HC Deb 27 March 1985 vol 76 cc474-6
18. Mr. Madden

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement about the renewal of the multi-fibre arrangement.

Mr. Channon

The European Commission will have to express a view on behalf of member states in July in the GATT textiles committee discussion as to whether the multi-fibre arrangement should be extended, modified or discontinued. The Government are carefully considering what our policy should be.

Mr. Madden

Does the Minister appreciate that he will continue to get a rough ride from the House on this issue and that some of his hon. Friends will describe his replies as pathetic until he makes one simple statement, namely that the Government are committed to the renewal of the MFA? Will that statement be made within days, weeks or months?

Mr.. Channon

It will be made at an appropriate time, and clearly it will be made before July, when the decision has to be taken.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind the last report of the Select Committee on Trade and Industry on Britain's export and import performance, and the importance attached in it to maintaining the MFA because of the practices of many of our competitors outside Europe, particularly in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia?

Mr. Channon

We shall naturally want to study what the Select Committee has said, and I shall take particular note of my hon. Friend's point.

Mr. Crowther

Will the Minster bear in mind that a large percentage—probably more than 50 per cent.—of all the textile and clothing imports to this country come from developed countries, not from the MFA countries? What are the Government proposing to do about assisting the textile industry to compete with those countries?

Mr. Channon

The hon. Gentleman has drawn attention to a very important point. It is perfectly true that a large number of imports of textiles come from developed countries that are in no way covered by the MFA. The House must address its mind to that problem, and not only to the problem relating to the MFA.

Mr. Bowen Wells

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the textile industry that is most successful is that which is not protected? Is it not able to export to Hong Kong and Japan textiles made in this country? It has benefited most, and so have the consumers benefited by that activity.

Mr. Channon

There was certainly an extremely successful exhibition, sale and sales promotion of British textiles and clothing in Hong Kong not long ago, so. I agree with my hon. Friend on that point.