Hong Kong Textiles

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Commerce – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22 January 1959.

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Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford East 12:00, 22 January 1959

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the agreement limiting Hong Kong textile imports into Great Britain.

Photo of Mr David Eccles Mr David Eccles , Chippenham

Hon. Members will have read with satisfaction of the successful conclusion of the negotiations between the two industries. The Hong Kong industry has undertaken that during the next three years exports from Hong Kong of cotton piece goods for retention in the United Kingdom shall be restricted to 118 million square yards a year. This figure will, however, be reduced to the extent that exports of made-ups increase above the current level. The Hong Kong Government are bringing the arrangements into operation on the 1st February.

Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford East

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the widely held view in Lancashire that it has been sacrificed by the Government's refusal to impose a ceiling, that as a result many mills will have to close, that no limit has been placed on yarn or made-up goods, and that the ceiling on cloth is far too high?

Photo of Mr David Eccles Mr David Eccles , Chippenham

In my view, representatives of the Cotton Board are to be congratulated on having concluded an agreement—[HON. MEMBERS: "It is not an agreement."]—between the Lancashire industry and the Hong Kong industry. Assuming that the Indian and Pakistani industries also make agreements, as I hope they will, that should provide the stability for which Lancashire has been asking for a long time.

Photo of Mr Cyril Osborne Mr Cyril Osborne , Louth Borough

Will my right hon. Friend consider the word "textile" in this Question and bear in mind the fear that the woollen section will be affected in the same way as cotton has been, remembering that woollen goods are already starting to trickle through from Hong Kong at prices much lower than those at which we can produce in this country?

Photo of Mr David Eccles Mr David Eccles , Chippenham

I assure my hon. Friend that I will watch that position.

Photo of Mr Hervey Rhodes Mr Hervey Rhodes , Ashton-under-Lyne

Does the right hon. Gentleman consider this agreement a suit- able basis for agreement with other countries about other consumer goods when they come along, as they will?

Photo of Mr David Eccles Mr David Eccles , Chippenham

That is a different question. We have deliberately told the Hong Kong Government that this agreement stands by itself and is not a precedent for other agreements.

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that it is misleading to refer to the result of these negotiations as an agreement, since no agreement of any kind was made? Is it not the case that all that has happened is that the Hong Kong people have undertaken for a limited period to limit the export to this country of a small section of the range of goods affected? If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that this is a matter for satisfaction, he is in a minority of one in his opinion.