

I am anxious about the situation in the wool textile industry as distinct from the textile industry as a whole. At the end of 1970 there were about 122,000 employed in that industry, at the end of 1978 there were only about 73,000 and it is expected that there will be a further drop of 7,000 this year. That is a reduction of approximately 65 per cent. in the labour force since the end of 1970. Although the problem concerns many areas of the country, it is of particular importance in West Yorkshire. Barnsley is famed for another product but even there there are substantial textile interests, and today I was passed a letter by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason). If an employer in the industry goes out of business he usually has resources to turn to. If an employee loses his job he is out on the street and, with the present economy, there is no hope for him of securing other employment. In those circumstances, a great duty devolves on any Government.

Following the Atkinson report, the wool textile industry has modernised itself over the years. That report was a product of the wool textile EDC. The trade unions co-operated fully on the matter. They are now asking themselves whether that co-operation was worth while, particularly in the light of speeches like the one of the Minister for Trade.

What are the reasons for the decline? My right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) went into many of those reasons this afternoon. There is a downturn in world economic activity. The pound stands at an extraordinary and artificially high level. That makes exporting difficult. Cheap imports are also harming the industry. Even the second MFA did not help because the Commission was slow to implement the basket extractor mechanism.

Free circulation within the EEC has not been mentioned in the debate. However, it follows outward processing and it means that developed countries within the EEC can land a product of undeveloped countries in this country without labels of origin being attached. We should press within the EEC for marks of origin to be applied to garments and cloth landed in this country. In that connection, the TUC recommendations deserve some study.

We have discussed the American dual energy pricing policy. EEC fibre producers pay between 35 and 70 per cent. more for their raw materials in this country. The problem runs through our textile industry, making it uncompetitive to that extent. Until the Americans come to a rational arrangement, we should press the EEC to apply countervailing duties. I hope that the point will be mentioned at the meeting on 20 November.

Successive Governments could have done more to help the industry. Earlier in the decade no quick action was taken on cheap imports. Governments have been unhelpful about finding money for, for example, guards for carding machinery which are required under health and safety regulations. The industry does not grumble about applying safety measures, but when they cost £3,000 per machine with no increase in productivity the industry rightly hopes for support from the Government. Many small firms have been driven out of business.

We have discussed with Ministers time and again the problem of trade effluent costs. All that would be involved to remedy the position is £1 million per year. We talk in this House in terms of hundreds and thousands of millions and billions of pounds every week. The sum of £1 million would be of particular benefit to the scouring industry preventing it from having to move to an estuarial site, thus breaking up the industry and gradually removing it from West Yorkshire. I hope that the Government will consider that matter.

I shall address most of my remarks to the clothing industry. Our wool cloths should have a large home market. Yet the industry imports cheaper suits and cloths for sale on the home market. Many people in this country are deceived by trick labels on garments. They believe that they are buying British when they are buying foreign cloths and foreign clothes imported from low cost countries. The clothing industry requirement for cheap suits and cloths contributes largely to its inefficiency. Some large groups of companies hardly make any suits. They import most of their clothes from abroad. Small firms use imported cheap cloth in order to make up suits at competitive prices. It is estimated that the British clothing industry has about 1,500 small firms employing between 20 and 100 persons—that is, about 30 per cent of the manpower in the entire industry. That sector could benefit greatly from productivity schemes.

Some model schemes have been instituted by the wool industry's research institute. They are fully documented and they deserve some study. They demonstrate conclusively that it is possible to increase output many times within the clothing in- dustry with the same staff. The productivity of one cutting room increased by 80 per cent. following the reorganisation of the work. The Government should encourage productivity in the home market by offering assistance, for example, tax remissions for consultancy and research and development and productivity schemes. At the same time, assistance should be extended for renewal of plant and machinery.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford ended his speech with a list of points that he though would benefit the industry. I should like to add a list of my own. I believe that they would help to give the industry the breathing space that it requires to recover.

First, there should be a statement of the Government's intention to maintain a viable wool textile industry. Secondly, negotiations should be commenced within the EEC to establish that marks of origin should be applied to garments and cloths that are imported to this country. Thirdly, we should press the EEC to introduce countervailing duties on USA fibres, unless there is success at the meeting on 20 November. Fourthly, there should be some help with trade effluent costs, at the miserable price of £1 million per year. Fifthly, assistance should be provided for consultancy and research and development in the clothing industry. Sixthly, plant and machinery aid should be extended. Seventhly, a clear statement should be made of the Government's intention to press for a further multi-fibre arrangement and to begin preparing the negotiating brief for that arrangement. Eighthly, we should restore regional assistance to areas in West Yorkshire where it was withdrawn—the need is great, in the terms of the Opposition's amendment. Ninthly, we should ensure that the wool EDC is retained. There is great apprehension in the industry that it will be disbanded. That would be a major blow.

Those measures would give confidence to the industry to carry on fighting. Over the years, the industry has refurbished not only buildings and machinery but attitudes and expertise. During the transitional period the industry requires backup from national resources. The Government should offer that back-up. I hope that they will and that they will help to retain a lively and viable wool textile industry in Britain.

5.8 pm

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Ford). With the exception of his reference to the restoration of regional aid to West Yorkshire I am in virtual agreement with his proposals. In a debate of this sort it is interesting to see the cross-party groupings. The debate does not take place on pure party lines. Therefore, I am happy to associate myself with much of the hon. Gentleman's remarks. I hope that his proposals will be noted by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and that the Government will take action.

How right the hon. Gentleman was to refer to the costs which have been in-incurred by the textile and woollen industries in discharging all the responsibilities placed upon them by the health and safety regulations and the Health and Safety Executive. How right he was also to point out the very heavy costs incurred by the industry in disposing of trade effluent. I hope that in these areas the hon. Gentleman's points will be noted and that there will be a positive response from the Minister when he replies to the debate.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister for Trade on his very robust speech. I am sure that he would not expect me to agree with everything he said, and I do not. He left out a great deal that it is necessary to say and do if our textile industry is to survive.

Hon. Members on each side have said that the textile industry is a very significant industry in this country. It employs a great many people. It is about the fifth largest manufacturing sector of industry in this country. It employs about 750,000 people in the textile and allied clothing sectors. We are talking about a very important industry, with sales in this country of over £8,000 million a year and exports of over £2,000 million a year.

I ask the Minister for Trade, through his hon. Friend, to be a little more forthcoming, in the reply, concerning the new multi-fibre arrangement that is to be negotiated. Investment in the industry is vital. Investment will be made only if the industry is utterly certain that the MFA is to be renewed, and preferably strengthened as well. There is no doubt whatever that the global ceilings have in many vital areas been exceeded, and I ask the Minister for Trade to ensure that his hon. Friend, in reply to the debate, directs rather more positive remarks to the renewal of the MFA and the tightening up of the MFA than were made in the Minister's opening speech.

It was rather unfortunate that the Minister did not address any remarks to the problems that will be generated for the textile industry as a result of the enlargement of the EEC. We have grave problems to face with regard to Greece. We shall be debating very shortly in the House the remaining stages of the European Communities (Greek Accession) Bill. I hope that the Government are giving some attention to the problems that will arise for the textile industry in this country from the membership of the EEC of Greece, and then Portugal and Spain. Unless steps are taken now, this could sound the death knell of the textile industry in this country. I say that with knowledge and in all seriousness.

I regret that the Minister made no mention of the People's Republic of China. I hope that in his reply my hon. Friend will comment on the trade deals that we are doing with the People's Republic of China, and with the impact that the importing of Chinese textiles into this country will have upon our own industry.

I associate myself entirely with the remarks of the hon. Member for Bradford, North relating to outward processing and free circulation. Will the Minister tell me why there is still no regulation relating to free circulation? The EEC was supposed to issue a regulation in September of this year. The consequences of having no regulation are grave for the United Kingdom textile industry. This matter, combined with free circulation, will be very serious for employment in the United Kingdom.

I fully support the hon. Member's call for labels of origin. I believe that I sensed the Minister of Trade's reaction to that, because he nodded. I hope that some comment on this will be made in the reply to the debate.

Perhaps the main impact of my speech should be directed to the problems resulting from the duality of oil pricing by the United States Government. I was pleased that the Minister had a good deal to say about this in his speech. As he will know, I have raised this matter in business questions, in questions to the Prime Minister and also in questions to the Department of Trade and the Department of Employment. The Minister for Trade has stated—and this has been confirmed to me in a letter from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—that the EEC Commission has said that it will be reporting back to the meeting of the Council which is to be held on 20 November. The Minister has stated that he expects action from the Council of Ministers at the meeting on 20 November, and that if the Commission does not come forward with proposals for dealing with the matter once and for all, he will demand action.

Mr. Parkinson

At the last Council meeting, I made a very strong statement to the effect that as a result of the Commission's inactivity it was possible to argue that British companies had been forced to close, that this was unacceptable to us, and that we felt that the Commission was not treating the matter with the urgency it deserved. I was supported in that statement by two of the other member countries. That was when the Commission made its promise, and we intend to keep the Commission to that promise.

Mr. Winterton

I am very grateful to the Minister for adding those remarks to his earlier comments. I am sure that they will be helpful to hon. Members on each side of the House.

There can be no doubt that the United States of America is using its position in order seriously to undermine the industry in this country. I represent a North-West constituency, as does my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Trippier). So do other hon. Members on each side of the House. We feel very deeply indeed about the mill closures which are taking place at present. I work closely with the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond), who is the vice-chairman of the all-party group for cotton and allied textiles, of which I am the chairman. We are aware that other closures are imminent. This means the loss of jobs.

Governments of both major parties have talked about the valuable contribution that the industry makes to our economy, the exports that it achieves, its fine record of industrial relations, and the rationalisation and new technology which have been undertaken. But there is no point in talking about all those things unless the Government are prepared to guarantee the industry fair competition. The industry does not seek protection; it seeks fair competition. There is no doubt that at the moment the United States of America is posing unfair competition to the textile industry of the United Kingdom.

While I am talking about unfair competition, perhaps I might invite the Minister in his reply to be a little more specific about the Dutch spinning company which has recently obtained contracts from the Ministry of Defence. I believe that the company has been able to win these contracts with the Ministry of Defence because the Dutch Government are subsidising it. I asked the Department of Trade a question about it. It was transferred to the Department of Industry. The reply I received was totally inadequate. The spinning and weaving company to which I refer, in the trading year 1978, made a loss of £11 million on a turnover of £31 million. The Dutch Government stepped in and wiped off that deficit, thus enabling the company to continue in business and inevitably to compete unfairly with the industry in this country. The Department should go to the appropriate section of the EEC and ask it to look again at this Dutch company and its activities. Perhaps the Department of Industry could also, together with the Department of Employment, look a little more deeply at the impact of this Dutch company upon the textile industry in the United Kingdom.

My hon. Friend referred to the Consumers Association report "The Price of Protection". He said that the association had clearly indicated that the multi-fibre arrangement was not beneficial to the consumer. I believe that that is hogwash and nonsense, and that the Government have a duty to ensure fair competition and the maintenance of a high level of employment and a low level of unemployment.

There is no doubt that new countries are coming on to the scene. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will comment on Bolivia and other developing countries and that he will be a little more forthcoming about the exceeding of quotas by Turkey, and about the problems of Egypt and other Mediterranean associates. Have they been stopped in time? What damage has the exceeding of quotas done to the United Kingdom industry?

The retail prices of clothing in the United Kingdom have risen much less fast than the average of all retail prices. How does that sustain the misguided argument on the multi-fibre arrangement put forward by the Consumers Association?

Mr. Albert Roberts (Normanton)

What about the low-paid?

Mr. Winterton

It is worth noting that the MFA allows the volume of total imports to rise substantially each year. We are not, therefore, cutting off foreign competition; we are allowing substantial quantities of foreign goods into this country.

The report also makes certain claims about price rises in imported clothing. Those claims do not agree with the facts and statistics given by the clothing and textile industries. Those industries have made a critical reply to the report, and I hope that it will be widely circulated.

This is an important debate, which crosses the Floor politically. At this stage I do not know how I shall vote at 7 o'clock. I hope that the Government will be a little more forthcoming on a number of points which I have made and which were made—

Mr. Thomas Torney (Bradford, South)

Vote with us.

Mr. Winterton

There is no chance of that.

Many of the problems blighting the textile industry are a result of neglect under successive Governments. I hope that my hon. Friends who represent textile constituencies will listen carefully to the remarks of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Industry, the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Mitchell), when he winds up this debate. The strength of the case advanced by the Government will influence the way in which I shall vote at 7 o'clock.

The textile industry is a good industry. It needs a little more than just vocal support. It needs action—and action on 20 November. My hon. Friend will be plagued by me and many of my hon. Friends if there is no action at the Council of Ministers meeting then.

5.23 pm
Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)

Anyone who has observed these deliberations closely will have noticed two points. First, there is a measure of co-operation on both sides of the House. That is due to the fact that both Conservative and Labour Members have co-operated for years with those people involved in the textile industry. We all know their problems.

I have been involved with the problems of the textile industry for 20 years. Three Conservative Members here today live close to me and know the consequence of the demise of the textile industry. I am sorry to say that in my constituency both parties have paid a measure of lip service to the industry. In the dying days of the Labour Government we brought in measures that were considered to be helpful, but, unfortunately, they were belated.

I am sorry that the Minister for Trade, who opened the debate for the Government, has left the Chamber, because, although I know that he is supported by a first class team of civil servants, I have with me evidence which proves conclusively that he is by no means fully informed. The omissions are such as to represent a grave danger to the textile industry. I quote from a report yesterday in a responsible newspaper, The Guardian. It states: Hong Kong has taken tough action against textile firms which illegally exported clothing to Britain for sale in major chain stores. British Customs discovered last year that goods supposedly from Indonesia had come from Hong Kong where a quota system operates to protect the British textile industry. Thirty firms were found to have exported goods to Britain in excess of their quota, worth £12 millions. An equivalent amount has now been removed from their quota, not just for one year, but permanently. 'That means that if a firm exported to Britain double its quota, it will now be wiped out as far as its British trade is concerned,' said an official of the Hong Kong Trade, Industry and Customs Department. 'If it exported illegally more than its quota it would have to purchase the excess each year and surrender it.' The official said that British chain stores and retail groups were concerned in what was 'quite obviously a conspiracy.' 'We are not naming them, that is up to the British Customs, but well-known names are among them,' he said. 'Seven of the Hong Kong firms had not even bothered to send the goods to Indonesia for re-export to Britain, but had sent them direct—somebody was flogging them certificates of authority,' said the official. These seven firms have already been fined a total of £34,000. Action against others is pending. Hong Kong fears that if it does not maintain its quota system it could be subject to British import controls. 'We are determined to stamp out these malpractices, which jeopardise Hong Kong's integrity in the eyes of our trading partners' said Mr. Peter Tsao, the Director of Trading. 'Our action is intended to safeguard the interests of manufacturers and exporters whose future could be affected by the offences of a few.'".

Mr. Deputy Speaker

A large number of hon. Members wish to speak, and to quote long extracts from newspapers does not help the progress of the debate.

Mr. Jones

I have completed the quotation, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My point is germane. The Minister gave the impression that the matter was under control. That is not correct. Those companies have exported millions of pounds worth of textiles into this country, and we are totally unaware of it. If we have to depend on Hong Kong to find out, in order to protect its own export opportunities, there is something radically wrong with our system of monitoring.

The Government tell us—I believe in all sincerity—that private enterprise will be the means of rejuvenating our economy. But these excesses are such that they will be highly dangerous to the textile industry. Should we not have a monitoring system which will indicate which firms are involved? Millions of pounds worth of textiles are involved. People in this country are involved. The phrase used is "large and important groups". Which are the groups?

Some years ago the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) asked big firms all over the country why they purchased so many of their textiles from abroad and why they could not support British industry. If other enterprises behave in the way described in the report in The Guardian, there is no hope of recovery.

I do not agree with import controls, but I support fair trading. It cannot be fair trading when millions of pounds worth of textiles are brought into this country surreptitiously. I recommend the Department to check the report and take action to prevent a recurrence of what has happened. If it does not, our desire that the textile industry should continue to prosper will be mere whistling in the wind.

The industry in my constituency used to produce more textiles before breakfast than the rest of the world produced after breakfast. Yet today we are almost bereft of the industry.

Some of the workers retire at the age of 56, 57 or 58. I tell the Government "You are not making them unemployed. You are sending them to the graveyard." They are not of an age at which they can take further employment. This is a shocking indictment of any Government. The industry has contributed to the wealth of the nation. It has industrial stability, and it does not pay inflated wages.

I hope that the Minister will take up with his officials the matter that I have described and take the necessary action to eliminate the problem from our economic life.

5.32 pm
Mr. D. A. Trippier (Rossendale)

I shall be brief, as I am well aware that many other Back Benchers wish to speak.

I was saddened that, although the opening speaker for the Government was my hon. Friend the Minister for Trade, it is my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Industry who is to wind up for the Government, because much of what will be discussed would be better handled by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade. The problems that we are discussing are mainly unfair import competition and trade matters.

My constituency is unique in that more than 25 per cent. of my labour force is employed in the textile industry. It follows that it is largely dependent on the industry's future. In many of the mills that I visit I find that not only the husband but the wife is working. Therefore, there is a double dependence on the industry's future. That applies in the neighbouring constituencies as well.

I am glad that Labour Members, particularly the hon. Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Ford), have acknowledged that both Governments have let the industry down. That is very true. I cannot understand how the Opposition can table a motion such as the one before us, accusing the present Government of letting the industry down, when between 1964 and 1970 142,000 jobs in the textile industry were lost under the Labour Government. We have nothing to boast about, because under the Conservative Government that succeeded them 104,000 people lost their jobs, but under Labour between 1974 and this year 121,000 jobs were lost. Therefore, neither side has anything to boast about but has a great deal to be ashamed of.

Much of what I had intended to say has already been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), who put it extremely well. The problems of unfair import competition should be paramount throughout the debate. The motion refers to the withdrawal of regional aid. In fact, regional aid and unemployment benefits are secondary to the most important problem facing the textile industry, which is a lack of confidence.

That lack of confidence is inherent because, regrettably, my Government have not made it perfectly clear that they intend to fight for a strengthened multi-fibre arrangement in 1981, and a renegotiation of the bilateral agreements in 1982. I cannot understand why they cannot today give a firm commitment to do that. What possible harm would there be in it?

For once, we are falling well behind other member countries of the EEC. On 9 April this year Commissioner Davignon said: The Community sees the continuation of the MFA as an essential element of the Community's strategy for textiles. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will give an assurance on the matter when he replies to the debate.

5.37 pm
Dr. Shirley Summerskill (Halifax)

When my constituents visit Parliament I always show them the Woolsack in the other place and point out that it symbolises the fact that this country's wealth was derived from the sheep's back. I remind the Government that 15,000 people in Halifax and the surrounding area still live off the sheep's back, working in the textile industry. They want an industry on which they can rely for their livelihood and probably for their children's livelihood. Those people can be proud of an international reputation for quality and design.

Sixty per cent. of all those employed in the industry are women. They have a tradition of hard work and loyalty, but also a tradition of being shamefully low paid. During the past few months—I emphasise "during the past few months"—a serious crisis has developed. The industry was in decline before that, but something extremely serious has happened since the Conservative Government took office. Between May and October, 23 textile firms in West Yorkshire have closed, involving 2,013 redundancies, all in the space of five months. Therefore, whatever may be said about help that has been given in the past, and what the Labour Government did or did not do, the fact remains that what is required now is extra help, extra support from the Government, whatever they may claim to have been doing.

When, in a recent question, I asked the Under-Secretary of State for help, he replied: Modernisation by the industry and the success of the Government's economic policies provide the best means of checking further decline."—[Official Report, 29 October 1979; Vol. 972, c. 392.] With regard to the question of modernisation, why are closures now taking place among sophisticated, recently modernised mills—not just the dark satanic mills? How does the Minister account for that?

As for the Government's economic policies set out in the Budget, not everyone agrees with the Minister for Trade that they will help the industry. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) pointed out, they could be positively disadvantageous to the industry.

The Trades Union Congress has issued a statement to the effect that the recent Budget will have such an adverse effect. The statement says: The squeeze on bank credit and the high value of sterling coupled with depressed consumer demand at home and tight export margins are bound to cause redundancies, closures and the postponement of investment. The growth of imports, not only from low cost countries but also from high cost ones such as Italy and France, is one of the serious causes of decline. The threat from Italy to the survival of the Yorkshire woollen industry is particularly serious. Imports of woollen fabrics now account for nearly one half of the home market compared with only one-third three years ago. Italian competition has already eliminated the woollen industry in some EEC countries. The entry of Portugal to the EEC will present a further threat. I have no wish to undermine the growing industry of developing countries. Italy is another matter.

The destructive policies of this Government have made a bad situation even worse. My area was an intermediate area. It is to become a non-assisted area. Over the five years of their period in office, the previous Government gave a huge amount of aid to re-equip the industry. But the industry in West Yorkshire needs further assistance. This month will see the end of the temporary short time working schemes and the Government employment subsidy. Many wool textile firms will be hit. Regional aid will come to an end after 1982 and the EEC's regional development fund will no longer be available.

These positive discriminatory measures will hit the wool textile industry. The industry cannot afford to be hit in this way at this time. The Under-Secretary of State for Industry in a recent Adjournment debate said that he appreciated the difficulties—the impact of man-made fibres, the change in production techniques and the rapid expansion of competing industries abroad. The hon. Gentleman mentioned all those factors. But they are the reasons why the industry desperately needs extra help. It is no good saying that the difficulties are appreciated. We do not want a complacent reminder of Budget measures that we do not even believe were necessarily the right measures.

The Government are withdrawing the aid on which the industry relied. We need new industries, but we also want, in West Yorkshire, to support the old ones. We do not want to see the old industries die. As hon. Members have said, we want an effective and fair multi-fibre arrangement. All the loopholes must be closed. There must be efficient monitoring arrangements and renewal of the arrangement when it expires.

I would like to see provision of alternative employment, if necessary, to replace jobs lost in the textile industry. This matter has been raised in the Scheme for Textile Regeneration report. I would like to see specific help for West Yorkshire textile firms in the form of loans, temporary employment schemes, or alternative grant aid. More investment is vitally needed if the industry is to survive We cannot sit back and say that investment has occurred. We need more and continual investment. We must pursue all means of preventing unfair competition, especially through the import of woollen fabrics from Italy. We must obtain a substantial reduction in the United States tariff on wool cloth. We do not want blanket protectionism, but there is need for continued substantial Government help.

The textile and clothing industries are fighting for survival. Do the Government intend to allow them to die simply because of blind faith in free market competition? If the Government do not want those industries to die, they must take immediate action to involve themselves in their future and to accept responsibility for their development. The Government must provide specific support. That is why I support the motion.

5.44 pm
Mr. Donald Thompson (Sowerby)

It has been said on many occasions that this subject demands an all-party approach. Many hon. Members on the Conservative Benches are as concerned as Opposition hon. Members about the state of the textile industry, which is definitely under attack. I believe that regional aid has done the textile industry no good at all. Year after year, it has stolen our jobs to other areas of the country. In the same way, the EEC is trying to give our textile industry to the developing world. But it will only succeed in giving it to Communist countries or to American capital.

Too many jobs have been bribed away from us by the old assisted area schemes. Those schemes have now been redrawn to help the areas in greatest need. The removal of those schemes will, however, lead to distortions. Those distortions must be minimised, first, by making sure that firms know what is available regionally. Many firms believe that all aids have been withdrawn. That is no time. Firms must be told what is available regionally. They must also be informed what is available nationally. Most of all, hon. Members must make sure that the systems in this country and in the EEC work fairly.

EEC rules say that public supply contracts should be advertised in its official journal. By February this year, United Kingdom authorities had advertised on 332 occasions, Danish authorities had advertised 16 times, Belgian authorities 13 times, German authorities 11 times, French authorities 9 times, Dutch, Luxembourg and Irish authorities only once, and Italian authorities not at all. I refer to organisations such as county councils and police authorities. The spread between France, Germany and Britain is becoming fairer. But the balance of advantage is still towards our competitors. When foreigners apply for British contracts, they are given every facility. Our police authorities and our county councils send samples and tender documents and allow plenty of time for the making of counter samples. Consequently, many Continental firms have obtained work in the United Kingdom, often, we feel, on prices based on cloth obtained from Eastern Europe. In contrast, when firms from my constituency apply for foreign work, they meet evasion, duplicity or a blank response, and, on one occasion, an illegal refusal to send documents.

John Murgatroyd and Sons, a firm of international repute, was recently told in a brief letter from a German police authority that it had enough contractors. The firm was asked to refrain from sending a representative. This is in direct contrast to the way our authorities carry on business. Murgatroyd's dealings with the French have been no better. Its attempts to obtain contracts advertised in the EEC journal have fared no better. The firm has come up against what it calls the usual French stalling tactics of wrong telex numbers, difficulty in contacting relevant departments and similar actions. An insistence that the correspondence should be in French does not worry the company. But when our Civil Service, after passing the matter through three departments, said that it could not supply supporting documents necessary for compliance with EEC regulations, the firm almost gave up.

Mr. Readman, of the National Wool Textile Export Corporation, has said: This is far from being the only example of difficulties experienced in trying to quote for EEC contracts. The most usual problem is that notices giving basic details do not allow sufficient time to submit offers, and that emphasises the United Kingdom's 'abnormally fair' attitude. The search for specific facts on dumping is more difficult, but British Furtex tells me that it has analysed imported velvets in its own laboratories and is certain that a price of £1.75 per metre for Dralon imported from Germany must be a dumped price. This firm is willing to make its technical evidence and advice available to the Government.

All this has gone on for a long time, even before the general election and the change of Government. In the Budget the Government changed the rules concerning payments for regional aid and put them back four months. It now seems that some small firms have to wait a further four months because of administrative difficulties. In Sowerby Bridge, the firm of John Longbottom, which is a credit to the industry, now finds itself well overdue with the payments and is struggling, as are many more firms in Sowerby.

My constituents know the textile industry in all its phases. They tell me that at present they fear for the future. All they need is commonsense support and a fair crack of the whip. They believe that, if they are given that, the industry will recover and prosper.

5.51 pm
Mr. David Lambie (Central Ayrshire)

I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) is not present, because I wanted to compliment him on his speech. In fact, as I listened to him, I wondered why he was not Secretary of State for Trade in the previous Labour Government and why he did not make the same speech as part of Labour Government policy at that time. Had that speech been made, and that policy carried out, we should not be here today discussing the future of the United Kingdom textile industry.

The Minister said that this morning he had consulted his civil servants before coming to the House. That is what has been wrong with successive Secretaries of State. They have consulted the civil servants at the Department of Trade far too often. Those civil servants still think that all the red patches on the world atlas are parts of the British Empire from which we have a God-given right to take the raw materials and that we can export the finished products to them. They do not seem to realise that all these red areas are no longer part of the British Empire and that perhaps they are now part of the Communist empire which has replaced our power in those areas. We should now accept that Britain as a small nation of 56 million people can no longer leave her doors open to imports from any other part of the world if they damage our own native industry.

That is why I believe in a policy of selective import controls. Unless we have such controls, we shall have debate after debate such as this, not only on this topic but on all other topics dealing with the future industrial progress of the United Kingdom.

I accept that when the multi-fibre arrangement was initially signed in 1974 it was an improvement. It was an attempt by the EEC Commission to achieve some control over imports that were coming into the EEC. I also accept that, when the Labour Government renewed that agreement in 1978, it was an improvement. What I do not accept is that it was good enough. The figures show, as does this debate, that the 1978 agreement, although an improvement on the 1974 agreement, was not satisfactory in regard to the United Kingdom textile industry.

I was interested in the statement of the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) that this is a debate across the Chamber. If we are to do anything at all to change the policy of successive Secretaries of State against selective import controls, it must be not by black power, but by Back Bench power. Back Bench Members must tell Secretaries of State, irrespective of the party they represent, that the policy that they have followed for the last 200 years concerning an open market in the United Kingdom must stop. I hope that we see Back Bench power tonight. It is easy for me as a Labour Member to support Labour Party policy, but during my nine years as a Member of Parliament I have often voted against my own party when I have thought that it was not pursuing a policy that was in the interests of my constituents or my party in my constituency. I hope that Conservative Members live up to their threats tonight—it is all very well shouting from below the Gangway—and support Labour Members who want to see a change of policy.

Government spokesmen have said that things are not so bad. In fact, the Minister criticised my right hon. Friend for talking about pessimistic forecasts. I do not know where the Minister gets his information from. My interest is in the Scottish knitwear industry. During the last year, 16 factories have closed, not just under a Conservative Government. In fact, the majority have closed under policies that were carried out by the Labour Government. Ten per cent. of the Scottish knitwear industry labour force has been lost during the last 12 months. In my own area of North Ayrshire, there have been four major closures affecting my own constituency and the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. McKelvey). The firms concerned have been Iona Knitwear, Irvine; Carmelbank, in Kilmaurs, near Kilmarnock; Cross-house Knitwear and C. & S. Knitwear in Stewarton in the Kilmarnock area. There is now short time working in the knitwear industry in Irvine and Kilmarnock. I heard a rumour this morning that there is to be another major closure in the area. The forward position is not good. In fact, everyone visualises that there will be a difficult spring.

I therefore ask the Minister to justify his statement that things are going well and that there are prospects for the textile industry in the United Kingdom. The figures and trends in the Scottish knitwear industry over the last year suggest that there is no future. The Government must take action. If they do not, we shall see an upsurge in unemployment in an area that already has the highest rate of unemployment, not only in Scotland but in the whole of the United Kingdom. In the Garnock valley, there is 19 per cent. unemployment because of a steel closure. There is 14 per cent. unemployment in the Irvine area. Those are the unemployment rates in my own constituency about which I am talking, yet within the next year or so we shall be faced with further increases in those figures as people are forced to leave the textile industry.

I want to refer to the dual pricing policy of the United States Government in relation to energy and feedstocks. We know that on the twentieth of this month the Government will have the opportunity of negotiating an agreement with the United States. We know that they will try to force the United States to reach some agreement in order to stop the unloading of cheap man-made fibres onto the United Kingdom market. That is not the correct policy. The policy of dual pricing that is being carried out by the United States Government in relation to energy and feedstocks is the correct one, and it is a policy that we should adopt. It is one that the Labour Government should have followed during the last five years.

It seems strange that the United States can buy oil from the Persian Gulf, transport it 5,000 miles, refine it, extract the petrol, feedstocks and other products, make carpets from man-made fibres and then transport those carpets 3,000 miles back across the Atlantic to sell them more cheaply than we can ourselves. We have oil in the North Sea and are self-sufficient in oil and natural gas. Instead of using those resources to solve our financial problems, why do not the Government use them to solve our industrial problems? The previous Labour Government did not use them for that purpose either. Why do we not establish a dual pricing system in Britain and feed our raw materials from the North Sea into manufacturing industry? The benefits would eventually permeate into the textile industry.

I explained often to my right hon. and hon. Friends in the last Administration that it was obvious that we should do what the Americans did, but I received no satisfactory answer. Perhaps I shall get such an answer from the Government Benches tonight. Perhaps I shall then vote in support of the Government.

If the Minister has been informed by his civil servants that our forecasts are pessimistic, he has received bad advice. The Scottish knitwear industry is in dire straits and needs help. It is up to the Government to help not only the Scottish knitwear industry but the whole of the British textile industry because it is one of our major industries.

6.1 pm

Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

I regret that the motion includes mention of both regional policy and textile policy because each is of sufficient importance to warrant an individual debate.

I shall make one or two remarks about regional policy before turning to the parlous and deteriorating state of the textile industry. I do not question the strategy of concentrating regional aid on those areas which most need it, rather than spreading it, thinly and ineffectively, over 40 per cent. of the country. However, I question some of the places which the Government have chosen to downgrade.

When considering the removal of assisted area status, I hope that the Secretary of State will pay particular attention to the dangers which exist in areas which have high outward migration and are heavily dependent upon one industry because such areas could face considerable difficulties. I have had the opportunity of discussing these problems at length with the Minister of State in another place.

I am sure that Opposition Members will not mind my citing the example of a town such as Barrow, near my home, which is heavily dependent upon shipbuilding with all its uncertainties. As long as Barrow retains assisted area status it can receive aid from the European regional development fund. I hope that the Minister will impress on the Secretary of State the vital necessity of supporting British Members of the European Parliament in their efforts to increase the money available to the regional development fund, from which the United Kingdom gains substantially.

In an Adjournment debate last Tuesday my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Dickens) asked what the textile industry could expect from the British Government. I am bound to say, much as I like and respect the Under-Secretary of State, that I found his reply unsatisfactory. Unfortunately, lack of time conveniently prevented him from dealing with the crucial question of United States trade policy and the future for our textile industry after the expiry of the MFA in 1981. Indeed, it would not be too unfair to describe his well-intentioned but uninformative speech as rather like Hamlet without the ghost.

The Minister did considerably better today. He is obviously aware of what is happening about the totally unfair American practice of dual pricing energy and feedstock which gives the United States man-made fibre industry a considerable price advantage over us of between 10 per cent. and 20 per cent. This advantage has a spin-off in every other sector of the textile industry. I hope that the strength of feeling in the House to-day will strengthen the Minister's intention and resolve to insist, at the meeting of the Council of Ministers on 20 November, that countervailing duties will be imposed by the Commission.

This was categorically promised to us in exchange for our reluctant acceptance of the Tokyo round to which the previous Government agreed, despite the frequently expressed misgivings of the industry. The maddening thing is that the competitive advantage of this dual pricing increases with every rise in the price of oil. This has enabled the United States to secure a wholly unfair penetration of the United Kingdom market. For instance, the United States market share in polyester filament yarn has more than trebled since last year from 7½ per cent. to 26 per cent. with particularly disastrous results for Courtaulds. Many of its workers in my constituency are suffering as a result. It is essential for the Government to force the Council and the Commission to honour the commitment to impose countervailing duties under GATT. Unless the Minister can give an absolute assurance on this, my feet might well find themselves joining those of my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) and taking me, however reluctantly, into the opposite Lobby to that taken by my right hon. and hon. Friends.

I have, however, considerable confidence in the ability of my hon. Friend to deal with this problem, and I do not need to be bribed to do my duty. Of equal importance is what will happen after 1981 after the MFA expires. I quesioned the Irish Minister about this in Strasbourg a few weeks ago; and, as far as I can gather, very little consideration has so far been given to this vital issue. It is not sufficient for the Minister to say that we must have orderly marketing when the multi-fibre arrangement ends. Unless concrete proposals are made soon, investment will dry up and there will be total demoralisation in the textile industry.

Two further issues are causing concern in the industry. They concern outward processing and enlargement. Goods which are exported to a low cost country and re-imported to the United Kingdom must be included within the normal import quotas. This year the Commission has allowed the EEC States to admit outward-processed goods from Mediterranean countries in addition to normal quotas. This must not be allowed next year, and it is up to the Government to see that that does not happen, particularly as such goods, once within the EEC, circulate freely among the member States.

I sometimes wonder whether anyone other than hon. Members present today and the textile industry realises how deadly the threat from Greece and Portugal will be. I visited some Greek textile factories three years ago. Those factories were completely integrated, from the soil to the finished articles. Greek home-grown cotton goes through every manufacturing stage in the same co-operative. It is no use complaining that the Greeks employ cheap labour, since their plants are so highly automated that labour costs are virtually irrelevant. Greek factories are highly mechanised and efficient. They constitute a formidable force in the textile world with which we must come to terms during a limited transitional period. I trust that the Government will bear this in mind.

Portugal also has an important textile industry and was allowed to increase her shipments in 1979. I hope that the Government will insist on reasonable safeguards for our textile industry during the transitional period. I am well aware that we are a trading nation and that we export £2,000 million of textiles a year. We cannot thrive without world trade. Equally, we cannot thrive unless competition is fair. It is up to the Government to see that it is fair.

6.8 pm

Mr. Richard Wainwright (Colne Valley)

I propose to deal with certain aspects of the wool textile industry, which is an important employer in my constituency. It is also an important employer in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel).

Successive Governments have gone out of their way to acknowledge the reliability of the wool textile industry in its reports to them. The self-reliant wool textile industry has not repeatedly moaned to the House of Commons or sounded false alarms. It has not asked for negative or self-destructive remedies during its various and recurring troubles.

In that spirit of reliable reporting it must be said that, in spite of the appalling handicap of a greatly over-valued pound, the industry has remained successful in much of its export effort. It is still exporting about 40 per cent. of its output. That is a remarkable percentage, and, on average, represents about £5,000 for each member of the work force. That is a proud record for an industry in such a competitive sector.

When we consider the danger of retaliation in valuable export markets against any attempt by Britian to establish import controls, we must remember that the whole of the southern hemissphere is closed to our wool textile exports by protectionist and rather stupid attitudes.

Hon. Members have justifiably criticised the appalling record of the United States. Firms in my constituency, and no doubt in other areas, still manage to export substantial amounts of high quality cloth to the United States, despite tthe 45 per cent. tariff. That tariff is to be reduced to 41 per cent. over six years under the Tokyo round. That is no tribute to the negotiators on the non-American side.

The 60 per cent. of the wool textile industry's trade that is done at home has slumped badly in recent months, and the trend of decay is accelerating. Because of that decay the all-party wool textile group requested the official Opposition to provide time for a debate. The saddest part is that some firms in the worsted sector which re-equipped as recently as four years ago have had to close because it is impossible for them to compete with low-cost imports.

The Minister used a rather devious form of words when speaking of the multi-fibre arrangement. I hope that those words will be strengthened by the Under-Secretary of State. The wool textile industry benefits relatively little from the multi-fibre arrangement. Wool textiles, whether tops, yarns or cloth, do not figure in what is known as the sensitive group under the MFA and are not subject to import quotas in the EEC.

Cotton and certain types of knitwear are included in the sensitive group. I do not grudge them that, but they benefit conspicuously from the quotas under the MFA. The wool textile industry's protection under the MFA depends almost entirely on the basket extractor mechanism—that is not my term. That mechanism is as cumbersome as its description suggests.

At the next meeting of the Council of Ministers I urge the Minister for Trade to remind the Council of the appalling delay in operating the basket extractor mechanism. The idea of the mechanism is not a bad concept. It is used when the imports of certain products—for example, wool cloth, tops or yarns—suddenly surge and become positively disruptive to the home industry. A quota is then established by means of the mechanism. The industry insists that the machinery is creaky, slow and subject to bureaucratic delay in Brussels. I am sure that that was not the intention of those who framed the MFA and who hailed it as a great advance.

We must have a declaration from the Government that they will do everything possible in the EEC to ensure that a new multi-fibre arrangement is negotiated before the current arrangement expires at the end of 1981. I do not doubt the Government's good intentions, but the EEC is flabby on the issue. It is not good enough for comfort to be taken from the words of Commissioner Davignon. Commissioners are here today and gone tomorrow. The Commission has not made any worthwhile pronouncement about the future of the MFA.

Mr. Parkinson

Preliminary work has started on the next round of the MFA.

Mr. Wainwright

That takes us a little further, but I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will go much further. On the eve of the election, when I and certain other hon. Members were busy trying to defend our places here, a House of Lords Select Committee issued a splendid report on the EEC. Pages vii and viii cast grave doubt on the Commission's willingness to enter into another MFA. The report is an alarming document, and I hope that the Government have taken notice of it.

The assistance scheme introduced by the Conservative Government under section 8 of the Industry Act 1972 and launched in 1973 was a more shrewd bargain for the taxpayer than the Minister of State would have us believe. It is not correct for him to say that £70 million was injected into the industry from outside. The key factor, of which I am proud, being a Yorkshireman and an accountant, is that only £20 million of taxpayers' money generated nearly £80 million of new equipment for the industry. This was under the admirable euthanasia clause, which provided that old machinery that was a menace to the health of the industry must be smashed up. It was a great occasion when, in parts of the West Riding, ancient looms which were a disgrace to the industry were put under the hammer to satisfy the hard-headed scheme introduced by the Tory Government.

On an all-party basis, the Labour Government introduced a second scheme in 1976. I do not ask for a commitment from the Government tonight, but I do ask for an assurance that sympathetic consideration will be given to the introduction of a third, modest but hardheaded wool textile assistance scheme.

Accountants who operate in the wool textile sector recommend their clients to write off wool textile machinery over eight years. That is not because the machinery will be worn out in eight years, but because it will be obsolete. Those who operate at Prato, the Italian wool industry base, agree that machinery which is more than eight years old loses its competitive ability.

The time will arrive when machinery ordered under the first scheme becomes obsolete. We must have an assurance that a third scheme will be considered. I hope that the Government will recon- sider the premature decision to remove development and intermediate area status from some of the most hard-pressed wool textile areas.

6.20 pm
Mr. John Watson (Skipton)

This is the first time that I have had the chance to participate in a debate on the textile industry. I have read the record of previous debates in Hansard, and my attention was drawn to the extent of bipartisan co-operation in the debates and the extent to which the debates were dominated by purely parochial interests of the wool and textile industry, remarkably isolated from the broad economic considerations of the country as a whole. In the few brief moments available to me I shall try to put the debate in context.

At Question Time yesterday my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry, in answer to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Trippier), said that he could understand that in representing Rossendale my hon. Friend would believe that certain extra help should be given at the margin. That was a perceptive statement.

A margin has to be drawn somewhere. Whether we are speaking of regional aid, employment aid or protection against overseas competition, those representing different constituencies will have different views on where the margins should be drawn. By the nature of the constituencies that we represent we may say "Textiles are deserving of further assistance." I have no doubt that other Members would say the same for electronics, TV tubes, shoes and even motor cars.

Surely the fundamental question is "Where should the margin be drawn?" We are speaking of two matters—first, the margin of industrial assistance and, secondly, the margin of protection against overseas competition. On the former I do not find it in myself to become as steamed up as Opposition Members. Earlier this year my constituency heard that we were losing intermediate area status. That announcement did not cause rejoicing in the streets. Nor did it cause a feeling that it was a terminal blow. Employers said that when Government assistance was received it was a handy thing to have, but it is not the most dominant motivator in deciding whether to invest.

There is now a powerful case to be made in a general sense—not specifically for wool textiles only—for advancing considerably the threshold at which we place the level of protection for British industry.

I say that for three fundamental reasons. First, if we do not take that action we shall ultimately find ourselves overtaken by events. A few weeks ago I visited the United States on a parliamentary mission. Two of the four leading contenders for the Presidency of the United States were overt in saying that the United States should be more protective in the way it handled its economy.

Secondly, historical precedents tell us that there have been occasions when countries in a similar industrial position to Britain have been able to recover under the umbrella of a greater degree of protection than we now give ourselves. I am thinking of the United States at the turn of the century, Japan after the Second World War, and even Britain in its recovery between the mid-1930s and the start of the Second World War.

The third and most powerful reason is that without a recovery we shall not be able to generate in British industry the reinvestment that everyone agrees to be necessary. We have 15 or 20 years' supply of North Sea oil. Surely we can agree that during that 15 to 20 years we must re-establish our manufacturing industry so that when the oil runs out we can compete once again with manufacturers in the world. If we do not do that, we shall be in a worse position than ever we were when North Sea oil was discovered.

For donkey's years everyone has been trying to encourage capital investment. In the early 1960s we tried exhortation. In the late 1960s we tried devaluation. In the early 1970s there was monetary expansion. Under the previous Labour Goverment there was the National Enterprise Board, regional aid and a galaxy of quangos. None of those worked. Now we have a policy based upon tax incentives and freedom from government. That is fair enough. I do not disagree with that policy, but will it be sufficient in itself? Is there not a substantial case for saying that it needs to be augmented by a greater degree of import control, or what we are euphemistically calling freedom for fair competition?

That is all that we are asking. If we are asking people to invest, there must be confidence in the domestic market. If we put more money in people's pockets, will there be increased confidence in the domestic market if that money quickly finds its way into the pockets of the manufacturers of Italian washing machines, Japanese cars or American textiles? If we are asking manufacturers to invest once again in productive machinery, can we really expect them to borrow money at 18 per cent. to invest in an industry where the profit margin is only 5 per cent. or 6 per cent.?

I am not calling for anything truly dramatic, but a degree of shift in the margin is necessary. I call for that shift specifically for textiles. I acknowledge the powerful arguments against the course of action that I have advocated. I know that we would face some trade retaliation. Consumer prices would be higher than they would be otherwise.

There is one crucial objection that does not arise in the textile industry. It is argued that the nation might use the liberty given by freedom from dumped imports to featherbed itself with restrictive practices and to keep in operation machinery that has become outdated instead of rejuvenating itself. That would not arise in the textile industry, where the machinery is quite modern. I have sufficient confidence in the management of the industry to believe that it would remain modern and would be kept up to date if it were given a better share of the domestic market.

Inevitably not everything is perfect. There is a bad record of absenteeism. We do not have quite so much flexibility as some of our economic competitors in the EEC. I have sufficient confidence in the trade unions in our textile movement to believe that they would not take unfair advantage of a greater degree of import protection.

The sentiments that I advocate come from some of my hon. Friends and from the leadership of the Labour Party. When they are mentioned in the House they tend to come from certain Opposition Members with whom Conservative Members have least in common. Possibly that is the problem. We have not considered the true power and nature of the argument because the nature of its advocates has made us believe that it could never be agreeable to us.

6.29 pm
Mr. Thomas Torney (Bradford, South)

My hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill) said that at one time the main basic industry in Britain was wool and textiles. I represent a part of Bradford where the main industry is still wool and textiles. If no effort is made soon to make competition fair, my area will become in line with the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) about Shotton and Corby. It will become as destitute as those two towns are likely to become in the near future.

There seems to be a good deal of agreement on the Back Benches on both sides of the House that we need some action quickly to save this important industry. There does not seem to be that sort of agreement on the Government Front Bench. I sensed, perhaps wrongly, a degree of complacency in the Minister. He did not seem to understand that unfair competition exists in the wool and textile industry.

In my constituency there is one of the largest tufted carpet factories in Europe. That factory, in common with most of the industry, is suffering from the effects of unfair competition from America. I am sure that the Minister understands that oil is an essential commodity in the manufacture of tufted carpets. Is he aware that oil is being quietly subsidised in various ways by the American Government? The result is that tufted carpets are being imported at a lower price than we can manufacture them. The Minister said that there was no excuse for our inability to compete, but there is every excuse for our inability to compete against that sort of subsidised competition. I ask the Government to remember that the livelihood of many thousands of my constituents depends on the industry.

There are two courses that we may take. Alternatively, we may introduce a policy that incorporates a part of each course. First, we can introduce some selective import controls to protect our industry from unfair competition from abroad. The Minister talks about reciprocal results if we place tariffs on income- ing goods. The Americans have a much higher tariff on the top end of our carpet market than we have on the lower end of the carpet market for goods entering Britain. The Americans know that, and I do not believe that they would resist some tariff interference by us.

If we do not want to intervene by the imposition of tariffs, we must turn to outright Government subsidy if we are to save the industry and the jobs of thousands of employees in constituencies such as mine. We must do one or the other, or a little of each. I hope that when the Minister replies he will give us more of an assurance than that which we received at the beginning of the debate. I hope that he will tell us that something along the lines that I have spelled out will happen.

It is not only the ill-equipped and the old-fashioned, bad mills that are collapsing. Modern mills with modern machinery are closing, going on short time or threatening thousands of their workers with redundancy. We have good workers and we have good relations in the industry. Management has the ability to compete, but we cannot hope to compete with extremely low-wage areas. We cannot hope to compete with American and European industries that are being subsidised by their respective Governments. For God's sake let the Government Front Bench wake up to the pleas of not only my hon. Friends but those made from the Conservative Back Benches. Let them take action quickly to save the industry.

6.33 pm
Mr. Tim Eggar (Enfield, North)

Unlike those who have spoken so far in the debate, I am unique in having no constituency interest to represent. I seek to put the point of view of the British consumer. After all, it is the consumer who has to pay the price of protectionist measures.

I propose to restrict my remarks to the multi-fibre arrangement. The arrangement is designed deliberately to benefit the developed countries at the expense of developing countries. Its effect is to take jobs and economic prosperity from the poor and to give it to the rich.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

What rubbish!

Mr. Eggar

As a result, there is a danger that the developing countries will be unable to reinvest in new textile machinery and up-to-date equipment. That is one reason why the British textile machinery business is in such a poor state.

I find it extraordinary that Labour Members, who normally express such concern for the Third world, are now banging the protectionist drum, a drum that is hurting the economies of the developing countries. It would be possible to understand the argument that is advanced by some Labour Members and by some of my hon. Friends—

Mr. Cryer

And in the Conservative Party manifesto.

Mr. Eggar

It would be possible to understand their argument if they were able to prove that the consequences for the British textile industry outweighed other considerations.

Mr. Cryer

The argument is in the Conservative Party manifesto.

Mr. Eggar

I hope that the hon Gentleman will not continue to interrupt from a sedentary position.

Mr. Cryer

All right, I shall stand up

Mr. Eggar

I am not giving way. I promised the Chair that I would speak for only five minutes.

There is no proof that the benefits to the British textile industry have outweighed the harm that is being done to the Third world. There has been a fall in textile imports from developing countries. At the same time there has been a corresponding increase in imports from OECD countries. The United Kingdom textile industry has not been able to take up the slack that has been created by the multi-fibre arrangement. The sufferers have been the developing countries.

The cost to the economy has been considerable. The Consumers Association estimates that the MFA has increased the cost of imported clothing by between 15 per cent. and 40 per cent. The agreement has forced developing countries to trade up—in other words, to increase the value of every item that they are permitted to export to the United Kingdom. The steepest price rises have been on items such as cheap shirts and children's clothing.

Those increases have hit hardest those whom the Opposition always seeks to represent. They have hit the poorest and those with large families. When the price rises work through, I am sure that we shall be told by Opposition Members that they are a direct consequence of the Government's action. That will be absolute rubbish. They will be the consequence of the 1977 renegotiation of the MFA.

Far from introducing more protectionist measures, I hope that when the Government come to renegotiate the agreement in 1981 they will bear in mind that the previous renegotiation favoured the rich countries at the expense of the poor countries and ensured that the wealthiest consumers were subsidised at the expense of the poorest consumers. The British textile industry has no divine right to be protected by this Government or by any Government at the expense of the Third world and the poorest section of our community.

6.38 pm
Mr. David Ginsburg (Dewsbury)

Apart from the hon. Member for Enfield, North (Mr. Eggar), there has been a broad consensus. Considerable anxiety has been expressed about the state of the industry. It is a matter of regret that we listened to a speech made by the Minister which seemed extremely complacent and partisan. I hope that the Minister who replies will have something better to say.

Mr. John Mackay (Argyll)


Mr. Ginsburg

No, I shall not give way. The Minister did not give way to me and I have limited time.

My constituency is synonymous with wool. There has been considerable anxiety. We are no strangers to the decline in the wool and textile industry. The constituency experienced the crisis which hit the heavy wool part of the industry after the war. Before the war and after the war there was the decline of the reclamation trades. It is now experiencing the present crisis.

It is natural that in an area such as mine there should be fear. The pre-war level of unemployment in my constituency and that of my neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. Woolmer), was about 30 per cent. There is fear that that state of affairs will return.

The industry has a considerable record of adaptability. There have been changes in the waste reclamation trade. There is adaptability in the carpet and highly efficient carpet yarn industries. That adaptability must continue. However, it is not possible to obtain full adaptability from the industry without help, guidance and encouragement from the Government.

As a result of this debate it is clear that the Government have three duties to discharge. They must provide a fair basis for the home trade. The Minister was right to refer to the considerable export achievement. However, we shall not enjoy big export markets if there is no home market. The present home market is under threat of disruption from the United States, Prato, Eastern Europe, Portugal and Hong Kong. The problems of dumping and quality require urgent action by the Government.

Secondly, the Government must take the issue of re-equipment and modernisation seriously. That means buildings as well as plant. The Opposition fear that for doctrinal reasons the modernisation of the industry, which is essential, will slow up instead of accelerate as it should.

The third issue is diversification. It must be faced frankly. Concentration into more efficient units is inevitable and right. As that means fewer jobs, areas such as my constituency need an influx of new industry. Therefore, this is the wrong time to remove incentives for local diversification. I hope that the Govern-will think again on that matter.

Last week I asked the Government about the size of the industry. I received a laissaz-faire reply. Our criticism is that the Government are abdicating their social and economic responsibilities to the industry and the area.

As a result of this debate we need a positive statement of policy and faith. The Opposition are therefore right to press the motion.

6.43 pm
Mr. Les Huckfield (Nuneaton)

I intend to be as brief as possible. My right hon. Friend and I undertook not to speak for more than 15 minutes, to facilitate more speakers coming into the debate. I hope that hon. Members will forgive me if I do not refer to all the many detailed points that they raised.

There is a consensus in the House that this industry faces serious difficulties. I regret that that consensus was not echoed in a sympathetic way in the speech by the Minister for Trade. He seriously misunderstood the mood of this House about textiles. The contributions from his hon. Friends the Members for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) and for Rossendale (Mr. Trippier) showed that there is a great deal of concern about what is happening, and the worries expressed by my hon. Friends, representing their constituents, were echoed by those Government supporters who represent people in the area involved.

Do the Government sincerely believe in the classical theory of international free trade? If they do—taking the theory to its logical conclusion—they cannot believe in the survival of this industry. The defect of that classical theory is that its whole emphasis is on free trade and not fair trade. We should be concerned about fair trade. I do not think that anyone in the textile industry is afraid where the trade is fair. The trouble is that, in many instances, the system of international trade in textiles—especially in the examples affecting this country—is manifestly unfair. We have come to the point on the industrial map at which the Government's theories coincide with the realities of the textile world.

It was refreshing to hear the realities of the textile world echoed by the hon. Members for Sowerby (Mr. Thompson) and for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman). It was even more refreshing to hear those realities expressed by the Opposition. If Government supporters persist in classic eighteenth and nineteenth century realities they should realise that the industrial logic that they are pursuing has been totally overtaken by the realities of a world in which the competition in many sectors is manifestly unfair. Certainly, textiles is one of the best examples.

Let those who want real examples examine international textile competition prior to the multi-fibre arrangement. It was the MFA plus other bilateral quotas and agreements that saved this industry. Anyone who thinks that the industry can survive without the MFA and other agreements should examine the severe damage inflicted upon it prior to those agreements.

The Minister who is to wind up the debate does not necessarily need to listen to the contributions of hon. Members on both sides. Let him look at the sixteenth report of the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Communities Communication on Textiles, which examined in great detail the Commission's general guidelines for a textiles and clothing industry. There was hardly a Left-wing majority on that Committee. In fact, it did not take oral evidence from the trade unions. The Minister should read through the pages and recommendations of that Select Committee to see how serious the situation is. The Committee made an interesting statement in paragragh 4: The Committee were informed that we are the easiest country in Europe to sell to because of our efficient retail system. That is the penetration risk offered by the United Kingdom.

I do not want to elaborate on the statistics given by my right hon. and hon. Friends. Our worries were sufficiently underlined when my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill) said that in the past six months in Halifax, Bradford and one or two other towns clustered around that part—[Interruption.] When turning right from the M62 on to the M606 I tend to get lost. In that part of Yorkshire 2,000 redundancies have been declared in 23 mills.

We should look, too, at the facts about the other coast, in Lancashire. The general secretary of the Amalgamated Textile Workers Union told me yesterday that 5 per cent. of his total membership were currently under notice. We face that desperate situation.

Mr. K. J. Woolmer (Batley and Morley)

Is my hon. Friend aware that in West Yorkshire there are 78 firms in which 6,000 workers are currently on short time? Out of 400 firms in the wool and textile industry, 136 have declared redundancies or closed this year—onethird of the industry. That is in addition to the 6,000 workers in my area who are on short time. That shows that the industry is facing not just another downturn but the stark reality of a serious crisis which the House can no longer afford to ignore.

Mr. Huckfield

My hon. Friend has made a deep study of these problems. He knows the area of Bradford, Halifax and Huddersfield better than I do, because he lives there and represents the interests of his constituents. He puts forward a sad and gloomy outlook. I hope that the Minister, too, will recognise that fact.

Had the Government wanted to do the maximum damage with their regional policies, with the announcement of the withdrawal of assisted area status from the wool textile areas of Yorkshire and the cotton textile areas of Lancashire they could not have scored a more direct hit. Many of us are concerned that because of the Government's attitude on other matters, and because of withdrawal of regional assistance, these areas look seriously threatened.

The Minister for Trade said that the future of the industry lay in its own hands. He was reiterating the point made by the Under-Secretary of State in the debate on 6 November, when he said: I do not believe that that is entirely the right role for the Government. The causes of many of the problems are outside Government control and certainly outside their competence."—[Official Report, 6 November 1979; Vol. 972, c. 373.] When Ministers in this kind of Government use such a phrase it confirms the worst fears of both sides of the industry. If the Government think that the industry can survive without a more positive attitude on MFA, they are wrong. The Government have done everything tonight except tell us that they want a new MFA. We have been told that they believe in "orderly marketing" arrangements. However, I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will tell us definitely, specifically and unequivocally that he wants a new MFA, because that commitment has not yet been given to the House. Without that specific commitment and all that follows, the textile industry will remain very worried.

We must have something more specific about the Italian wool fabric exports from Prato. It is all very well for the Minister for Trade to say that the Labour Government considered this problem in 1976. That is correct. Many of us were not satisfied with the outcome of that examination, and the import penetration from that sector of the industry in Italy is now three or four times as serious as it was in 1976.

The Government cannot go on saying that this is a matter for the European Commission. If the European Commission will not examine the problem, the Government must realise that they can take certain action. It is similarly the case with the accession of the Mediterranean associates. Do not the Government realise that there is a widespread feeling on both sides of the industry that the Treaty of Accession for Greece, in so far as it relates to protecting our textiles industry, is not worth the paper on which it is written, because it depends upon the ability of our industry to prove to the EEC that imports from Greece are disruptive? It then rests with the Commission to take action.

The Government must realise that if the action of the Commission is to depend upon that kind of political initiative it does not constitute an effective safeguard for our textile industry when, for example Portugal becomes a full member of the EEC. The accession of Portugal to the EEC is like having Hong Kong on our back doorstep.

My hon. Friends were right to refer to the problem created by American manmade fibres. The situation is serious because of an undervalued dollar and an overvalued pound. The United States also has cheap energy prices and a dual-priced energy system, which gives producers of man-made fibres comparative cost advantages in this country of between 10 and 40 per cent. For the Government to continue to say that the Commission is looking at this problem is pointless. The Commission was saying the same thing 12 months ago. It cannot continue to say "We are looking at this matter". It must do more than that. We want action. When will the Government seriously examine the possibility of action under article 115 of the Treaty of Rome to stop free circulation of outward-processed goods from other countries?

Finally, let us consider the record of the Labour Government. Over five years they put £150 million into the textile and clothing industries through various forms of assistance. That generated a total in- vestment of £1,200 million. The Labour Government, with the temporary employment subsidy—which in its time benefited 160,000 textile and clothing workers—saved this industry.

If the Government will not listen to the Opposition, will they listen to their friends outside the House? Tom Hibbard, the chairman of the wool textile delegation, has already said in public that the industry's experience of the EEC has proved bitterly disappointing. The British Textile Confederation yesterday issued a statement in which it said: The pussy-footing in Brussels must stop. … We expect the United Kingdom Government to force the Council of Ministers to honour its commitment. If the Government will not listen to those people, will they perhaps listen to the East Midlands hosiery and woollen employers, who are already threatening to withdraw their Tory political donations because they are dissatisfied with the performance of their own Government? If the Government will not listen to us, will they listen to their own friends, before it is too late?

6.57 pm
The Under-Secretary of State for Industry (Mr. David Mitchell)

This debate has given us a valuable opportunity to discuss the wool industry. There seems to be a substantial measure of agreement across the House about the nature of the problem.

As many hon. Members have said, the wool industry is vitally important. It has an output worth £1,000 million a year, of which £400 million is exported, and employs 73,000 people.

To listen to the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) one would assume that the problems facing the industry, and the prospect of lost jobs, had all started on 3 May. The right hon. Gentleman and the House know that this industry has been in difficulty for some considerable time. The volume of output has halved over the past 10 years. Half the jobs in the industry have also disappeared during that period.

I and my colleagues are concerned about: the problems of this industry, and the textile industry generally. For that reason, as a new Minister I visited Rossendale, where a substantial programme was arranged, and Bradford to see some of the mills for myself. I discovered not a dying industry but one that has carried out massive restructuring over recent years with two schemes under section 8 of the Industry Act. The industry has spent £100 million on restructuring, including £23 million from the Government. Therefore, we have an industry which is modern, rationalised and slimmed down and which has a collaborative work force.

I have also learnt about many of the problems facing the industry. It is a cyclical industry. It faces problems of trend and cyclical problems affecting fashion. The fact that young men and women do not wear the clothes that they wore five or ten years ago, but go around in jeans instead makes a dramatic difference to the demands on the industry. The change from wool to lighter fabrics has had a temporary but substantial effect on the industry.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Trippier) asked for an assurance that there would be a successor to the multi-fibre arrangement. I am glad to repeat the assurance that was given earlier by my hon. Friend the Minister for Trade. We are now preparing to negotiate a new form of orderly marketing to succeed the MFA.

As hon. Members must realise, the industry is beset by substantial problems of competition. There are two sorts of competition—fair and unfair. I must stress that this industry cannot expect and does not need artificial protection. It can use its skill in production, marketing and fashion consciousness to stand on its feet in the market place and earn its living. No one can save it from fair competition, nor should anyone try to do so. This is quite a different matter from the unfair competition that many hon. Members have mentioned. If we have facts, evidence and information we are prepared to act on them. I assure the House that we have been doing just that, and I shall give some illustrations.

I quote the example of clothing imports from Turkey. This year imports of cotton yarn from Turkey reached such a level that the EEC recognised that they were causing disruption of the United Kingdom market. As a result, in the next few days a notice will be issued to importers imposing restrictions on Turkish imports until the end of the year.

Another example has been quoted by several hon. Members today—the Prato arrangements. On this matter the EEC director general for competition has been asked to look into the information compiled by the Wool Textile Manufacturers Federation covering the pricing anomalies and structure of the Prato wool cloth industry. I am not satisfied with the speed at which the Commission has carried out this investigation and our permanent representative in Brussels has been pressing for a greater sense of urgency. Here again we expect action before the end of the year.

The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield) raised the problem of the unfair arrangements made for Greece on its accession to the EEC. He claimed that the Government should prevent those arrangements from operating. He also called for better arrangements for Spain and Portugal. I can give him a part assurance. The difficulty is that his Government made the agreement on Greece. We are doing our best to see that better terms are negotiated in relation to the accession of Spain and Portugal.

The problem of trick labels has been raised in the debate. If examples of trick labelling are found, it is up to the local authorities to prosecute. I hope that the evidence will be given to the local authorities and they will use it in order to curb such practices.

The problem of competition from the United States was dealt with at length by my hon. Friend the Minister for Trade. He said that he expects the European Commission to report and make recommendations by 20 November. I am sure that a loud and clear message will go to the Commission from the House today.

The right hon. Member for Deptford referred to the 15 per cent. VAT which he said had cut demand for the industry's products. In the next sentence he talked about the increase in imports. He cannot have it both ways. Either there is an increase in demand which is satisfied from abroad or, because of tax changes, there has been a fall in demand. He cannot back both horses at the same time.

I turn to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winter-ton) who chaired the all-party committee and who has had a lot of experience in this field. He said that the key to this industry was the fact that it was dominated by small firms needing advice and counselling on how to improve their production methods. The small firms division of the Department of Industry now has a nation-wide system of counselling which is always at the service of that part of the industry.

I turn to the point made by several hon. Members about trade effluent. I saw the problem at first hand in Bradford, and I am grateful to those in the wool industry who have given so much of their time to enable me to observe the problems. I have heard today from the chairman of the Yorkshire water authority that he and his officers will meet the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment to examine the impact of the Water Act 1973 on wool scourers with regard to trade effluents. I hope that after this meeting we shall be able to seek positive solutions to ease the situation.

The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Jones) asked me whether I would comment on a report in the newspapers, but a large number of other points have been raised in this debate and I shall write to the hon. Member on that question. I shall also write to any other hon. Member who has raised a technical point about the wool industry which I do not have time to answer.

The motion goes much wider than the wool industry. It refers to the Government's regional policy. Since the 1930s we have seen entrenched and deeply worrying levels of unemployment in the areas that are now scheduled as special development areas. I am sure that all hon. Members care deeply about unemployment, but, in relation to the regions and regional assistance, the fact is that when we came to office we found that 40 per cent. of the country was scheduled as an assisted area. We also found that if we were to apply the same criteria

as those applied by the Labour Government we would have had to add to the assisted areas Birmingham, Coventry and a whole clutch of other parts of the Midlands. Furthermore, over 50 per cent. of the country would have assumed assisted area status. It was a programme which inevitably would have taken us to "crutches for all". We felt that that was wrong and that it would spread aid too thinly to be of any help.

We have sought to concentrate aid on the areas that need it most. That is why we have increased the difference between special development areas and development areas from 2 per cent. to 7 per cent. In that way, the special development area, which has the most deep-seated long-term structural unemployment, stands out as attracting the most help.

There is a certain amount of effrontery on the part of the Opposition in tabling the motion in the terms that they have used when I consider the position in the special development areas. When we left office in 1973 there were 155,000 unemployed in those areas. I agree that that was not good enough. However, when Labour left office this year the figure had more than doubled to 326,000.

It is because we believe that it is right to give priority to that problem, to those areas, that we have concentrated regional aid in the way that we have. We understand the concern of the House about the wool industry. We reject the criticism of the Government's policies and actions. We reject the criticism of the Government's regional policy. We reject the motion tabled by the Opposition, and we ask the House to support our amendment.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 247. Noes 305.

Division No. 105] AYES 7.11 pm
Adams, Allen Bidwell, Sydney Canavan, Dennis
Allaun, Frank Booth, Rt Hon Albert Cant, R. B.
Alton, David Boothroyd, Miss Betty Carmichael, Nell
Anderson, Donald Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur (M'brough) Carter-Jones, Lewis
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Bradley, Tom Cartwright, John
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Clark, David (South Shields)
Ashton, Joe Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)
Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham) Brown, Ronald W. (Hackney S) Cohen, Stanley
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Buchan, Norman Coleman, Donald
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Campbell, Ian Conlan, Bernard
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Campbell-Savours, Dale Cook, Robin F.
Cowans, Harry Hooley, Frank Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Cox, Tom (Wandsworth, Tooting) Horam, John Prescott, John
Crowther, J. S. Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Price, Christopher (Lewisham West)
Cryer, Bob Huckfield, Les Race, Reg
Cunliffe, Lawrence Hughes, Mark (Durham) Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South)
Cunningham, George (Islington S) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Richardson, Miss Jo
Cunningham, Dr John (Whitehaven) Janner, Hon Greville Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Dalyell, Tam Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Davidson, Arthur John, Brynmor Roberts, Ernest (Hackney North)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Johnson, James (Hull West) Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Davies, E. Hudson (Caerphilly) Johnson, Walter (Derby South) Robertson, George
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rhondda) Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney Central) Jones, Barry (East Flint) Rodgers, Rt Hon William
Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Rooker, J. W.
Deakins, Eric Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Roper, John
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Kerr, Russell Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
Dempsey, James Kilfedder, James A. Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Dewar, Donald Kilroy-Silk, Robert Rowlands, Ted
Dixon, Donald Kinnock, Neil Ryman, John
Dobson, Frank Lambie, David Sandelson, Neville
Dormand, Jack Lamborn, Harry Sever, John
Douglas, Dick Lamond, James Sheerman, Barry
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Leadbitter, Ted Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert (A'ton-u-L)
Dubs, Alfred Leighton, Ronald Shore, Rt Hon Peter (Step and Pop)
Duffy, A. E. P. Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale) Lewis, Arthur (Newham North West) Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Dunnett, Jack Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Silverman, Julius
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Litherland, Robert Skinner, Dennis
Eadie, Alex Lofthouse, Geoffrey Snape, Peter
Eastham, Ken Lyon, Alexander (York) Soley, Clive
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) McCartney, Hugh Spearing, Nigel
Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire) McDonald, Dr Oonagh Spriggs, Leslie
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) McGuire, Michael (Ince) Stallard, A. W.
English, Michael McKay, Allen (Penistone) Steel, Rt Hon David
Ennals, Rt Hon David McKelvey, William Stoddart, David
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Stott, Roger
Evans, John (Newton) Maclennan, Robert Strang, Gavin
Ewing, Harry McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, Central) Straw, Jack
Field, Frank McNally, Thomas Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Fitch, Alan McNamara, Kevin Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)
Flannery, Martin McWilliam, John Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Fletcher, L. R. (Ilkeston) Magee, Bryan Thomas, Mike (Newcastle East)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Marks, Kenneth Thomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)
Ford, Ben Marshall, David (Gl'sgow, Shettles'n) Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Forrester, John Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Tilley, John
Foster, Derek Marshall, Jim (Leicester South) Torney, Tom
Foulkes, George Martin, Michael (Gl'gow, Springb'rn) Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood) Mason, Rt Hon Roy Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Maxton, John Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Meacher, Michael Walker, Rt Hon Harold (Doncaster)
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Watkins, David
George, Bruce Mikardo, Ian Weetch, Ken
Gilbert, Rt Hn Dr John Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Wellbeloved, James
Ginsburg, David Miller, Dr M. S. (East Kilbride) Welsh, Michael
Golding, John Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby) White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)
Gourlay, Harry Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen) White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Graham, Ted Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw) Whitlock, William
Grant, George (Morpeth) Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Wigley, Dafydd
Grant, John (Islington C) Moyle, Rt Hon Roland Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Mewens, Stanley Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Hardy, Peter Ogden, Eric Winnick, David
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter O'Halloran, Michael Woolmer, Kenneth
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Wrigglesworth, Ian
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Wright, Sheila
Haynes, Frank Palmer, Arthur Young, David (Bolton East)
Heffer, Eric S. Park, George
Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire) Parker, John TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Holland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall) Parry, Robert Mr. James Tinn and
Home Robertson, John Pendry, Tom Mr. George Morton.
Homewood, William Penhaligon, David
Adley, Robert Banks, Robert Biggs-Davison, John
Aitken, Jonathan Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Blackburn, John
Alexander, Richard Bell, Ronald Blaker, Peter
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Bendall, Vivian Body, Richard
Ancram, Michael Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Bonsor Sir Nicholas
Arnold, Tom Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon) Boscawen, Hon Robert
Aspinwall, Jack Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West)
Atkins Robert (Preston North) Best, Keith Bowden, Andrew
Atkinson, David (B'mouth East) Bevan, David Gilroy Boyson, Dr Rhodes
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Biffen, Rt Hon John Braine, Sir Bernard
Bright, Graham Hastings, Stephen Nelson, Anthony
Brinton, Tim Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Neubert, Michael
Brittan Leon Hawkins, Paul Newton, Tony
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Hawksley, Warren Nott, Rt Hon John
Brooke, Hon Peter Hayhoe, Barney Onslow, Cranley
Brotherton, Michael Heddle, John Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs Sally
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe) Henderson, Barry Osborn, John
Bruce-Gardyne, John Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Page, John (Harrow, West)
Bryan, Sir Paul Hicks, Robert Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Buck, Antony Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Parkinson, Cecil
Budgen, Nick Hill, James Parris, Matthew
Bulmer, Esmond Holland, Philip (Carlton) Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Burden, F. A. Hooson, Tom Patten, John (Oxford)
Butcher, John Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Pattie, Geoffrey
Butler, Hon Adam Howell, Rt Hon David (Guildford) Pawsey, James
Cadbury, Jocelyn Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Percival, Sir Ian
Carlisle John (Luton West) Hunt, David (Wirral) Pink, R. Bonner
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Pollock, Alexander
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Hurd, Hon Douglas Porter, George
Channon, Paul Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)
Chapman, Sydney Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Price, David (Eastleigh)
Churchill, W. S. Jessel, Toby Prior, Rt Hon James
Clark, Dr William (Croydon South) Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Proctor, K. Harvey
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Raison, Timothy
Cockeram, Eric Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Rathbone, Tim
Colvin, Michael Kaberry, Sir Donald Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)
Cope, John Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Rees-Davies, W. R.
Cormack, Patrick Kimball, Marcus Rhodes James, Robert
Corrie, John King, Rt Hon Tom Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Costain, A. P. Kitson, Sir Timothy Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Cranborne, Viscount Knox, David Rifkind, Malcolm
Critchley, Julian Lamont, Norman Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Crouch, David Lang, Ian Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Dickens, Geoffrey Langford-Holt, Sir John Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Dorrell, Stephen Latham, Michael Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Lawrence, Ivan Rost, Peter
Dover, Denshore Lawson, Nigel Royle, Sir Anthony
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Lee, John Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Lester, Jim (Beeston) St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon Norman
Durant, Tony Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Scott, Nicholas
Dykes, Hugh Lloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Shelton, William (Streatham)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke) Loveridge, John Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Eggar, Timothy Luce, Richard Shepherd, Richard(Aldridge-Br'hills)
Elliott, Sir William Lyell, Nicholas Shersby, Michael
Emery, Peter McAdden, Sir Stephen Silvester, Fred
Eyre, Reginald McCrindle, Robert Sims, Roger
Fairbairn, Nicholas Macfarlane, Neil Skeet, T. H. H.
Fairgrieve, Russell MacGregor, John Speed, Keith
Faith, Mrs Sheila MacKay, John (Argyll) Speller, Tony
Farr, John McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury) Spence, John
Fell, Anthony McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Madel, David Sproat, Iain
Finsberg, Geoffrey Major, John Squire, Robin
Fisher, Sir Nigel Marland, Paul Stainton, Keith
Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N) Marlow, Tony Stanbrook, Ivor
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Stanley, John
Fookes, Miss Janet Mates, Michael Steen, Anthony
Forman, Nigel Mather, Carol Stevens, Martin
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Maude, Rt Hon Angus Stewart, Rt Hon Donald (W Isles)
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Mawby, Ray Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Mawhinney, Dr Brian Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)
Fry, Peter Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Stokes, John
Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Mayhew, Patrick Stradling Thomas, J.
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Mellor, David Tapsell, Peter
Gardner, Edward (South Fylde) Meyer, Sir Anthony Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)
Garel-Jones, Tristan Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch) Tebbit, Norman
Goodhew, Victor Mills, Iain (Meriden) Temple-Morris, Peter
Goodlad, Alastair Mills, Peter (West Devon) Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Gorst, John Miscampbell, Norman Thomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)
Gow, Ian Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Thompson, Donald
Gower, Sir Raymond Moate, Roger Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Molyneaux, James Thornton, Malcolm
Gray, Hamish Monro, Hector Townend, John (Bridlington)
Greenway, Harry Montgomery, Fergus Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)
Grieve, Percy Moore, John Trippier, David
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds) Morgan, Geraint Trotter, Neville
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth) van Straubenzee, W. R.
Grist, Ian Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes) Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Gummer, John Selwyn Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester) Viggers, Peter
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll) Mudd, David Waddington, David
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Murphy, Christopher Wakeham, John
Hampson, Dr Keith Myles, David Waldegrave, Hon William
Hannam, John Neale, Gerrard Walker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)
Haselhurst, Alan Needham, Richard Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Wall, Patrick Wheeler, John Winterton, Nicholas
Waller, Gary Whitelaw, Rt Hon William Wolfson, Mark
Walters, Dennis Whitney, Raymond Young, Sir George (Acton)
Ward, John Wickenden, Keith Younger, Rt Hon George
Warren, Kenneth Wiggin, Jerry
Watson, John Wilkinson, John TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Wells, John (Maidstone) Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery) Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and
Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage) Wilson, Gordon (Dundee East) Mr. Anthony Berry

Question accordingly negatived

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 32 (Questions on amendments) and agreed to.

Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to, pursuant to Standing Order No. 18 (Business of Supply).

Resolved, That this House supports the Government's policy of concentrating regional aid in areas of greatest need, and notes with approval its continuing support for the multi-fibre arrangement.

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