HC Deb 30 July 1980 vol 989 cc1595-658
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Richard Crawshaw)

Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

7.13 pm
Mr. John Smith () Lanarkshire, North

I beg to move, That this House deplores Government policies which are causing massive damage to the textile and clothing industries and leaving them exposed to unfair foreign competition. There can be little dispute about the crisis in the textile and clothing industries, the extent of which can be measured in many ways. Hon. Members from all parts of the country have in recent weeks been drawing the attention of the House to the crisis by pointing out bankruptcies and closures. The most telling and poignant measurement is the sharply rising level of unemployment in those industries. Over a number of decades employment in the industries has been declining, but in the late 1970s there was some stabilisation. Since April 1979 there has been a steep and vicious acceleration. Since the Government came to power about 50,000 jobs have been lost in the textile industry and 25,000 in the clothing industry.

Those are tragic figures in that short period. They are over twice the loss for the total of the previous three years, which throws the crisis into sharp relief. In one and a little bit years, more jobs have been lost than in the previous three years. The present rate of job loss is six times the average for the preceding three years.

Domestic demand for the products of the textile and clothing industries has sharply declined. It has dropped by at least 6 per cent. The deflationary policies of the Government and the increase in VAT are largely responsible, particularly in the clothing industry. Over the past year import penetration in footwear and clothing has sharply increased from 25 to 29 per cent., and in textiles from 31 to 33 per cent. Those figures are slightly out of date, and I suspect that the current figures are worse.

Those industries have always had a good export record, particularly at the high-fashion end. From time to time the Government comfort themselves with the thought that export figures are holding up better than might be expected, but that is an illusion. The present figures relate to past orders and not to current or future orders. When the orders work their way through the system we shall see a sharp turndown.

I doubt whether our textile and clothing industries have ever been in a worse position. There does not even appear to be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. The predicament can largely be laid at the door of the Government. In their somewhat defensive amendment they refer to what they call their "broad economic policies". Those policies are the basic difficulty. The lethal combination of high interest rates and an overvalued pound, leaving aside cuts in our standard of living and doubling VAT, have caused havoc throughout British industry. Nowhere is that felt more deeply, swiftly and, I suspect, permanently, than in the textile and clothing industries.

For much of the 1970s, investment in those industries was high. That is drying up, and confidence is being destroyed. Export effort is being crippled by the savage loss of competitiveness caused by the rise in the exchange rate. That exchange rate also acts as a magnet to draw in imports on an ever-increasing scale. British industry generally is suffering from the effects of the Government's policies. Apart from the general engineering industry, the textile industry is bearing the brunt of those policies. Those broad economic policies are central to our indictment of the Government.

In addition, we have to add to the problems of the textile and clothing industries the dilution of the regional development policy, and the schemes for employment assistance and financial assistance to investment that were undertaken by the previous Government but are largely disappearing under this Government. A dramatic indication of the plight of those industries, particularly in regard to employment, is given by the figures for the temporary short-time working compensation scheme.

The Employment Gazette contains figures for May which show that, of the distribution of potentially reundant jobs covered by the scheme, 32–5 per cent. are in textiles and 17 per cent. in clothing and footwear. If one adds those together, one sees that the clothing, footwear and textile industries cover 50 per cent. of all the jobs covered by the temporary short-term working compensation scheme. I hope that the Secretary of State will confirm that that scheme will continue, because it is vital to maintain such little confidence as is left in the future employment prospects of the industry.

All those problems are bad enough for any industry, but over the years the textile and clothing industries have had to struggle to survive in the face of intense and sometimes unfair foreign competition.

Mr. Thomas Torney () Bradford, South

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the level of American imports of carpets is 10 per cent. today, whereas it was only 4 per cent. a year ago? Is he also aware that in the carpet industry, which is part of the textile industry, the numbers employed fell from 32,000, to under 26,000 in May this year? Those numbers are now down to 25,000, a quarter of whom are on short time. This is due to the unfair subsidisation of American oil used in the manufacture of tufted carpets.

Mr. Smith

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing attention to that serious matter. A little later in my speech I shall concentrate specifically on the question of man-made fibre imports from the United States.

We have two problems relating to imports which affect the textile industry—those that arise under the multi-fibre arrangement and those arising from the United States. It is true that the multi-fibre arrangement provides the best overall framework that can be obtained for the regulation of imports from low-cost countries. When it started in 1973 it had a number of important defects. Some of these were put right in 1976 by the previous Government, but I am under no illusions that there are still a number of defects to be put right when the Government renegotiate the arrangement.

Some problems will be difficult to deal with—for example, those of free circulation and that of the Mediterranean associates. These problems are complicated by the attitudes that are taken in the European Community, and also by what I might describe as a certain lack of alacrity by the EEC Commission in monitoring the arrangement and seeing that the quotas are adhered to. I am not underestimating some of the difficulties that exist in this scheme. I have no doubt that other hon. Members will point out defects that affect firms in their own constituencies.

The present MFA will have to remain in force until it is renegotiated in 1981. I hope that the House will concentrate for a moment on the importance of successful renegotiations in 1981. The Government must set clear objectives for what they hope to achieve. When they came to office they did not seem to have any clear idea about the importance of the renegotiation in 1981. In the months since they were elected we have pulled them around to a more realistic appreciation of the need for that, but that hesitation will be seen by other countries in the EEC as a lack of resolve on the part of the Government, let alone by those with whom we must negotiate outside. We should like the Government to commit themselves to certain objectives now, and we hope that they will campaign within and without the EEC to achieve them.

The most important new thing that needs to be negotiated is a recession clause. With the benefit of hindsight, I think that it was a mistake not to have one in the 1976 arrangement. It was not foreseen that there would be a world recession on the scale that we see at present, and certain disastrous policies that are now afflicting the industry were not being proposed then, or even thought of. It is important that the Government should make the recession clause one of their objectives. I am being frank about the position, and I hope the Government will be equally frank.

Mr. Cyril Smith () Rochdale

It is very important that the right hon Member should make the point that even under the 1976 arrangement there is nothing to stop the Government from doing something to revise the existing quotas.

Mr. John Smith

I believe that the whole MFA must be constantly policed and monitored by officials from the member States, including this country. It must be watched very closely because the Commission, particularly, has a habit of allowing the horse to gallop around the course long before it even thinks of slightly closing the stable door.

Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop () Tiverton

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that one of the disastrous weaknesses of the MFA is that when additional signatories come in they are given an extra quota, rather than an alloction within the existing quota? That seems to be the greatest single weakness of the arrangement.

Mr. John Smith

That is another fair criticism of the MFA, and there are problems that will be caused by the accession of other countries to the EEC. The hon. Member's point is also particularly relevant to China. There is a possibility of a massive inflow of textiles from that country if care is not taken. A recession clause is something that should command the assent of all Members of the House, and the Government should start cam- paigning for it now, with the resolve of a united House of Commons behind them.

There is one other important area that has come very much to the fore in the last 18 months—the upsurge of man-made fibres from the United States, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Torney) referred. Here the Government are not faced with the complexities of the MFA, and I believe that they have been plainly incompetent in dealing with the matter. The problem arises from the unfair policies of the United States Government, who intervened to ensure lower energy prices, which were translated into lower feedstock prices for their man-made fibre producers. That is unfair trading.

This problem was realised by the previous Government, and in April 1979 I proposed a motion to the EEC Council of Ministers—the Council dealing with foreign affairs—and it was resolved that in the event of artificial differences in the price of energy and petroleum raw materials the Community would have recourse without delay to the appropriate provisions of the GATT. There was a recognition that action needed to be taken. I am afraid that the present Government did nothing. They were hoodwinked by the EEC Commission and the United States Government into permitting long delays in the negotiations. That was, of course, in the interests of the United States exporters, who were busy cornering their share of the market while the long-delayed negotiations were going on.

In February 1980, many months after the Government took office, they received EEC approval to impose quotas on two products. They asked for them on three products, including tufted carpets, for which they were given no quota at all, so there remains no protection against the flood of imports of tufted carpets. On nylon carpet yarn the quota for 1980 was 30 per cent. higher than the disruptive level of 1979, and for polyester filament yarn the quota allowed consolidation of the considerable increase that had taken place in 1979. That is a hopeless form of protection.

I believe that in the course of these negotiations the Government played their cards badly and were outmanouevred by the United States. They have allowed a manifestly unfair state of trading to continue, and the protection offered by these quotas is simply hopeless. For all those reasons, we indict the Government.

Mr. Jim Marshall () Leicester, South

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is grossly unfair to the Third world countries, which are adversely affected by the MFA, when we take protectionist measures against them but seem to shrink away from taking measures against our more powerful trading ally, the United States?

Mr. John Smith

There is a great deal in what my hon. Friend says, especially when we know that the EEC as a whole, under the MFA, takes a far larger share of the Third world exports than does the United States, which has a quite restrictive agreement on access of Third world goods. The problem that arises is serious. I believe that the figures for our trading relationship with the United States will show that it is deteriorating badly over the present year. This is due to the overvalued pound, and for other reasons. There will have been great penetration in this area.

Mr. Michael Latham () Melton


Mr. Smith

I have given way a great deal, and I am not prepared to do so again. Many hon. Members wish to speak.

I deal now with the defensive terms of the amendment. Hon. Members will notice that the Government give support to the multi-fibre arrangement, with the important qualification "wherever possible". That allows a considerable loophole to the Government. The amendment talks of the "existing" multi-fibre arrangement. There is not a hint of a commitment to renewing the arrangement.

The Government refer to new restraints that are being imposed, not all to the good. To say that 32 new quotas have been approved does not tell the House very much. We want to know what quotas, at what levels, and with what effect. Over the last year there has been a considerable increase in import penetration into this country.

At the end of the amendment, the Government refer to their broad economic policies. The truth is that these broad economic policies—high interest rates, the over-valued pound, the cuts in the British standard of living and the whole deflational impetus of the Government's policy—are creating disaster for British industry. That disaster is felt all the more keenly in the textile industry, weakened as it is by all the other factors to which I have referred. Faced with this grim situation for the industry, for its management and for the very large work force that it sustains throughout the length and breadth of these islands, it did not seem right to the Opposition to rise for the Summer Recess without drawing the attention of Parliament and the nation to the gravity of the problem. That is what we seek to do. I hope that the House will support our motion. I believe that it is sensible.

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

I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: this House welcomes the Government's continuing commitment to support, wherever possible, the textile and clothing industries under the existing Multi-Fibre Arrangement which was both negotiated and accepted by the previous Labour Government; acknowledges that the Government has negotiated through the European Community a number of new restraint arrangements in addition to 32 new quotas on imports from other suppliers since it came into office; expresses its concern at the continuing decline over many years of textile employment; applauds the successful record of the textile and clothing industries in export markets; and believes that the long-term health of the industries can best be restored by the success of the Government's broad economic policies". It is a little hard to believe—I put it no higher—listening to the speech of the right hon. Member for Lanarkshire. North (Mr. Smith), that until 15 months ago he was Secretary of State for Trade in the Labour Government. During his Government's period in office, the number of people employed in the textile and clothing industries fell by 150,000. His attempts, no doubt sincere, to stem the long-term decline in textile employment signally failed. More than 700,000 jobs have been lost in the textile industry since 1950. It was the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor and the right hon. Gentleman himself who had charge, for the then Labour Government, of the negotiations which created the present shape and structure of our trading arrangements for textiles. We have not changed the structure of the trading arrangements for textiles. We have kept that structure in place and we have substantially increased the number of quotas and restraint arrangements that we inherited from the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues.

I should like to remind the House of the current international trading arrangements for textiles that we inherited from the right hon. Gentleman on 5 May 1979, the date on which he tends to imply that the problems all began. First, the basic elements of the multilateral trade negotiations were skilfully conducted and sometimes orchestrated by Mr. Edmund Dell between 1976 and 1979. The ratification of these new world trading agreements fell to us but the essential features for the maintenance and strengthening of the open trading system under the MTNs were negotiated and agreed by the Labour Government—and by the right hon. Gentleman himself. It is remarkable how only 15 months later all that seems to have been forgotten.

The specific feature of those negotiations which cause textile exporters particular concern is the high level of tariffs against our textile exports overseas. The wool textile industry, hard-pressed but signally successful as an exporter, is confronted by tariffs of 44 per cent. against our exports to the United States and tariffs of 34 per cent. or more against our exports to Australia. I can give many other examples. In contrast, the EEC tariff, at 13 per cent., offers to foreign companies opportunities in the valuable European market that are clearly not matched by similar opportunities for British exporting firms. Even when the final tariff cuts of the Tokyo Round have been made, we shall still have a tariff of 35 per cent. against our woollen textile exports into the United States. The House and the country should know that, however dense the smokescreen to which we have been treated by the right hon. Gentleman, these agreements were made while he was in office and some of them while he held my present job.

I am not saying that this country has an automatic right to have a balanced trade in each particular sector. Of course we have not. I do believe, however, in reciprocity of opportunity and I make no disguise of the problems of access that our textile exporters face even at the end of the latest tariff-cutting round. This lack of reciprocity is a matter of deep concern to the Government. The Minister for Trade and I have visited some 40 countries in the last 15 months. Our principal objective is to get those tariff barriers down against our goods. In my visits to countries such as Korea and Brazil, both publicly and privately to Ministers, I have done my utmost to press them for greater equality of opportunity for our textiles, but I have to recognise that we have their exports to us under constraint. In 1979 we ran a surplus with these countries of £1 billion on our balance of payments.

Mr. Michael Meacher () Oldham, West

The right hon. Gentleman is well known for his antipathy to import controls on the ground that they would lead to retaliation. If he is so strongly opposed to what I agree are excessively high tariffs that are unfair, why does he not retaliate?

Mr. Nott

Why did the hon. Gentleman, while a Trade Minister, not resign when his own Secretary of State agreed to these world-wide tariff arrangements under the MTNs?

I come now to imports. If the problem of low-cost imports stems in part from the lack of a "recession clause" in the existing MFA, as mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, there may be fault, but the fault cannot lie at the door of the present Government. By no means do I claim that the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor could have obtained a "recession clause" in those negotiations. I do claim, however, that it is a preposterous assertion to suggest that the growth in low-cost imports during the present recession is in some way due to us. An inbuilt growth in low-cost imports was an integral part of the MFA that the right hon. Gentleman had a part in negotiating. That growth pattern in imports was specifically agreed and accepted by the whole Labour Government of the day, including the right hon. Gentleman himself.

I remind the House of the facts. Growth rates under MFA II agreed by the Labour Government probably average between 1 and 2 per cent. a year. The Labour Government negotiated a 7–5 per cent. growth per annum for T-shirts from Korea. The Labour Government agreed a 3–78 per cent. growth per annum for jerseys from the Philippines. The quota for jerseys from Sri Lanka is 10–1 per cent. per annum and for trousers from Malaysia 16.9 per cent. per annum. They are the basic growth arrangements, superimposed upon the quotas, agreed by the Labour Government. It is not in our power to change them until the expiry of the existing MFA at the end of 1981. Thus, the basic framework governing trade in textiles was already in place when we came to office. I do not deny that we have not been able to change it.

Mr. Torney

Playing politics from the Dispatch Box does not help. It is no consolation to the thousands of my constituents in Bradford who are jobless, who face losing their jobs, or who are already on short time. We want action on the quotas. The Government must examine the problem caused by Portugal and Spain threatening our textiles. We want a social clause inserted in the agreement. If the Secretary of State cannot achieve that through the MFA, he should act unilaterally.

Mr. Nott

Now that the hon. Gentleman has made his constituency speech and thereby kept other hon. Members out of the debate, perhaps he will withdraw from the Chamber. He has made two constituency speeches already. As a politician, I do not see any reason why I should not bring politics into the debate.

Perhaps it is not universally appreciated that the MFA was not imposed on the developing world. It was a two-way deal. It restricted access to our markets in return for an assured growth in exports to us by the developing world. With over 400 quotas now in place, we cannot abandon the arrangement before the expiry of the present agreement.

Within the overriding constraints of the MFA, agreed by the previous Government, we have been continuously active in extending wherever possible protection for our industry. Since we took office 15 months ago, 32 new quotas with 14 countries have been negotiated through the Commission. Each has re- quired painstaking and lengthy negotiation. The MFA was never an imposed solution. It was a bilateral and overall GATT deal. The new quotas have had to be negotiated. That has taken time.

Mr. John Smith

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be fair and will concede that I did not attack the present Government on the basis of the existing MFA since I know that the rules cannot be changed until renegotiation. My criticism of the Government was twofold. First, they are slow to agree to a renegotiation of the MFA. Secondly, they should seek a recession clause as an objective. Will he deal with those matters?

Mr. Nott

The right hon. Gentleman's motion is critical of the Government for what is described as "unfair" trade. He mentioned a "recession clause" and said that with hindsight it was probably a pity that we do not have one. Some of the problems about which hon. Members complain stem directly from an agreement into which the right hon. Gentleman entered.

Mr. Jack Straw () Blackburn

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Nott

I have much to say. I am sure that the hon. Member will get into the debate.

We inherited many outstanding problems with individual countries. For instance, Turkey, Cyprus, Malta and China pose problems. As members of the Community we have not been free to act unilaterally in each of the cases, but we have done our best for the textile industry. If hon. Members have questions about the many negotiations involved, the Minister for Trade will deal with them later.

I appreciate that imports exceeded two of the global ceilings, but by only small amounts. As opportunities open up for British exports—in China, for example—we cannot ignore the need for jobs in other British industries. The right hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North would not if he still held my post. Total inflexibility might possibly benefit some sections of our textile industry, but it would be damaging to our wider trading interests, and to our textile exports.

The MFA is concerned with the low-cost, developing countries. It is easiest to see them as the greatest threat to our textile industry. But nearly 60 per cent. of our imports of clothing and textiles come from other advanced industrial countries. We cannot claim that they are taking advantage of low wages. In 1979 our imports from developed countries totalled about £1–6 billion, but our exports to that same group of countries also totalled £1.6 billion. We were nearly in balance. Such an exchange of goods is what trade is all about. We cannot rush into protection for the textile industry against developed country competition because the first to suffer from retaliatory action would probably be the textile industry itself.

I turn to the question of synthetic textiles from the United States. We made our applications to the Community first under an article of the GATT. We failed. We made another application under article XIX of the GATT to restrict imports of three products, including carpets. We did our best to persuade the Commission to include carpets. It was agreed that only polyester filament yarn and nylon carpet yarn should be included. At the time of the application the penetration figure for tufted carpets into our market from North America was 8½ per cent. That figure has now risen to between 10 and 12 per cent. of the market. The Commission and the Government are monitoring this situation. I do not rule out further action if it becomes essential. We must have good cause before we take action against the United States under the international rules of procedure.

I negotiated the quotas through the Commission. I went to Washington to discuss the matter. As soon as we obtained the quotas the United States applied for compensation of $ 60 million against our industry. The negotiations are not concluded. The United States claim that we must agree to that compensation and impose lower tariffs on other textiles in the European Community. [HON. MEMBERS: Why?] We operate under the rules of international trade. We have a huge export business to the United States. It is not in the interests of the Western trading community to destroy the basis of international trade which has regulated the trading world since the war.

I did my best to achieve a good deal with the United States. I regret that we were not able to negotiate a better one. As soon as we imposed the quotas, complaints were made because by imposing quotas we raised the basic price of raw materials for large sections of the textile industry. The parts of the industry affected are upset at the quotas. Those are the facts of life when dealing with a complex industry such as the textile industry, which depends largely on low-cost imports for its basic raw materials. It is impossible to get it right both ways.

Dr. Keith Hampson () Ripon

Talking of realities, the United States industry has the gross advantage of deliberately keeping gas prices below world prices. Our industry relies on oil for basic raw materials. Since the United States does not intend to decontrol gas prices until 1985, and most of our chemical producers do not think that that target will be met, we face a long-term, critical problem.

Mr. Nott

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. That was one of the principal justifications for our ability to apply for the quotas in the first place and we naturally used that principal argument.

This problem, which we have raised continuously with the United States, goes on and there are now before the Commission proposals for definitive antidumping duties to be imposed on acrylic yarn from the USA. A formal investigation is going on into the pricing of American polyester filament yarn and the industry is now pressing for antidumping action to be taken against polyester woven fabric. The anti-dumping unit in my Department is now helping with these cases which, to a considerable extent, are the result of low energy pricing in the United States.

What more can we do apart from exercising constant vigilance against fraud together with a continuing determination to monitor and uphold the existing agreements? Even the upholding of existing agreements is not without its dangers. We shall uphold them vigorously. But only recently there was an example of how difficult it is to arrive at a correct balance in these matters.

At our insistence quotas were imposed on imports of shirts, blouses and trousers from Indonesia. We took that action because we were concerned about the effects on other MFA suppliers of our agreeing to large quotas. But already we believe that as a consequence of our insisting upon upholding the quotas we may have lost a £4 million export order for scientific instruments.

That single order is worth as much as the whole of our textile imports from Indonesia at present. Apart from that, we have export orders worth over £150 million with Indonesia in a late stage of negotiation with the possibility of a further £700 million worth of trade. At the moment our textile imports from Indonesia are extremely small.

We shall uphold the quotas, but I must tell the House that we cannot continue always to transfer job losses from one industry to another. That is the dilemma faced by any trade department and it was the dilemma that faced the right hon. Gentleman when he had my job.

Mr. Barry Sheerman () Huddersfield, East

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House how many successful actions there have been against dumping in the past year? I am not talking of Indonesia; I am asking how many successful actions against dumping have been drawn to the attention of his Department.

Mr. Nott

I shall check the figure. My recollection is that the figure is about 14 since we came into office.

Mr. John Smith

That is trivial.

Mr. Nott

It may be trivial, but I guess that the figure is rather higher than that which obtained when the right hon. Gentleman was in the Department. However, we shall check the figures and inform the right hon. Gentleman. He spent five years in the Department of Trade negotiating half the problems from which the country now suffers. What more can we do?

Mr. Bob Cryer () Keighley

That is typical.

Mr. Nott

The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) had the good sense to resign. It was a sensible thing for him to do; the record of the then Government should have led to many more resignations.

Mr. Cryer

It is no good the right hon. Gentleman answering my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman) in that trite way. The Secretary of State must accept that the MFA was renegotiated by the Labour Government from the very poor base instituted by the former Tory Government. Therefore, the question of anti-dumping hardly arose because there were only 12 months of Labour Government during which anti-dumping action could have been taken.

Mr. Nott

The MFA has nothing to do with anti-dumping. What more can we do? I have already spoken of the 32 new quotas which have been negotiated since we came into office. There are new voluntary restraint agreements with several countries and we are, of course, continuously making applications to control free circulation under article 115.

But there are other means by which we are endeavouring to help the textile industry and British purchasers of its products. Nothing will lead me to say that the plight of the textile industry is not extremely grave. Of course it is.

Mr. Straw

That is because of the Government's policies.

Mr. Nott

It may be something to do with some policies, but, as I have said, 150,000 jobs were lost in the textile industry during the period of office of the Labour Government.

I stoutly defend the right of British people to have a wide choice of goods at prices they can afford. But that right includes the choice of buying British. One of the most heartening developments of the past year has been a greater coming together of retailers and manufacturers to discuss their problems and their requirements. I am sure that that can greatly improve the responsiveness of British manufacturers to customer preference.

Although the Government, local authorities and public corporations are obliged to look for value for money, we have a prime obligation, as public purchasers, to ensure that British manufacturers provide that value. Well over 90 per cent. of central Government purchases of textiles and clothing are from United Kingdom sources. I trust that all hon. Members, whether as trade unionists, or through their connections with local government and the nationalised industries, will do their best to convince the public sector of its responsibility. That responsibility is to use its purchasing power to specify the right design, price and delivery from British manufacturers. The House will also know of the determination of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Consumer Affairs to provide for greater consumer preference under her origin marking proposals for textiles but I shall not deal with that now.

I turn briefly to the question of the next MFA. I do not think that we have been slow to say that we shall do our utmost to negotiate the best possible deal that we can for the British textile industry. There is no reason for us not to do that. That is our job. I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman): We shall obviously, discuss whether there should be a recession clause in MFA III. That will be a central matter for negotiation and I take the comments of my hon. Friend to heart."—[Official Report, 14th July 1980; Vol. 211, c. 1036.] Of course, we shall do our best to negotiate a sound MFA III for the industry. That is what we are here to do.

Mr. John Smith

So that the House knows where it stands on this matter, will the right hon. Gentleman say whether it will be one of the Government's central objectives to seek to obtain a recession clause?

Mr. Nott

I have said we shall get the best possible deal that we can for the textile industry. I have explained to the many delegations of trade unionists and employers who have seen us that it would be foolish of us—because it would not help in negotiations—if we tied ourselves down in the House of Commons to what we hope to achieve, what we can achieve and what we shall fight for. I do not think that that would help us to get the best possible deal. However, MFA III, like MFA II, will not be an imposed arrangement. It will be a deal between groups of countries that will involve an extremely difficult and delicate set of negotiations.

When the present Government took office in May 1979 we inherited an environment in which 150,000 jobs had been lost in the previous five years. Over 32,000 men and women were kept in work by the temporary employment subsidy, which the Labour Government, if I recollect rightly being told in the textile areas, were committed to ending. Under the Labour Government we were a temporary employment Britain and, to a large extent, we had a temporarily employed textile industry when we took over. We shall see, after five years of Conservative Government, whether we have succeeded in arresting the decline.

I deplore, as do all my right hon. and hon. Friends, the acceleration of unemployment in the textile and clothing industries during the past few months. But the notion, sedulously fostered by the Opposition, that insecurity, lack of confidence, decline and import penetration began in June 1979 is simply and clearly not the case. The clothing and textile industries have had grave problems for many years.

Our commitment is to do our best to ensure the arrest of that decline and see it reversed. That is our task and I am happy to have it. Whether we succeed or fail will ultimately depend upon whether the industry can produce the goods that the public wish to buy.

The right hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North dwelt on the high price of the pound. It is not simply a question of price. If price were to be the prevailing factor, we should sell no woollen and worsted products in the United States over a tariff barrier of 44 per cent., but we do. Last year over that tariff barrier we exported to the United States 2–3 million square metres of cloth compared with 2 million for the year before when the right hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North was in office.

The notion that as more low wage countries enter the world market with their products we can become more competitive with a weak pound where we are not now competitive with a strong pound is false. When the Labour Government lurched from one financial crisis to another, with sterling falling in value from $ 2–40 to $ 1–60, there was no sudden upsurge in overseas sales. The decline in the United Kingdom textile industry was not arrested.

Mr. Austin Mitchell () Grimsby

I am sorry to interrupt the Secretary of State's long procession of excuses for why the Government can do nothing to arrest the decline. Since he is now discussing the value of the pound, does he accept that in a highly competitive market, where margins are very slim, the fact that the pound is heavily over-valued—the Financial Times last week said that our decline in competitiveness last year was 30 per cent.—constitutes such a disastrous burden that the industry simply cannot bear it?

Mr. Nott

The hon. Gentleman's point about declining competitiveness is most serious. In the past five years competitiveness has declined by 50 per cent., but that is overwhelmingly due to wage increases generally—

Mr. Cryer

Not in textiles.

Mr. Nott

I talk of the economy generally in response to the general comment of the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell).

Last year, with a strong pound, the value of exports of textiles rose to over £2 billion. So far this year they are up to £900 million against £791 million for the corresponding period last year. That represents an increase in textile exports this year of 15 per cent. It has happened in spite of a high value pound because our textile industry came out top on fashion, design, delivery and style, and that, with more and more low-wage countries coming into the business, has to be where our future lies. We have no choice.

Even if we wish to do so we cannot wish away the benefits of North Sea oil. They exist and they are ensuring a higher standard of living than would otherwise be possible. It is a matter of congratulation, optimism, hope and confidence that even in a recession our clothing industry managed to expert £750 million of goods last year, and is aiming for £1 billion this year. If the clothing industry has that target even with a strong pound it is not for me to criticise it.

In the meantime, nobody can be other than deeply concerned at the current loss of employment in the textile industry. However, over the period from 1977 to 1979 consumption in this country rose generally by 10 per cent. while non-oil industrial production generally rose by only 2 per cent. In three years we suffered a 30 per cent. decline in our competitiveness. If the Government were to reverse this process a recession from the pre-election consumer boom of 1978 and 1979 was inevitable, and this has led to falling demand for textile products, to de-stocking and to low production with some of the severe difficulties that face the industry today. But after a pre-election boom demand was bound to be lower. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said yesterday, "No U-turns are available." Until inflation is reduced and competitiveness is restored to our economy the Government cannot and will not relax their present policy.

8.5 pm

Mr. Ben Ford () Bradford, North

First I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. Woolmer) on having been selected to reply to the debate for the Opposition. My hon. Friend has worked assiduously in the Chamber, and I am sure that the House will listen to him with interest.

The question to be asked tonight is the one that was put in an article in the Investors Chronicle of 20 June. Under the heading Will textiles become the new waste land? it said: The pace of decline in British textiles has speeded up dramatically this year. The stockmarket predicts disaster. It continued: Of the embattled sectors of British textiles, the Yorkshire woollen industry is probably most at risk. It has already been in the doldrums for a couple of years and could now be on the verge of extinction. Hon. Members and all organisations representing sections of the textile industry have approached the Government, many with constructive suggestions, and the response that they have received is summed up in the Yorkshire Post report of 17 July, which reads: A plea for a Government commitment to prevent the textile industry from slipping below an agreed level fell on deaf ears in Whitehall yesterday. I do not think that the Yorkshire Post is noted as a particularly Left-wing Socialist organ.

Throughout this year mills have been closing, on average, at the rate of one per week. Redundancies in June totalled 1,245. The total for this year so far is 12,100. The average is 2,016 redundancies a month—2,016 personal and family tragedies—yet the Government have turned down a proposal for a new skill-centre for training redundant people in Kirklees. It seems that there is no end to the decline in the textile industry, and again one must ask Will textiles become the new waste land? I want to put one clear and specific question to the Government. It may be said to be hypothetical, but it becomes less so every day, as I have illustrated. There have been reports in local newspapers in the past few days of mill closures and redundancies. Should a national emergency occur and our imports be interfered with, and, as has been suggested in the quotations that I have made, there is no textile industry, what contingency plans have the Government to meet the demand? What would people do for clothes? It seems that the Government would have us back in the days of the spinning wheel and homespun cloth. We need textiles for many classes of products—fanbelts, tubing, fire hoses, overalls, parachutes, brake linings, tents and upholstery. The list is endless. Most products of engineering could not operate without some component of textiles. I repeat, what plans do the Government have in the event of the total loss of the textile industry should a national emergency arise? I can envisage the time when our national flag will be smuggled in by submarine from Hong Kong.

I understand the Government's philosophy. It is enlargement of the private sector—more competition, high interest rates and a strong pound. I do not agree with it. It is quite clear, however, that they are attempting to shake out inefficient firms and to tame the trade unions, which in the textile industry have cooperated in the industry's rationalisation and by making moderate wage demands. Yet they are still suffering, despite the repeated words of the Prime Minister. We have not often had a Government who, in engineering terms, are prepared to test their theories to destruction.

It becomes a matter of fine judgment when to modify those policies in time for industry to stage a recovery, particularly when we are in the throes of a world recession. For the textile industry that time is here now. If the party opposite errs in making that judgement, the result will be economic and social chaos. They, and perhaps the political system as we know it, will be swept away, and the Prime Minister and her right hon. and hon. Friends will for ever be reviled in the annals of British history.

8.11 pm
Mr. Tom Normanton () Cheadle

Right hon. and hon. Members who are present in the Chamber tonight, and who have been present for our many other debates on textiles, could be forgiven for having a feeling of dé jà vu, but today we are dealing with four major differences from those debates, which are probably still vividly—certainly in my personal and industrial experience—deeply and painfully in our minds.

The first difference is that whereas in the past when we talked of textiles what we really meant were cotton products and products from allied textiles and fibre sources and processes, today the problem extends right across the board. Secondly, whereas in the past we have expressed our concern about the British textile industry, today the problem faces the whole of the European industrial sector, not simply Britain in isolation. We in the Western world are experiencing one of the most traumatic and painful recessions in our history.

Thirdly, when we talk about the competition facing our industry we must realise that not only is there a new source of competition; that competition has been regulated, which has eased some of the impact of the recession. We are experiencing competition from the sophisticated producers of the world, particularly the United States. Fourthly, we have handed over to Brussels full responsibility for commercial policy, including responsibility for dealing with anti-dumping measures. I make a particular point of that, for reasons that most hon. Members will appreciate.

I have highlighted the four differences from previous debates. I wish to make four points in connection with those differences. First, we are facing a multi-fibre, multi-process and multinational industry that is in considerable difficulty. An industry of that magnitude demands an appropriate mechanism to deal with the difficulties that it is facing, both now and in the future. A man-made fibre arrangement has been in operation and will continue until the end of 1981. Without it there would have been total disaster for the British and European textile industry.

We must concentrate on discovering ways in which the policy that was appropriate in 1977 can be updated to deal with the changes that have taken place since then. As the Secretary of State said, what is desperately needed is a commitment by the Government to a more appropriate regulatory mechanism in international trade and to the expansion of trade. Any move that restricts or restrains trade is bound to be to the detriment of our economy as a whole. I hope that my right hon. Friend will apply his mind and ingenuity to that new sort of regulatory mechanism—an updated MFA—to try to ensure that by 1982 we have an appropriate measure to deal with the pressures that the textile industry will face.

Secondly, I believe that the GATT, which has been responsible for an enormous expansion of growth of world trade, and which was an appropriate mechanism for the world trading and industrial economy of the 1950s, should be updated in the light of the new conditions into which we are moving.

Thirdly, I earnestly hope and believe that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will exercise all the dynamic drive and determination that is necessary to ensure that the drafting of the mandate, which the Council of Ministers has asked us to present to the Commission, reflects the needs of the textile industry for the next five years. That would be a starting point for our negotiations for a new mandate—a new MFA.

The depth of the crisis has been aggravated by the American Government's concealing subsidies on man-made fibre production. There is a danger that if we and our European partners step too far in the direction of a regulatory mechanism that can be interpreted and then played back against us, we shall be the poorer. A trade war and a trade protection policy would bring disaster. I was glad that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State repeated that. It needs to be repeated again and again.

I make one suggestion to my right hon. Friend, and I hope that it will reach the ears of the important and responsible people in the industry. The representational machinery in the textile industry is the oldest in Britain. The employers and unions on both sides of the dividing line between Yorkshire and Lancashire have seen the burden of the development of representational machinery. I earnestly hope that we can move to establishing one voice for the British textile industry, instead of continuing with a surplus of representational machinery. We want one voice for the British textile industry and one voice for the European textile industry. The sooner we have that the better we shall be in the representation of our interests to the European Community and to the Governments of the nine Member States.

The fourth and probably most important point is to indict the Labour Government for the way in which, throughout the whole period of their Administration, they undermined Britain's credibility in the Community. That attitude left behind it an albatross around Britain's neck, and it has been a great hindrance in our efforts to be more effective in representing our interests within the framework of Community policies. I hope that my right hon. Friend will concentrate all his efforts to ensure that his representations, unlike those of the Labour Government, have credibility in the eyes of the politicians and administrators of the other member States.

I trust that my right hon. Friend will continue with his efforts to be even more effective in influencing Community policy. At least his political integrity, in terms of our membership of the Community, is crisp and clear. That is a good starting point from which to enter into negotiations.

I am sure that the House will reject the critical and highly hypocritical Opposition motion.

8.21 pm
Mr. Frank R. White (Bury and Rad-cliffe)

I associate myself with the compliments paid to my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. Woolmer), who will be replying to the debate, and congratulate him on his position on the Front Bench.

I start in this debate, as I have in all the textile debates in the House since 1974, by asking this Administration, just as I have previously asked the Labour Administration, this simple, basic question: do the Government want a British textile manufacturing capacity and, if so, what is its level to be? Is it to be 20 per cent., 25 per cent., 30 per cent. or 40 per cent. of the British market? Let us define it sector by sector and justify it for all the reasons which have been expounded by hon. Members on each side of the Chamber over many years. Once we have defined it, everything else falls into its place.

Ministers, past and present, have catalogued instances of action taken on behalf of the industry. We have seen it again tonight. Unfortunately, that action has followed disruption and damage to the industry rather than preceding it or anticipating it. No Government and no Ministry can claim not to have received early warning signals from each side of the industry.

Hon. Members have made reference to the American man-made fibre imports. They were anticipated over 15 months ago. The damage that they would cause and have caused to the industry was catalogued and related to the Department and to Ministers by each side of the industry.

Regrettably, after mill closures and loss of capacity and jobs that cannot be replaced, the Government indicate their actions and have the gall to expect us in the industry, and those on the unemployment list, to be full of gratitude.

The Prime Minister has indicated to the House on a number of occasions that she rejects import controls but that she would act to prevent disruption and unfair imports coming on to our market. She would also further help by directing positive policies towards buying British through a campaign generated by Government contracts. Her words would carry more weight if her Government's actions followed her good intent.

This morning hon. Members on each side of the House will have received a leaflet from the Society of Civil and Public Servants entitled "UK Exposed!" In this document the society makes a strong case against Government cuts in the Customs service. Under the heading "The Control of Cargo" it states: Cuts in the Department have:—severely reduced the number of consignments selected for examination. These checks are necessary to ensure that … duties are properly levied, import restrictions are not evaded, quotas are not being exceeded and so on. I ask the Minister what good it is crowing to the House about his quota policies if he fails effectively to control those quotas at the point of entry.

In the area of public purchasing, the United Kingdom Government lead the field in the EEC in opening our tendering procedures to the Community, while the rest of the Community—notably France and Germany—operate very strict national closed shops. I trust that the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Normanton) will take that message back to his previous incarnation. These two instances alone indicate areas where Government deeds fail to match their words. The United Kingdom insists on playing to the rules, while the rest practise karate. Unfortunately, it is the United Kingdom textile operative who takes the chop.

I realise that many hon. Members wish to speak, so I shall not repeat the arguments or go over ground that they may wish to cover. I would rather quote to the House two instances which have occurred in my constituency. They are living examples of the failure of the Government to respond to the needs of the industry and fully justify the motion before the House this evening.

Recently, Bury Ring Spinning Company went into liquidation and 120 operatives lost their jobs. The company specialised in fine spinning and doubling, and had an established place in the market for its type of product. Having weathered most of the market difficulties in the past, last year the Government's monetarist policies placed it in severe financial difficulties, but they were difficulties that the company set out to overcome. It secured a large order from a well-known multinational company but could not fully service the order, as it appeared that for three to four months in the summer it would have a severe cash flow problem. The bank refused to bridge the loan—the period involved was three months, as I have mentioned—despite the fact that on presenting the accounts it could be seen quite clearly that there would have been a break-even position in the autumn, going into profit by the end of the year.

The multinational company concerned, anxious to maintain this valued supplier, arranged to cancel some outstanding debts and offered to match the bank pound for pound on credit to keep the company in business. The bank refused, and hence the receiver moved in. That capacity cannot be replaced in this country. Not only have jobs been lost; we have now presented an opportunity for import penetration to a foreign supplier whose Government, unlike our own, are actively supporting their textile industry in a most aggressive manner. Bury Ring Spinning Company has been sacrificed on the altar of false free market forces.

The other company presents what I believe to be one of the most distressing examples of the plight of the textile industry. For 238 years A.C. Bealeys in Radcliffe has operated a textile finishing plant. The family which founded that company was a great benefactor to the community. Opposite the factory is the Bealeys community hospital, once a maternity home, where seemingly half of Radcliffe's citizens first saw the light of day.

During past years the company has diversified its product range, has introduced high technology and, with a cooperative work force, has fought to maintain a place in the market. For the past few years it has either been profitable or it has broken even. Anyone who can say that in textiles for the past five years has been going some. The parent company, Whitecroft, has maintained a level of investment.

Why now, after weathering all that and after 238 years, should this company, which has followed all the positive criteria urged upon the textile industry with full union support all along the line, fail?

Mr. John Tavare, the chairman of Whitecroft and vice-chairman of the North-West CBI, gave the answer in a recent interview in The Guardian dated 21 July. Asked why this year, after 238 years, the company should fail, his answer was: There is something special about this year's worsening economic climate. In the early days, companies were so glad to get labour off their backs that they did not react. When asked whether opposition to Government policies was economic or political, he answered: I would also almost say it was political. Today they would not get in … there is a lack of understanding by the Government about what is happening to the manufacturing base of Britain as a result of the strong pound, high inflation and high interest rates—the first time that industry has had to suffer all three at the same time.

Dr. Hampson

Oh, rot.

Mr. White

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman who said "Oh, rot" will communicate to Mr. Tavare and the 130 workers to be made redundant at Bealeys what his views are.

I would say to Mr. Tavare and to the management that the true sufferers of the Govenment's disastrous monetarist policies are the people who work at Bealeys and others like them throughout the North. Bealeys is now to close with the loss of 130 jobs. One family alone until recently had grandfather, father, son and two daughters working at that unit. The effect on the community is demoralising and depressing.

The Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday stated that no single party had the patent right to compassion for the unemployed. I accept that. If so, let them prove it by reversing the policies which are closing mills week by week. I believe that the Cabinet has no idea what it is creating in our industrial regions.

In the article which I quoted the chairman of the North-West CBI verified that point. Mr. Jim Mundell, chairman of the CBI in the North-West, says: The Government must have no idea what is happening to manufacturing industry because if they did know they would care. I now call upon the Government to prove their care and concern by changing their policies—policies which have achieved for Bealeys what Napoleon, the American Civil War, the Kaiser and Hitler failed to do. The Government have achieved in 15 months—at a stroke—the wiping out of 238 years of experience and textile expertise.

As I mentioned, Bealeys had a place in the community, but it is no longer to be there. There is a commemorative plaque in Bealeys factory which shows that in 1793 the Methodist Society was established in Radcliffe at a meeting on the factory premises. It is even thought possible that Charles Wesley preached in the factory. In a short time that factory chimney will no longer smoke. No more shall we hear the engines. The plaque will go into a museum. The people of Radcliffe will regard the empty factory shell as a tombstone to the textile way of life destroyed by Tory monetarist policies devoid of human compassion. I fear that tonight is the start of a wake for the industry unless the Government change course.

8.34 pm
Mr. Eric Cockeram () Ludlow

I should like to concentrate on the clothing industry. Many hon. Members do not appreciate that 70 per cent. of the clothing sold in this country is made here. The 30 per cent. which is imported has been the subject of many of the points made this evening. Imports are much higher than 30 per cent. in many industries. The motor industry is an obvious example. I believe that a mix between imported and home-produced goods is desirable.

In an attempt to restrict imports, the Labour Administration introduced the multi-fibre arrangement. I do not speak against that entirely, but they did not appreciate its consequences. I shall mention two of them. First, overseas supplies no longer have to be so competitive on pricing as was formerly the case. They know that importers in Britain have an import quota and that, in consequence, there is now not the same competition on price. Secondly, overseas suppliers are trading up. Previously, they were allowed to export to Britain a higher quantity of merchandise units. The multi-fibre arrangement restricted the number of units, and in consequence they are sending more expensive garments. As a result, the British industry is feeling the competition from the Far East of a higher quality garment—a competition that previously did not exist.

Why does Britain import so much clothing from Western Europe and the United States when our wage rates are often lower than those in other EEC countries? The answer is that other countries are more nimble on their feet in producing fashion garments and items of colour and design. The British textile industry has been slow, and has stuck to the classics. An example of that is the jeans industry. That was not started in Britain, and in the early days the fashion was imported. For many years Britain was desperately slow about producing the cloth needed for jeans. It was simply not available in Britain.

We have heard a number of speeches this evening on behalf of various constituencies. That is proper. But let us not forget that there are 55 million consumers in Britain, and it is time that the House started to think about them as well as about the producers.

Mr. Cyril Smith

Do not forget the employees.

Mr. Cockeram

We are all employees. Those who argue that we should have more quotas and more restrictions on imports are advocating first, higher prices for merchandise, and secondly, reduced choice for the consumer. In the London shops during the past month one saw consumers exercising choice in cut-price merchandise. It is not in the interests of Britain to restrict the choice either in fashion, in colour or in price. I ask the House not to forget that while an important section of the community is engaged in the production of textiles, the remainder are consumers. It is in our interests to have choice and variety rather than restriction.

8.38 pm
Mr. Cyril Smith () Rochdale

The speech of the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. Cockeram) will be a great tonic to the thousands of textile workers in the North-West who have been put on the dole during the past 15 to 18 months. I assure the hon. Gentleman that I shall read his speech in Hansard with great pleasure. I shall cut out his speech and use it to persuade people in the North-West not to vote Tory.

The Secretary of State made a distressing speech from the point of view of the industry. He started with a political knockabout—which is all that we now expect, and all that we now receive, from the Government Front Bench. It is rather like a gramophone record about what the Labour Party did when it was in power, and how its performance record was no better. In every debate we now hear that gramophone record being played. We expected that today, and we got it—true to form. The right hon. Gentleman dealt with all his problems with the import agreement and the negotiations. It was perfectly fair and proper for him to outline those problems—but he did not deal with the problems of the industry. We know the Secretary of State's problems. He is a Minister, and it is his job to give some grain of hope to the industry. There was not a spark of hope in the whole of his speech for the textile industry.

As I listened to the Minister, I began to wonder whether he understood what the problems were. At the end of his speech he had almost painted a picture in which there were no problems and nothing to worry about; the industry was exporting this and doing that; someone was exceeding a quota by exporting 2–3 million of something instead of 2 million.

The first thing that one must do tonight is to place on record that what this House is discussing now is the most serious crisis that has faced the British textile industry for close on 50 years. That is not the view simply of Labour Members, or even of Liberal Members, or even of trade union officials. It is the view of all the employers' associations in the British textile industry.

I could produce a long list of facts and figures to prove that statement, but probably the most graphic comment, which I imagine almost all hon. Members will have received, is in the opening sentence of the brief sent to hon. Members on both sides of the House by the British Textile Confederation. That sentence reads: For many firms the renewal of the MFA after 1981 is an academic question. Their problem is to survive until then. That is the view of the British Textile Confederation. That is not a Left-wing trade union movement somewhere in Lancashire, in Rochdale or anywhere else. That is the employers' organisation, saying that the job of employers at present is not to worry about whether they will get a new agreement in 1981 but whether they can survive until 1981. There was not a word in the Minister's statement to show the slightest indication that the Government understand the seriousness of that situation.

In my constituency of Rochdale closures since 1979 read like the death roll after an air disaster—the Eagle mill, 290 jobs; the Townhead mill, 220 jobs; the Croft mill, 240 jobs; the Shawclough mill, 70 jobs; the Arkwright mill, 100 jobs; the Lowfield mill, 120 jobs; the Moss mill, 240 jobs; and in today's local press there is the announcement of yet another closure, the Barchant mill, with the loss of 70 jobs. That is 1,350 jobs and eight mills closed between the beginning of 1979 and the present date—in my little constituency of Rochdale, with 90,000 constituents.

Of course, I concede entirely that some of these closures took place during the remaining months of the Labour Government, so the Minister is right, if he wants to make the point, in saying that these problems did not start under the present Tory Government. Of course they did not start under this Government, but that does not alter the fact that they are continuing, that the Tories won the last general election, and that if anything is to be done about the textile industry, it is the present Government who have the power to do it.

It is no good wailing on about what the previous Government did or did not do. Of course some of the closures that I have mentioned happened under the Labour Government, and of course that Government were as responsible for the situation as are the present Government for the current position. But the Labour Government are history. We are dealing with the position as it is, and not as the Labour Party or anyone else would like it to be.

These closures and redundancies represent human misery, worry, the loss of self-respect, and the destruction of whole communities, as the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. White) said. We are entitled to ask the Government for how long they intend to watch the industry bleed before they do something about it.

The figures of unemployment and redundancies that have been read out tell only part of the story. They give no indication, for example, of short-time working in the industry. I should have thought that any Government who claim to know anything about business would realise that if more and more companies are on short-time working, ultimately those companies are potential closures. Short-time working compensation may help employees but it does not pay the overheads and standing charges of companies. Those go on whether or not the company is in receipt of short-time working compensation. As long as this situation continues, so much greater is the danger of those companies now on short time ultimately having to close, unless something is done to assist them.

I shall not detain the House any further with the history of the situation. However, since the Minister almost suggested that there were no great problems in the textile industry, and so on, I felt it necessary at least to put on record what the situation was.

I turn briefly to one or two constructive suggestions or possible solutions, the first of which relates to import controls. As a Liberal, I would like to be a free trader. I have had many rows with my colleagues in private on this matter, and I shall say in public what I have told them privately—that I have long since come to the view that free trade is a theoretical economist's pipe dream. Frankly, it works only so long as everyone else practises free trade. Imports to the United Kingdom largely come from countries that are sheltering behind high protection barriers. They come from countries which are aided by subsidies, which have low interest rates, which make cheap capital available, which have tax concessions, and so on. Many of those imports come in under false labels, particularly from Eastern Europe and often through West Germany. They are politically-priced exports as far as they and we are concerned.

If one mentions import controls to the Government, even temporary ones, they immediately say "But there will be retaliation". I do not accept that there will be retaliation if we introduce temporary import controls. I do not believe that that has been proved to be the case in practice. If that is the position, and if the Government do not wish to introduce import controls on the basis of retaliation, we are at least entitled to ask when they intend to retaliate. If they say that retaliatory action will be taken against them, it is time that they stopped behaving like the gentlemen of Europe and retaliated themselves. For example, I understand that only this month the EEC Commission reported that Britain, alone among the Nine, gave details to Brussels of all her aids to industry. For God's sake, when will we stop being the gentlemen of Europe?

I wish to make three other brief points. First, the Government should press for the proper labelling of goods in order fully to show the country of origin. That should be done to protect the consumer. I ask the Minister directly when that will be done. I do not want a promise that we are negotiating or that we are nearly there. When will it be done? In June, along with the hon. Members for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) and Blackburn, I was told that it was imminent. I should like a statement tonight about when that will occur.

Secondly, dumping legislation could be strengthened. The burden of proof must be shifted to the supplying country. The price of goods in such countries should be shown at the point of export, and from time to time the Government should check that the prices shown are the correct ones.

Finally, I believe that we should have a "Buy British" campaign. If they do nothing else, I hope that the Government will seriously consider whether they, either publicly or privately, cannot give some kind of lead in trying to persuade people to buy British. That should not be confined to Government Departments or local government departments. Perhaps they will consider the possibility of inviting privately to the Ministry members of all parties to see whether, collectively, they can do something.

Some of us have already tried. The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Jones), the hon. Member for Macclesfield and I visited companies and pleaded with the managing directors to buy British. However, there are such things as transport, meeting rooms and hospitality in respect of which the Government could help if they were serious in their desire to try to promote a "Buy British" campaign. If they were to invite some hon. Members to come together as a sort of all-party committee to try to promote the purchase of British textiles—with the help of the Government, but not on the Government's initiative—that could be of great assistance. If nothing else comes out of the debate, that at least is a con- structive point which the Government could take on board.

I ask that the Government should understand the serious plight of the industry. What is more, they should not only understand it but do something about it.

8.49 pm
Mr. John Lee () Nelson and Colne

This debate takes place against a bitterly depressing background of closures, redundancies and short-time working in the textile industry. It is a tragedy that this has happened in a sector that has manifested substantial capital investment, excellent labour relations and modest wage settlements.

In my constituency of Nelson and Colne, where in years gone by well over 90 per cent. of the workers worked in textiles, the industry probably provides barely 20 per cent. of today's jobs. For every job vacancy there are 35 people in the queue. Nearly one-third of the unemployed are school leavers and people under the age of 20. One in 12 of those of working age is on the dole. On top of all that there is considerable short-time working. The decline of the textile industry is at the core of all those figures.

The textile industry in Britain is suffering from the "IRI" syndrome, namely, interest rates, recession and imports, which work in combination. At present, the industry is going through the equivalent of open-heart surgery. It is in a critical condition. As with an open-heart patient, it needs the equivalent of oxygen, drugs and intensive care. I am sorry that all we have had from the Government—although the same is true of the previous Labour Government—is a mixture of sympathy and some swabbing of blood as it seeps through that absorbent gauze called the multi-fibre arrangement. Indeed it is probably imported gauze.

The United Kingdom textile industry is haemorrhaging to death. According to today's edition of the Financial Times, one of our better and more successful textile companies, Vantona, announced half yearly profits that were 60 per cent. down. The Financial Times commented on the company's results and stated: It now looks as though the textile sector's trough has deepened severely. No one pretends that there is an easy solution to our problems, but lower interest rates are imperative. I should have favoured a 2 per cent.—not a 1 per cent.—cut in the minimum lending rate. Once again, I raise the question whether the clearing banks have been overdoing it as regards the premiums that they have charged over and above the MLR. We have succeeded in creating a two-nation commercial society; the lenders and the borrowers.

It is vital to get speedier and more effective action on dumping. It is nonsense that there should be only 16 officials working in the anti-dumping unit of the EEC, endeavouring to investigate complaints that involve all the Common Market countries and all products. That is an impossible task.

The Government and industry should promote a "Buy British" policy for Governments and local authorities and for the general public. On Saturday, I shopped in the largest supermarket in my constituency. It was depressing and saddening to see goods on sale in the clothing section from Hong Kong, South Africa, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Singapore, Macao, Italy and India. However, I should add that it is to the credit of that store that the goods were clearly labelled. There were substantial quantities of those goods. At times of pressure on family budgets the customer will gravitate towards cheaper items. In addition, our textile and clothing manufacturing industries may have declined to such an extent that certain ranges of clothing and fabric are no longer manufactured in the United Kingdom. How can the people of Lancashire and of the textile belt ask shoppers in Glasgow, Glamorgan, Cornwall and Coventry, to buy British if we do not do so when our relatives, friends and neighbours are suffering the hardships and trauma of unemployment and short-time working?

In part the answer lies in our hands. I pay tribute to the way in which my right hon. and hon. Friend on the Front Bench have been available and willing to meet delegations of hon. Members and of representatives from both sides of industry. They have been willing to hear our case. We have been given considerable time and have been received most courteously. I thank my right hon. and hon. Friends. The Labour Govern- ment, this Government and, indeed, industry, lack the original ideas and initiative to ease the situation. One of our more successful business men in the industry advocated a gradual transfer of import licences from the importers and merchants to the manufacturers. This would provide a more direct link between the merchanting of both home-produced and imported merchandise and the employment of labour. It would help to encourage manufacturers to be more flexible and entrepreneurial and would result in profits accruing from cheaper imports being used to finance the development of our potential productive competitiveness.

I advocate the acceptance by the Government and industry of a common, recognisable and colourful symbol or emblem for all United Kingdom-produced fabric and clothing, perhaps on the line of the British Standard mark or the wool mark. Many would prefer to buy British if they could easily make the identification.

The carpet industry is embarking on a "Buy a British Carpet" campaign. The PR handout refers to A British lion leaning nonchalantly on a roll of Union Jack carpet. What about a lion on a Union Jack as an example, an emblem that in time could be extended across a range of goods? The Government and industry have a duty to give a lead.

We have had a lively but rather depressing debate. I am sorry that we have not had a firmer commitment to a strengthened and renegotiated MFA when the present one expires. Without it, which manufacturers will feel confident enough—with interest rates at their present high level—to invest and modernise on the scale that is necessary to meet the challenge of the 1980s?

In all the circumstances I must register a protest. It is meant in a democratic sense and intended to convey the anguish and fear that exists in the mills, the valleys and the homes of Lancashire. I must inform the Government that I cannot support them in the Lobby. It is with regret that I intend to abstain at the end of the debate.

8.57 pm
Mr. William Whitlock () Nottingham, North

I welcome the courageous speech of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Lee). The Opposition will welcome him in their Lobby tonight. Like the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith), I found the comments of the Secretary of State remarkably complacent. Nowhere in the textile industry can I find anyone who shares his complacency about the industry's future. I shall quote one or two comments that indicate the feeling of the industry.

On 10 July I talked about the problems of the knitwear and hosiery industry and illustrated its excellent record. I do not intend to go over that again. I merely say that in spite of that record it is in danger of extinction, because it is being crucified. It is being crucified by the Government's monetary policy. It is being crucified by the doubling of VAT by the Government. It is being crucified by the high interest rates that obtain under the Government. It is being crucified by yawning gaps in import restriction arrangements, by fiddles, by quota dodging and by the bending of many international rules. That is going on without much effort on the Government's part to stop it.

That is what the industry has been saying to Ministers for some time. An indication of the despair on the industry's part can be given by a sentence that appeared in a letter from the president of the Knitwear Industry Federation to the Financial Times. He wrote: It would appear that we now have a Government that is prepared to oversee the destruction of British industry. Recently in the Nottingham Evening Post there appeared an article headed: Lace chief blames Tories". That lace manufacturer claimed that Government policy lay behind the collapse of many parts of the lace industry. He said: I simply don't believe that the Government and the public have got a clue about how things are. That is the trouble. The Government do not have a clue about how things are because they will not listen to those in the industry.

That is illustrated by what the Secretary of State for Industry said in replying to the debate on 10 July: Low-cost competitor countries, without any unfairness, buy the most modern machinery in the world, hire excellent management and put low-cost but fair labour to work, in order to compete with Britain and the rest of the world."—[Official Report, 10 July 1980; Vol. 988, c. 821.] Everywhere I went, the industry bitterly resented those words. That nonsense is at variance with all that the industry has been saying. Who told the right hon. Gentleman that?

Our competition comes from countries where workers are savagely exploited, such as Sri Lanka. I can give many other examples. As I pointed out on 10 July, the textile industry agrees that developing countries must be assisted, but the responsibility for helping those countries must be fairly shared among all developed countries. The industry is demanding only a fair deal. The Government are making no effort to that end. They close their eyes to the fact that Britain is receiving the rawest deal of any developed country because our markets are more open.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Mr. Smith) mentioned the American textile industry. In November 1978 President Carter said that he was determined to assist that beleagured industry. He invoked the consultation clauses in the multi-fibre arrangement and saw to it that import quotas from major competing countries were reduced. That industry is no longer beleagured. It is not only protected against disruptive imports; it is subsidised by artifically low energy prices and it is being helped by a weak dollar.

The American textile industry is flooding Britain with garments of all kinds, to the detriment of our industry. T-shirts are coming here from America at an average price of 85p per piece, compared with £1–39 from Hong Kong and 91p from Portugal. Jumpers and pullovers from America are arriving at an average price of £1–72 per piece, compared with £2–39 from Hong Kong and £1–80 from Korea. Against that background, a leading knitwear group has announced that it is to slash its manufacturing operations in Leicester by half in favour of importing from Hong Kong.

Do the Government want our industry to die and the home market to become a battlefield for every country that wishes to export textiles, including State trading countries such as Poland, which is dumping low cost goods here in a desperate effort to obtain foreign currency? The Government must come clean and tell the industry what they honestly believe its future to be. I hope that, following this debate, the Government will agree to meet leaders from the various sections of the industry, along with officers of the all-party group. They should listen to what they say. That is the key. They have not so far done so.

Early in the last century operatives in Nottingham began smashing stocking machines. They had a legendary leader, Ned Ludd, and were known as Luddites. Luddism has come to mean senseless sabotage of machines, but those poor wretches were faced with absolute want, were meagre with famine, sullen with despair, careless of life and famished into guilt. Lord Byron used such phrases in his maiden speech in the House of Lords when he described the Nottingham scene, which he knew so well.

Today we have a Government who seem bent on halting machines en masse and wishing Britain into an industrial waste. But members of the Government, unlike the Luddites, have no compelling personal reasons for their action beyond that of adhering to their own dogma. Increasingly they are seen in various parts of the country as Luddites. That is how history will portray them unless they change their policies. I hope that this debate tonight will result in changed policies, at least towards the textile industries.

9.11 pm
Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke () Darwen

I want to speak very briefly about competition from our high-wage competitors. In his excellent speech the Secretary of State said that this accounts for about 60 per cent. of our import penetration. Different considerations apply to high-wage competition from those that apply to the Third world and the MFA. The high-wage competition causes our main problems now.

For the past 25 years we have had a paradox. In the United Kingdom we have a well organised, well run and highly competitive industry, with excellent labour relations. The industry has modernised itself and invested in itself. Why is it unable to compete with the industry in other high-wage nations? We all know the difficulties caused by low-wage countries. But I am talking about countries such as the United States, Canada, Western Europe and Australia. Those of us who sit for textile constituencies have always said that we cannot protect the industry against high-wage competitors. The industry must compete and succeed against them.

Somewhere along the line we have been let down, because in spite of our efficiency, good relations, not-too-excessive wages and shifts worked we cannot compete with them. I have been pondering on this paradox for a long time and I have come to the conclusion that too many burdens have been imposed on British industry generally and the textile industry in particular compared with our competitors. This shows up particularly in the textile world because competition is so internationally cut-throat that even 1p a yard makes all the difference. In some other industries the difference in burdens that must be borne is not so obvious in the market.

There are, of course, the great burdens of high interest rates and the high rate of exchange, which were referred to yesterday. I cannot discuss them again tonight but I support completely the reasons for them although they impose a particular burden on all our industry.

There are other burdens that have been imposed by successive Governments and some that are about to be increased by this Government. These burdens seem to break the camel's back. First, there is the intolerable burden of increasing local government and water rates. These are increased every year because industry has no vote. That is taxation without representation. This burden is now falling with increasing velocity on British industry, and it is a burden that industry in Europe and America does not bear.

Secondly, there is the increased burden of energy costs—costs which our competitors do not have to bear. This is a negative subsidy given to our competitors in Germany and elsewhere because industrial consumers there are not taxed at the same rate as ours. The Secretary of State for Industry should be having a considerable argument with the Secretary of State for Energy who is determined to keep up the net cost of energy to our industry in a way that does not happen among our competitors, not so much because their industry is charged less but because it is taxed less on the energy it consumes.

I have also been amazed by the increasing burden on the level of social security contributions falling on industry. Hitherto, British industry has been somewhat better off than some of our competitors. Even that small advantage is apparently to be removed by the proposal, for example, that the first eight weeks of sickness of any employee is to be paid for by the employer. One may say that is a small burden. It is, nevertheless, an increase on British productive industry at a time when the burdens are already far too great.

I understand the motives. The old motives were that one must temper rates to the individual domestic ratepayer, whether water rates or general rates, and impose the burden on industry because industry's shoulders seemed much broader. Straw after straw has been placed on the broad shoulders of industry in rates and energy costs and now social security contributions. The last straw is breaking the camel's back.

The effect shows first in the textile industry—the most internationally competitive and the most sensitive. The way to cure this paradox is to take the financial burdens off industry even if individuals have to pay. So long as these enormous and exceptional burdens, in relation to those faced by our competitors, are placed on our manufacturing industry, no amount of tariffs and no amount of fiddling around, one way or another, will help. This is seen in the amount that industry has to pay for its feedstock compared with what the Americans have to pay. It is seen in the amount that industry has to pay for all these charges, including rates and water rates.

We have too many burdens compared with those placed on our industrial competitors. All of our industrial competitors have some of these burdens but none of them has all of the burdens. It is time that we reduced them.

9.13 pm
Mr. Dan Jones () Burnley

I had intended to speak for at least 10 minutes, but because so many of my colleagues still hope to make a contribution I will speak for only five minutes.

I do not believe that the Government know where they are going. We have heard successive leading Ministers talk of the need to work to provide a job. There is a certain logic in that approach. We have heard about people pricing themselves out of a job. Some of us are aware of that situation.

In the textile industry we are dealing with one of the most responsible trade unions in the country. Since the turn of the century there has been no talk of strikes or go-slows or anything that could disrupt industry. The installation of new machinery has been accepted. It seems to me that this is the attitude, on which the Government depend for the economic recovery of our country, that will alone prevent serious repercussions. Yet you are crucifying the industry. Are you really sure where you are going? You have talked about the effect of the MFA and its contribution to rallying the forces of good will in the EEC. It can and should be used to obtain more help. Are you not aware—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

I hate to intervene, but the hon. Gentleman must not accuse me of anything.

Mr. Jones

I would not dare, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am going at a pace because I promised to be brief.

Just before the last election the authorities in Brussels made a statement about burden sharing. Can the Minister say truthfully that the Government have used the forces of good will for that purpose? The answer should be given. Frankly, we have been ruthlessly deceived by burden sharing. There is no doubt about that.

The instrument to which I refer has been used to the advantage of the EEC. Can it be said that the textile industries of France and the Low Countries have suffered like the British textile industry? I expect the Minister to give an answer.

My constituency has made as great a contribution to the nation's well-being as any other. Today, as a result of the joint machinations of both parties, instead of producing more textiles before breakfast than any other part of the country pro- duced in the rest of the day, textile production has been almost decimated.

Do the Government really think that the economy, which is so precariously poised, can stand what they are doing? In 1947 the people of Burnley, when given an alternative form of work, were asked to stick loyally to textiles. They did that. The Government are now rewarding them with bankruptcy.

The Government will suffer as they have made the people suffer. I know something about that because I was unemployed for five years. If Ministers had been in that position, their attitude would be distinctly different.

9.19 pm
Mr. Nicholas Winterton () Macclesfield

I shall try to be brief. I wish to make it clear that I shall not support the Government tonight. I intend to abstain. I shall certainly not support the Opposition, because I believe that successive Governments have neglected the textile industry. I feel deeply about the problems of the industry. I should have little or no credibility if I voted for the motion or the amendment. I am critical because the cant and hypocrisy that we have heard from the mouths of Ministers in successive Governments have let down one of the most important and strategic industries in Britain.

I quote one or two figures that have not been mentioned in the debate because not all the facts have been put to the House. Mills have been closing at an alarming rate this year—a fact mentioned by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith). In the cotton sector alone mills have been closing at the rate of two a week. That is a serious state of affairs.

Between March 1979 and March 1980, 40,000 textile jobs were lost. In the same period, 8,000 jobs were lost in the cotton and allied sector. The rate of job loss in the textile industry is increasing month by month, and over 11,000 textile workers in the North-West are on temporary short-time working compensation. Sadly, many of them are likely to lose their jobs unless the scheme is extended.

Among the mills that have closed, or are in danger of closing, are many owned by highly efficient firms, which have installed the latest capital intensive plant and machinery.

Rev. Ian Paisley () Antrim, North

Is the hon. Member aware of the serious situation in the textile industry in Northern Ireland? It once made up to 30 per cent. of the whole of the United Kingdom textile industry, but now it has almost disappeared.

Mr. Winterton

I am aware of the extremely serious situation in Northern Ireland. The economy of Northern Ireland is greatly dependent upon textiles, which is one of the largest industries in that part of the United Kingdom. Many communities, not least that represented by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), are dependent upon this important industry.

In the last 10 months, 18,000 clothing sector workers have lost their jobs, and it is estimated that between 70,000 and 80,000 in that sector are now working short-time.

I wish to refer briefly to the evolution of MFA II, because I have followed and monitored it since it came into force. I pick up the comment made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. Cockeram), who spoke as a respected retailer; that the problem facing the clothing industry is the threat posed by low-cost imports, which account for 74 per cent. of total imports of clothing into this country. Whether or not the amount of imported cloning is great, the problems faced by our industry are the result, chiefly, of low-cost imports.

I wish to mention the enlargement of the Community—a matter that has not been touched upon in the debate. The enlargement of the EEC will pose a serious threat to our industry. As often happens in Community affairs, the main focus of attention in discussions on enlargement has been on agriculture and horticulture. I believe that the implications of enlargement are far more important for the textile and clothing industries, because they employ more workers than our agriculture and horticulture industries together.

It is vital that the accession treaties for Portugal and Spain—Greece is about to join the Community on agreed terms—should make specific proposals for trade in textiles and clothing if the entry of those countries into the Community is to be orderly and a positive step forward for Europe. The overriding political objective of bolstering democracy in those countries will not be achieved by allowing the markets of the Nine to be disrupted, with added unemployment posing a threat to the political stability of the EEC. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will deal with the question of the enlargement of the Community when he replies to the debate.

I wish to make a number of proposals to the Government, all of which I hope will be taken on board. I recommend that the Government extend the short-time working compensation scheme, and that they improve its terms. They should give a firm and positive commitment to a new MFA which includes a recession clause. They should in due course introduce temporary selective import controls. In making that last proposal I remind my hon. Friends on the Front Bench that it is supported by the industry as a whole and by the Confederation of British Industry. I am not advocating those proposals just as a maverick from the Government Benches.

I also believe that, failing a fairly dramatic reduction in interest rates in the near future, a two-tier interest rate system should be introduced to assist industry, and the textile and clothing industries in particular. The Government must consider the use of non-tariff barriers, such as a much stricter licensing system for imports like that used by France.

We must have much more effective origin marking and commodity labelling. I want to back Britain and buy British. I hope that I am a walking and living advertisement for British clothing. I am wearing a light worsted suit that was made in Yorkshire. My shoes came from Northampton. My shirt was made in Congleton, in my constituency. My tie was made in Lancashire, and is the tie of the all-party cotton and allied textiles group. I am delighted that it is being worn by a number of my colleagues in the House today. My underclothes—St. Michael—were obviously also made in this country. I want to back our country, and I want our people to buy British.

Mr. John Farr () Harborough

Is my hon. Friend aware that he is never properly dressed unless he is wearing something from Leicester?

Mr. Winterton

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that observation.

I believe that the Government's proposals for origin marking are inadequate, and I should like to put one proposal in this respect. All garments should indicate whether they were manufactured in the United Kingdom. They should say "Made in the United Kingdom"—or "Scotland", "Wales" or "Northern Ireland" if that is more appropriate. All goods from abroad should be marked "Foreign", because how many people want to buy foreign goods when they have the chance to buy British?

Retail outlets should be obliged by law to display notices indicating what percentage of the goods they sell are produced in the United Kingdom. The industry can help in the "Back Britain—Buy British" campaign by promoting itself. The TUC could encourage its members to buy British as well.

Why can we not have a two-tier system of VAT—one for home-produced goods and one for imports? Why not use, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) suggested, our North Sea oil revenues to aid all British industry by no longer charging it above the odds for energy, which puts it in an uncompetitive position in trade abroad?

9.28 pm
Mr. James Molyneaux () Antrim, South

Yesterday the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) referred to redundancies in Courtaulds and in what he described as about another dozen textile factories in Northern Ireland. He seemed to imply that these difficulties were due to the Government's economic policies, and there was more than an implication that the problems could be resolved if the Labour Party's policies were adopted. I have to submit, however, that those aspects of economic policy that we were debating yesterday have relatively little bearing on the problems of Courtaulds, ICI and other man-made fibre concerns in Northern Ireland. We are tonight discussing a quite different area of Government policy, one from which the Opposition have not yet sufficiently distanced themselves. I refer to Britain's membership of the EEC.

On 10 June, my right hon. and hon. Friends and I tabled a motion which read: That in the opinion of this House the internal régime of the European Economic Community prevents measures of textile import control from outside the Community having the intended effect in assisting the British textile industry; and this House calls on Her Majesty's Government to ensure that additional measures to meet this problem are taken either by the Community or by the United Kingdom. Unless that reality is faced, all the chatter about safeguards and assistance will be valueless. We have been assured that two anti-dumping cases have been opened by the EEC Commission, but how long will that take, and how effective will be the resultant action? In February 1980 the EEC Commission decided to limit imports of various man-made fibres into the United Kingdom. The results have been totally inadequate.

With regard to the free circulation of goods within the Community, it is said that mechanisms exist to deal with the problem, but representatives of the various branches of the textile industry in Northern Ireland inform us that this is their main difficulty. From the point of view of the textile industry in Northern Ireland the safeguards are not working. In the short term, the Government have a duty, as we say in our motion, to ensure that additional measures … are taken either by the Community or by the United Kingdom Government.

The right hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Mr. Smith) almost boasted that in certain aspects of Community policy he and his colleagues had pulled the Government round. Perhaps I could suggest that when he has pulled the Government round full circle he should wholeheartedly join us in endeavouring to pull them out of the Community. That is the only effective way of restoring our freedom of action to put British interests first.

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

The Secretary of State concluded his speech with what was clearly meant to be a clarion call. He said that there will be no U-turns, and no changes of policy. There was no waving of Order Papers tonight from the Government Benches. Tonight hon. Members from textile constituencies showed their deep concern about the direction of the Government's economic policies. There was opposition from the Labour Benches, and doubts—even fears—from Conservative Members in marginal textile constituencies.

This has been an important debate about one of the largest groups of industries in the United Kingdom. It bears repeating that textiles employ over 400,000 workers, and that the clothing industry employs over 300,000 workers—a combined total of over 700,000 workers, or 10 per cent of manufacturing industry. Together they export well over £2 billion worth of goods. By all agreement in the House tonight, these are key industries in the nation. There are few urban constituencies where some employment in clothing and textiles is not to be found, although there are particular concentrations in West Yorkshire, the North-West, the East Midlands and Northern Ireland.

The loss of jobs has been of frightening proportions since the electorate so unwisely voted this Government into office 14 months ago. Over 50,000 jobs have been lost in textiles, and about 25,000 in clothing. Over 75,000 jobs have been destroyed, tens of thousands more people are on short-time working, and even more workers are worried about the security of their employment. Virtually all sections of the textile industry have suffered—man-made fibres, cotton and linen, woollen and worsteds, knitting, carpets, finishing and clothing, particularly men's and women's outer wear and women's dresses.

Figures that were issued by Credit Insurers "Trade Indemnity" this month show that textile and clothing companies lead the growing queue of businesses in the bankruptcy courts. There was a 46 per cent. increase in the number of business failures in the first six months of this year compared with last year. The number of textile and clothing firms going broke more than doubled in the first six months of this year. The monthly survey of trends in textiles and clothing, conducted jointly by the CBI and the National Economic Development Office, not only highlights the enormous loss of confidence by those businesses over the last 14 months but forecasts further substantial decline. The last survey, published in June, showed 76 per cent. of firms with order books below normal, 68 per cent. with export orders below normal and 61 per cent. holding excessive stocks.

Next Wednesday, the July trends for these industries will be published, and they are firmly expected to show further rapid deterioration. In April 1979 a clear majority of firms in these industries were optimistic about business prospects, with order books above normal, and the volume of new orders rising. It is not good enough to deny that this is the fault of Government policies. At local level these nation-wide figures mean closed mills and factories, lost jobs to towns and communities—scarcely an area untouched. Weekly, almost daily, the list grows—50 or 100 jobs lost here; 900 or 1,000 jobs lost there.

Last year, the Secretary of State for Industry took pleasure in withdrawing regional assistance from large areas of the country. Now, just a few months later, many of the areas which are losing Government help are the very textile areas which are now suffering so badly from the result of these Government policies. Across the country unemployment has risen by an appalling 44 per cent. since the Tories took office. That is bad enough, but in the textile towns the rise in jobless has been even worse. In West Yorkshire, we have seen unemployment rise by 77 per cent. in Keighley, 83 per cent. in Dewsbury and Batley, 91 per cent. in Hudderstield, and 92 per cent. in Halifax.

In the North-West, the rise in unemployment has been 68 per cent. in Bolton. It has been 87 per cent. in Preston. I do not see the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. Atkins) in his seat tonight. It has been 95 per cent. in Oldham, and 102 per cent. in Nelson. I am not surprised that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Lee) is to abstain tonight. He should have courage and vote against the Government. In Accrington, there has been a shocking increase in unemployment of 110 percent.

All the towns that I have mentioned are losing assisted area status at the very time that it is needed most. I ask the Secretary of State for Industry to look again at his policies. Now is not the time to be cutting regional aid to increasingly hard-pressed areas. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the position of the worst-hit textile areas as a matter of urgency.

There is also uncertainty about the Government's intentions regarding the short-time working compensation scheme, which employers and trade unions, as the Ministers know, wish to see maintained and strengthened in a number of ways. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Mr. Smith) mentioned this in his opening speech and I shall be most grateful if the Minister will deal with it. I hope to see the Secretary of State for Employment respond quickly and sympathetically to the representations being made to him on this matter.

The British Textile Confederation, in its latest note to Members of Parliament, has said candidly that For many firms, renewal of the MFA after 1981 is an academic question. Their problem is to survive until then. I shall turn shortly to the question of the immediate future but I should like first to deal briefly with the international trading position of these industries. Trade Ministers have not helped confidence in the industries, nor their negotiating position within the EEC machinery, by the appearance they gave of half-hearted foot-dragging over the need for a firmer renewal of the MFA and the bilateral agreements when they expire at the end of 1981 and 1982 respectively.

There are many issues on which dissatisfaction exists with the present working of the trade arrangements. Many have been voiced this evening, such as the need for a recession clause to prevent increasing imports compounding the difficulties of depressed home markets; the treatment of imports from the Mediterranean associate countries and the consequences of the entry of Spain and Portugal into the EEC; political pricing by COMECON countries; the abuse of free circulation within the EEC; outward processing; unreasonably high barriers to our own exports of textiles and clothing. I welcome from the Opposition Dispatch Box the statements made earlier by the Secretary of State and the efforts that are being made on this last matter. These are all vital matters on which the industry is looking tonight for clear and strong Government support. I hope that the Minister will give a view on these and not hide behind the veil of secrecy of negotiations.

There remains the suspicion that the only country playing to the rules is Britain—a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. White). The impression is frequently given that the Government and the European Commission are unable and unwilling to control and police adequately the existing arrangements.

The tragedy is that on top of the worry caused by import penetration and difficult international trading conditions, the industry is in even deeper trouble as a result of the Government's deflationary economic policies. Within weeks of coming into office the Government had doubled VAT. Within a few months the living standards of all but the wealthiest began to slump. We had the remarkable sight of winter sales starting before Christmas last year as shops tried to unload unsold stocks.

The Government's rigid monetarist stance with punitive interest rates and their use of North Sea oil revenues to finance deflation and unemployment rather than investment and growth have together led to a grossly overvalued pound, which makes exporting increasingly difficult and competing with imports often impossible. The Government's reckless disregard of the effects of the overvalued exchange rates upon manufacturing industry, such as textiles and clothing, is already causing considerable problems. I believe that the overvalued pound will wreak havoc over the nex few months.

For textiles and clothing the recession is already well under way. There is no sign of the slump levelling out, let alone turning upwards, as the Government appear to hope. Indeed, recession is gathering pace into a downward spiral. When will the economy recover? When will the textile and clothing industries see the bottom of this apparently bottomless pit?

Perhaps the Government will say that these problems are not their fault. Perhaps the doubling of VAT, record high interest rates, the overvalued pound and depressed demand are not the causes of the slump in textiles and clothing. I do not think that any Opposition Members will seriously believe that. Perhaps it is the fault of the workers in these industries. Perhaps they have not been listening to the Prime Minister's advice. Perhaps they do not understand monetarism.

The record of the textile and clothing industries bears stating clearly. Earnings are typically £10 to £20 a week below those in manufacturing industry as a whole. The number of days lost in strikes has been far below the national average for decades. Last year, less than half of 1 per cent. of all working days lost were in textiles, clothing and footwear. Throughout the 1970s productivity per head increased significantly faster in those industries than in manufacturing as a whole. The unions have co-operated fully in technological change, labour-saving investment and rationalisation schemes. Carpet industry workers settled for a 10 per cent. wage increase in January. In March the wool textile workers settled for 14 per cent. The cotton and allied workers settled for 14 per cent. in May. Those settlements are well below the rate of inflation, as workers take cuts in real income and fight desperately to save their jobs.

Yet, despite low wages, moderate pay settlements, better than average productivity and industrial relations, those industries have lost 75,000 jobs at the hands of the Tory Government. It is often the modern, efficient mills which are closing or working short time. Investment is falling—the very seedcorn of the future growth which the Government hope will come about as a result of their policies. The textile and clothing industries have records which stand the test of close examination.

The Government must stop blaming others for the consequences of their policies. Is it any wonder that workers and their families—even employers—are desperately worried, even frightened, about their future? In April, the director-general of the British Textile Employers' Association told the Prime Minister that the industry was in the middle of a crisis of near disaster proportions. What further advice and moralising do Ministers have to offer those workers and industries? Are they to have no pay increases? Are they to move—unemployed textile workers swapping homes with unemployed steel workers? Is not the truth that the Government need to move to policies based on expansion, not deflation, and to policies which strengthen, not destroy, these two great industries?

I ask the House to support the Opposition's motion.

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

I join with hon. Members on both sides of the House in congratulating the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. Woolmer) on his first appearance at the Opposition Dispatch Box, and on the assured and knowledgeable way in which he presented his case. It will come as no surprise to him when, in the course of my remarks, I demonstrate that I do not agree with much of what he said—but we all admire the way that he said it.

I shall deal immediately with the question of origin marking, raised by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) and others. He asked when we would bring forward our proposals. We were bound to put the proposals forward for consultation, and we did so. The consultation period ends tomorrow. As my right hon. Friend the Minister for Consumer Affairs said on 21 May, after the full representations have been considered she intends to prepare draft orders with a view to putting them before Parliament in the autumn. That is the Government's plan.

The Government, like their predecessors, are in no doubt about the importance to our economy of the textile and clothing industries. They are important as employers, as suppliers to our home market, and as exporters. I stress that our home industry still supplies 70 per cent. of the home market. My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) is doing his best to raise the national average. At one stage in his speech I thought that he intended to undress to prove that we could rely on what he was saying. I am doing exactly the same. I shall not undress, but I am wearing the same proportion of British clothes. I repeat that our industry supplies 70 per cent. of our considerable home market.

As various hon. Members said, the industry exports more than £2,000 million worth of goods a year to markets all over the world. Everybody in the House recognises that the industry is going through a tough time. I can claim to have seen more textile delegations in recent weeks than I have had hot dinners. The basis of that claim is not that I have suddenly been converted to cold meals. There is no shortage of knowledge in the Government about the problems of the industry.

Opposition Members suggested that to-tonight they would reveal, for the first time, some strange truth that we have never heard before. They have been misled. I have seen innumerable delegations, visited many parts of the country, and discussed the problems of the industry with management, labour and representatives of federations. We know the problems. The Opposition try to claim that one of the causes of the industry's problems is that, somehow or other, the Government have exposed the industry to unfair foreign competition of a nature that they were protected from by the Labour Administration. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, in his typically gentle and uncontroversial style, destroyed that claim. But other Opposition Members repeated the allegation.

A number of my hon. Friends, including the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Lee), commented on the weakness of the present multi-fibre arrangements. We do not deny that. My right hon. Friend and I have spent a considerable time during the past few months strengthening the existing arrangements. That is why we introduced the 32 new quotas. That is why we used article 115, which restricts the free circulation of goods that might undermine the national quotas. That is why we have used it on a regular basis. That is why—I say this to the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Jones)—free circulation has not undermined the quotas. We have monitored them very carefully. We estimate that free circulation has, at most, added 1 per cent. to the flow of the quota goods. In making that assertion we take no account of the goods that have come in here and left under free circulation, and we know that they represent a fair proportion.

Mr. Dan Jones

Why, then, is the industry being decimated?

Mr. Parkinson

That is why we have negotiated new arrangements for Malta, Cyprus and Mauritius. There were gaps in the MFA arrangements, and we spent a considerable time plugging those gaps.

The right hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Mr. Smith) was in charge of the Department of Trade during the negotiation of the terms for Greek accession. With his strong views about the need to be tough, one would have expected him to drive a very hard bargain for Britain. In fact, he drove no bargain at all. Our only defence against a possible flood of imports from that source is a weak safeguard clause which he must have known it would be virtually impossible to use. Having learnt from the right hon. Gentleman's mistakes, the present Government have set about, in our negotiations with Spain and Portugal, achieving as a prime objective proper transitional arrangements which will give our industry some safeguards.

I am getting rather tired of defending at this Dispatch Box the right hon. Gentleman's own achievements to him. He knows full well that he wanted to have a recession clause in the last MFA. He knows that he and his predecessor, Mr. Edmund Dell, failed to obtain one. I accept the arguments of hon. Members on both sides of the House that it is absurd to have a policy based on a set of assumptions which are subsequently proved to be wrong and yet to continue to work on the basis that the original assumptions were correct. That is why we shall seek in the renegotiations to obtain a reasonable safeguard against this type of problem. We recognise, as the right hon. Gentleman does, that this is a problem, and we shall do our best to deal with it.

Mr. Dan Jones

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Parkinson

I should prefer not to give way, if the hon. Gentleman does not mind.

A number of my hon. Friends have asked about a successor to the present MFA and about the Government's proposals. We have always been committed to seeking a successor. The Prime Minister has confirmed that we shall be seeking a tough successor, and we are pledged to doing so in close consultation with the industry. Let there be no doubt at all about the Government's position on the successor to the MFA. We have made our position clear on a number of occasions. I should like to underline our commitment tonight.

But one has the feeling that at the heart of Opposition Members' complaints—the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Whitlock) spelt this out—is a fundamental hypocrisy, which I find distasteful. The Labour Party persistently demands discrimination against the products of low-cost suppliers. I find it a strange argument, from a party that pretends to care, that it should demand that we should ban products produced by other countries on the ground that they are produced by people who are poorer than we are. Labour Members persistently use this argument about low cost. They are actually saying that it is a crime in the modern world to be poor, and that if one is poor one deserves to be discriminated against. I find that particularly hard—

Mr. Straw


Mr. Parkinson

—to take from a party that couples this total lack of concern about developing countries with criticism of us for the fact that we have reduced our aid programme.

The truth is that trade and access to our markets are absolutely vital for the developing countries. If Opposition Members want a harder-headed reason for maintaining our markets for low-cost countries in the controlled way in which they are maintained now, I would point out that it is in our own interests to do so. Only one-third of the products that we import from those countries are manufactures. The rest are raw materials.

Mr. Frank Haynes () Ashfield

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Parkinson

Ninety per cent. of all our exports to those countries are manufactures. That is why we have a surplus of more than £2,000 million in manufactures in our trade with low-cost suppliers.

The multi-fibre arrangement recognises the need to control the flow of imports, and as a result of that arrangement imports are controlled at about 12 per cent. of our market. Although there are flaws in the arrangements, and although they sometimes do not work as well as they could on some occasions, we work hard to strengthen them in order to make them work better. But, on the whole, the arrangements are effective, and low-cost imports represent only about 12 per cent. of our market, which was the intention when the policy was negotiated.

Let there be no misunderstanding about this. We have had a lot of passion and breast-beating tonight from various Opposition Members. The truth is that on a day-by-day basis we work very hard to ensure that our market is not flooded by low-cost imports and that those which come in do so under control. Where there is fraud, we seek it out. We intend to strengthen the Government's capability for seeking out fraud, and we take action regularly.

Mr. Straw


Mr. Parkinson

The second strand of criticism was criticism of the Government because sterling was strong, and interest rates and the rate of inflation high. The hon. Member for Batley and Morley seemed to suggest that the Government should embark on a big spending policy as a way of dealing with our problems. That would certainly be a way of lowering the rate of exchange, because it would be a way of announcing to the world at large that the Government had abandoned their economic policies and that they accepted that a Britain in which hyperinflation was a permanent feature of our existence was the only Britain which it was possible for a Government to have—

Mr. Haynes

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister is deliberately misleading the House—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. That is not a point of order. It is a debating point.

Mr. Parkinson

Whenever the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) speaks in the House, the only thing that he manages to prove is that he has a very loud voice.

The truth is, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister pointed out last night, that there is nothing unnatural about a high rate of interest at a time of high inflation. A rate of interest that does not reflect the rate of inflation is a fraud on the saver and an encouragement to the spendthrift, and is no basis for a sound money policy. The Government are determined to restore soundness to the nation's currency. The truth is that those who are basing their expectations on a fall in the rate of exchange are wasting their time.

Mr. Arthur Davidson () Accrington


Mr. Parkinson

The Government have no intention of abandoning their economic policies. They believe that public spending must be properly controlled. They believe that a proper rate of interest should be charged. The Government recognise that only by getting inflation under control is there any hope for the country.

As one talks to business men and discusses the problem with them, one hears

Division No. 438] AYES [10 pm
Abse, Leo Dobson, Frank Horam, John
Adams, Allen Dormand, Jack Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)
Allaun, Frank Douglas, Dick Huckfield, Les
Alton, David Douglas-Mann, Bruce Hudson Davies, Ednyfed (Caerphilly)
Anderson, Donald Dubs, Alfred Hughes, Mark (Durham)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Duffy, A. E. P. Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ernest Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale) Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Dunnett, Jack Janner, Hon Greville
Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham) Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth Jay, Rt Hon Douglas
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Eadie, Alex John, Brynmor
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Eastham, Ken Johnson, James (Hull west)
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) Johnson, Walter (Derby South)
Beith. A. J. Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire) Johnston, Russell (Inverness)
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) English, Michael Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Bidwell, Sydney Ennals, Rt Hon David Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Evans, loan (Aberdare) Kerr, Russell
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Evans, John (Newton) Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur (M'brough) Faulds, Andrew Kinnock, Neil
Bradley, Tom Field, Frank Lambie, David
Bray, Or Jeremy Fitch, Alan Lamborn. Harry
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Fitt, Gerard Leadbitter, Ted
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Flannery, Martin Leighton, Ronald
Brown, Ronald W. (Hackney S) Fletcher, L. R. (Ilkeston) Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh, Leith) Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Lewis, Arthur (Newham North West)
Buchan, Norman Foot, Rt Hon Michael Lotthouse, Geoffrey
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE) Ford, Ben Lyon, Alexander (York)
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Forrester, John Lyons, Edward (Bradford west)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Foster, Derek Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson
Cant, R. B. Foulkes, George McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Carmichael, Neil Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood) McElhone, Frank
Carter-Jones, Lewis Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Cartwright, John Freud, Clement McKeivey, William
Clark, Dr. David (South Shields) Garrett, John (Norwich S) MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Maclennan, Robert
Cohen, Stanley George, Bruce McNally, Thomas
Concannon, Rt Hun J. D. Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John McNamara, Kevin
Cook, Robin F. Ginsburg, David McQuade, John
Cox, Tom (Wandsworth, Tooting) Golding, John McWilliam, John
Craigen, J. M. (Glasgow, Maryhill) Gourlay, Harry Magee, Bryan
Crowther, J. S. Graham, Ted Marks, Kenneth
Cryer, Bob Grant, George (Morpeth) Marshall, David (Gl'sgow, Shottles'n)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Grimond, Rt Hon J. Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Cunningham, George (Islington S) Hamilton. W. W. (Central Fife) Marshall, Jim (Leicester South)
Dalyell, Tam Hardy, Peter Martin, Michael (Gl'gow, Springb'rn)
Davidson, Arthur Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Mason, Rt Hon Hoy
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Maynard, Miss Joan
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Meacher, Michael
Davis, Clinton (Hackney Central) Haynes, Frank Mellish, Rt Hon Robert
Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford) Healey, Rt Hon Denis Mikardo, Ian
Deakins, Eric Heffer, Eric S. Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Holland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall) Miller, Dr M. S. (East Kilbride)
Dempsey, James Home Robertson, John Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)
Dewar, Donald Homewood, William Mitchll, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)
Dixon, Donald Hooley, Frank Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshawe)

them freely admit that an exchange rate at the present level coupled with a reasonable rate of inflation, would not be a problem and that it is the rate of inflation which is the principal threat to our exports. The Opposition—

Mr. James Hamilton (Bothwell) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

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

The House divided: Aves 252, Noes 309.

Adley, Robert Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Gorst, John
Ailken, Jonathan Cockeram, Eric Gow, Ian
Alexander, Richard Colvin, Michael Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Cope, John Gray, Hamish
Ancram, Michael Cormack, Patrick Greenway, Harry
Arnold, Tom Corrie, John Grieve, Percy
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Costain, A. P. Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds)
Atkins, Robert (Preston North) Cranborne, Viscount Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East) Critchley, Julian Grist, Ian
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Crouch, David Grylis, Michael
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Dean, Paul (North Somerset) Gummer, John Selwyn
Banks, Robert Dickens, Geoffrey Hamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll)
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Dorrell, Stephen Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Bendall, Vivian Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Hampson, Dr Keith
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Dover, Denshore Hannam, John
Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon) du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Haselturst, Alan
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Hastings, Stephen
Bevan, David Gilroy Durant, Tony Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Biffen, Rt Hon John Dykes, Hugh Hawkins, Paul
Biggs-Davison, John Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Hawksley, Warren
Blackburn, John Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke) Heddle, John
Body, Richard Eggar, Timothy Henderson, Barry
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Elliott, Sir William Heseltlne, Rt Hon Michael
Boscawen, Hon Robert Emery, Peter Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.

Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West) Eyre, Reginald Hill, James
Bowden, Andrew Fairbairn, Nicholas Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Fairgrieve, Russell Holland, Philip (Carlton)
Braine, Sir Bernard Faith, Mrs Sheila Hooson, Tom
Bright, Graham Farr, John Hordern, Peter
Brinton, Tim Fell, Anthony Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Brittan, Leon Fenner, Mrs Peggy Howell, Rt Hon David (Guildford)
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Finsberg, Geoffrey Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Brooke, Hon Peter Fisher, Sir Nigel Hunt, David (Wirral)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe) Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N) Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Browne, John (Winchester) Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Hurd, Hon Douglas
Bruce-Gardyne, John Fookes, Miss Janet Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)
Bryan, Sir Paul Forman, Nigel Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Buchanan-Smith, Hon Alick Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Jessel, Toby
Budgen, Nick Fox, Marcus Johnson Smith, Geoffrey
Bulmer, Esmond Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Butcher, John Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Butler, Hon Adam Fry, Peter Kaberry, Sir Donald
Cadbury, Jocelyn Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoin) Gardiner, George (Reigate) Kershaw, Anthony
Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn) Gardner, Edward (South Fylde) King, Rt Hon Tom
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Garel-Jones, Tristan Kitson, Sir Timothy
Channon, Paul Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Knight, Mrs Jill
Chapman, Sydney Glyn, Dr Alan Knox, David
Churchill, W. S. Goodhart, Philip Lamont, Norman
Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Goodhew, Victor Lang, Ian
Clark, Sir William (Croydon Gouth) Goodlad, Alastair Langford-Holt, Sir John
Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw) Roper, John Thomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)
Morton, George Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Moyle, Rt Hon Roland Rowlands, Ted Tilley, John
Newens, Stanley Ryman, John Tinn, James
Oakes, Rt Hon. Gordon Sandelson, Neville Torney, Tom
Ogden, Eric Sever, John Urwin, Rt Hon Tom
O'Halloran, Michael Sheerman, Barry Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.

Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert (A'ton-u-L) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Short, Rt Hon Peter (Step and Pop) Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Paisley, Rev Ian Short, Mrs Reneé Walker, Rt Hon Harold (Doncaster)
Palmer, Arthur Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford) Weetch, Ken
Park, George Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Duiwlch) Welsh, Michael
Parker, John Silverman, Julius White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)
Parry, Robert Skinner, Dennis White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Pavitt, Laurie Smith, Cyril (Rochdale) Whitehead, Phillip
Pendry, Tom Smith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire) Whitlock, William
Penhaligon, David Snape, Peter Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) Soley, Clive Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Prescott, John Spearing, Nigel Williams, Sir Thomas (Warringon)
Price, Christopher (Lewisham West) Stallard, A. W. Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Race, Reg Steel, Rt Hon David Winnick, David
Radice, Giles Stewart, Rt Hon Donald (W Isles) Woodall. Alec
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South) Stoddard, David Woolmer, Kenneth
Richardson, Jo Stott, Roger Wrigglesworth, Ian
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Straw, Jack Wright, Sheila
Roberts, Alan (Bootle) Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley Young, David (Bolton East)
Roberts, Ernest (Hackney North) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)
Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Robinson, Geotfrey (Coventry NW) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertlllery) Mr. James Hamilton and
Rodgers, Rt Hon William Thomas, Mike (Newcastle East) Mr. Donald Coleman.
Rooker, J. W.
Latham, Michael Normanton, Tom Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Lawrence. Ivan Nott, Rt Hon John Spicer, Michael (S Worcesetershir)
Lawson, Nigel Onslow, Cranley Sproat, Iain
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs Sally Squire, Robin
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Osborn, John Stainton, Keith
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Page, John (Harrow, West) Stanbrook, Ivor
Lloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo) Page, Rt Hon Sir Graham (Crosby) Stanley, John
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Page, Richard (SW Hertfordshire) Steen, Anthony
Loveridge, John Parkinson, Cecil Stevens, Martin
Luce, Richard Parris, Matthew Stewart, Ian (Hitchln)
Lyell, Nicholas Patten, Christopher (Bath) Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)
McCrindle, Robert Patten, John (Oxford) Stokes, John
Mactarlane, Neil Pattie, Geoffrey Stradling Thomas, J.

MacGregor, John Pawsey, James Tapsell, Peter
MacKay, John (Argyll) Percival, Sir Ian Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)
Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Peyton, Rt Hon John Taylor, Teddy (Southend East)
McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury) Pink, R. Bonner Temple-Morris, Peter
McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Pollock, Alexander Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
McQuarrie, Albert Porter, George Thomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)
Madel, David Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Thompson, Donald
Major, John Price, David (Eastleigh) Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Marland, Paul Prior, Rt Hon James Thornton, Malcolm
Marlow, Tony Proctor, K. Harvey Townend, John (Bridlington)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Rathbone, Tim Van Straubenzee, W. R.

Marten, Nell (Banbury) Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal) Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Mates, Michael Rees-Davies, W. R. Viggers, Peter
Mather, Carol Renton, Tim Waddington, David
Maude, Rt Hon Angus Rhodes James, Robert Wakeham, John
Mawby, Ray Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Waldegrave, Hon William
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Ridsdale, Julian Walker, Rt Hon. Peter (Worcester)
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Rifkind, Malcolm Waker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)
Mayhew, Patrick Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Mellor, David Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW) Waller, Gary
Meyer, Sir Anthony Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Walters, Dennis
Mills, lain (Meriden) Rossi, Hugh Ward, John
Mills, Peter (West Devon) Rost, Peter Warren, Kenneth
Miscampbell, Norman Royle, Sir Anthony Watson, John
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Wells, John (Maidstone)
Moate, Roger St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon Norman Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)
Monro, Hector Scott, Nicholas Wheeler, John
Montgomery, Fergus Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Moore, John Shaw, Michael (Scarborough) Whitney, Raymond
Morgan, Geraint Shelton, William (Streatham) Wickenden, Keith
Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Wiggin, Jerrry
Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes) Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br hills) Wilkinson, John
Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester) Shersby, Michael Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)
Mudd, David Silvester, Fred Wolfson, Mark
Murphy, Christopher Sims, Roger Young, Sir George (Acton)
Myles, David Skeet, T. H. H. Younger, Rt Hon George
Neale, Gerrard Smith, Dudley (War, and Leam'ton)
Needham, Richard Speed, Keith TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Nelson, Anthony Speller, Tony Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and
Neubert, Michael Spence, John Mr. Anthony Berry.
Newton, Tony

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).


That this House welcomes the Government's continuing commitment to support, wherever possible, the textile and clothing industries under the existing Multi-Fibre Arrangement which was both negotiated and accepted by the previous Labour Government; acknowledges that the Government has negotiated through the European Community a number of new restraint arrangements in addition to 32 new quotas on imports from other suppliers since it came into office; expresses its concern at the continuing decline over many years of textile employment; applauds the successful record of the textile and clothing industries in export markets; and believes that the long-term health of the industries can best be restored by the success of the Government's broad economic policies.