Textile Council (Dissolution)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th December 1971.

Alert me about debates like this

10.26 p.m.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I beg to move, That the Textile Council (Dissolution) Order 1971, a draft of which was laid before this House on 16th November, be approved. It would be easier if I were to deal with the order briefly and, with the leave of the House, reply to any questions raised in debate. I hope that the House will excuse me, therefore, if I confine myself initially to the dissolution of the council.

I suggest, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it would be appropriate to discuss at the same time the second Motion, That the Textile Council Committee (Discharge) Order 1971, a draft of which was laid before this House on 16th November, be approved. It deals with the dissolution of the Textile Committee. Although it is a separate order, it would be appropriate for both orders to be discussed together.

The council was set up in 1948 under the Industrial Organisation and Development Act, 1947, and originally named the Cotton Board. It has had, therefore, a history of 24 years of distinguished service. I am sure that the House will bear with me if I mention one or two of the salient features of the council's history.

In 1959 the council was concerned with the reorganisation of the cotton industry, through the medium of the committee which is the subject of the second order. It would be appropriate to say that that major reorganisation of the industry, entailing the scrapping of machinery and compensation for redundant workers in the industry, was carried through with great success and great expedition. It is right to pay tribute to Lord Rochdale, who was chairman at that time, and Sir Anthony Burney, who was the executive, the person who put the scheme into effect at that time.

A sum of £38.9 million was spent on the reorganisation of the cotton industry, of which the Government of the time contributed £24.7 million. It did not, I fear, come up to the full expectation and did not go as far as the council had hoped in reorganising the industry. But I feel that undoubtedly the verdict of history will be that this was a successful operation in adaptation, for which the council should be given full credit.

In 1967 it brought into its ambit the man-made fibres and extended its title to be that of the Textile Council. From 1966 to 1969 the council was concerned with a major inquiry into the productivity and efficiency of the textile industry. All who have read the report which it produced will agree that it was a most comprehensive, penetrating and full document, which earned the commendation of all concerned with the cotton textile industry.

Sir Frank Rostron was then Chairman. He was succeeded by Sir James Steel in 1968. The Director-General is Mr. T. D. F. Powell. I should also pay tribute to Mrs. C. M. Miles, who was the independent member of the council who did a great deal of work preparing the report and was responsible for drafting a considerable amount of it. That document was the basis of the reorganisation of the industry which has been taking place, and it led to the suggestion that the tariff should be imposed upon cotton imports from the Commonwealth, a suggestion which was accepted by the Government of the day and confirmed by this Government.

It is now thought appropriate by the council and the vast majority of people in the industry that it should give way to the British Textile Confederation, which will be a wider body embracing further sections of the industry. It is the council itself that has suggested that it should be wound up. The industry believes that it is not suited to present needs, and wishes to have a body covering a wider spread of the industry. This is particularly appropriate now that there are three large firms in the industry which cover a third of production, and the Government approved the suggestion by the council that it should give way to the wider body.

This is a suitable occasion to pay tribute to the council's achievements. I do not believe that it is very controversial that it should now end. During the council's time there have been excellent labour relations in the industry and a commendable common approach to the industry's problems by management and unions sitting together on it. It has, through its handling of the reorganisation by the committee, carried through a major act of restructuring. The comprehensive study leading to the tariff was one of the best studies of that sort into an industry.

I should say a word about the method of dissolution of the council. The plan is that it should cease normal operations on 29th February next year. That is not a common date in our calendar, but it is the date by which the council believes that it can complete its business. My Department will continue to wind up any loose ends of business which remain after that date.

It is expected that there will be a surplus of about £150,000 of the council's revenue at the time of winding up, and it has provisionally allocated about £53,000 for its productivity centre, which will be run by a new company to be formed. In addition, £20,000 is to be provided for the British Textile Employers Association, which will enable it to carry on the useful statistical services performed by the council; £11,000 for the British Textile Confederation; and £5,000 for the Cotton and Allied Trades Joint Federation. It has also made provision for £135,000 to be made available to the Shirley Research Institution, with the possible addition of up to £50,000 later if funds permit.

I think that the House will agree that those arrangements are satisfactory and will welcome the new British Textile Confederation. The Department looks forward to happy, congenial and close relationships with that new body, representing as it will the wider industrial grouping which is now thought desirable. It is commendable that this new organisation can launch itself as an independent body and without a statutory basis. I hope that it will achieve all that has been achieved by the Textile Council, and even more.

I am sure that the House would like me to take this opportunity of paying tribute to those who have worked in the old Textile Council and made it the success it has been, and saying that, although we look forward to an equally successful future, we are not slow to recognise what has been a successful experiment in industrial reorganisation.

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

I take it that it would be for the convenience of the House if we discussed both orders together.

10.36 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Lamond Mr James Lamond , Oldham East

I wish to associate myself with the sentiments expressed by the Under-Secretary about the Textile Council and also join in the welcome given to the new body.

I would like to emphasise a little more strongly the part played by the trade union movement in the reorganisation of which we have heard. While it is a popular pastime today to suggest that trade unions have dragged their heels and not been co-operative in assisting in reorganising industry, this could not be said of the trade unions in the textile industry, particularly cotton, because, although they were aware of the serious consequences for the decline in their membership, they have nevertheless co-operated in every way in shift-working and the introduction of new and much more expensive machinery, which has meant fewer workers.

The movement has played its part in trying to save what was at one time the most important industry in Lancashire. Although the percentage of employees in Lancashire who are involved in textiles now is a mere—and I use that word advisedly—6·5 per cent. and therefore we should not over-emphasise the industry as being the only one in Lancashire, it is still of tremendous importance and is probably the biggest single employer of workers in the area. I share the view expressed to me by an important textile union official the other day that we want to see as much diversity as possible in the area and not try to retain textiles simply because they are textiles. We want work there of a diversified kind, so that people are able to withstand an onslaught on any industry.

I know that the Minister does not think that the problems of the industry have been solved but the demise of the Textile Council should not suggest to anyone outside the House that there are no longer problems. The welcome announcement about the decision to run quotas and tariffs together for some time is one which will assist the industry but it will only give a breathing space. The decline will continue, perhaps not in such a headlong fashion as in the last few months, but the danger is still there.

I would like to draw attention to another point I made recently in an Adjournment debate about marking the countries of origin of imports to this country. Two Private Members' Bills are listed, one of which is to be introduced by the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Normanton). This Bill is narrower than the Bill which I hope to introduce, but mine is much further down the list. The hon. Member for Cheadle concerns himself with the false markings of goods. If one studies the answers which have been given—

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

May I point out that the hon. Gentleman should have referred to the hon. Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel), not the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Normanton).

Mr. Lomond:

I am sorry.

The Bill seeks to prevent the importation of goods, particularly textiles, which are marked either falsely or with names which would indicate to most people that they were manufactured here. The industry welcomes this Bill, and so do I, particularly as there is a good chance of it progressing satisfactorily through the House because the Government are prepared to give it backing. But I should have preferred the Government to have backed my Bill, which is much wider in concept and seeks to restore the position which was lost at the end of November.

Although I was thinking of textiles when I brought my Bill forward, I have received many letters about the dangers which face other industries, particularly cutlery in Sheffield, and brush-making. People involved in these industries are objecting strongly to the present position. I hope that the Government, while not withdrawing their support from the Bill of the hon. Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel), will favourably consider my Bill, which is wider in its application and will give the industry more protection.

10.42 p.m.

Photo of Mr Tom Normanton Mr Tom Normanton , Cheadle

It would be churlish were anything that came from this debate to be construed as a graveside homily or an epitaph, but it is essential that certain things should be said, on this last occasion when views can be recorded, of the past experience of the Textile Council and its predecessor the Cotton Board.

I regard it as a great privilege to be able to express views on this subject in my capacity as the President of the British Textile Employers' Association, a body which, like its predecessor and its counterpart on the trade union side, has at quinquennial reviews been consulted by Governments on every occasion as to the usefulness of the Textile Council or the Cotton Board and as to the desirability of the organisation's further extension for another five years.

Clearly, the Textile Council has run its natural course and it is therefore logical that the Government of the day should, on hearing from all parties consulted, accede to the view of the industry —trade unions, employers and independents alike—that the Textile Council should be brought to an end. In doing so, the services of certain individuals should be placed on record. I am sure the House would include on that list the names of Sir Raymond Streat, Lord Rochdale, Sir Frank Rostron and the present Chairman of the Textile Council, Sir James Steel, all of whom. under conditions which varied considerably over the 24 years of the life of the Textile Council, have fulfilled a great rôle for which the industry is deeply indebted to them.

As spokesman for the employers' side, I also wish to pay my tribute to the part played throughout this long period by the trade union members. They have acted in a statesmanlike manner and they are to be strongly commended and honoured for their rôle.

The industry has gone through years of great trials and tribulations. Perhaps in these conditions it would not be surprising for the ranks to be closed but, even though we have our arguments and discussions, at the end of the day the contributions by the trade union members of the Textile Council and its predecessor the Cotton Board have always been mature and statesmanlike. I only wish this sort of attitude towards industrial collaboration had been reflected on a wider national plane, because industry would be the richer for it and certainly the country's economy would be more prosperous.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State said he hoped that there would not be a void when the Textile Council was wound up. I assure him there will not be a void because of the collaboration between the two sides which has characterised the activities of the Textile Council and which is to be perpetuated in the two new organisations. One organisation will be restricted solely and exclusively to the industrial sector for which the Textile Council has for so long been responsible. I refer to the Cotton and Allied Textile Industry Joint Committee. This is made up equally by trade union leaders and employers under the chairmanship of Mr. Henniker Heaton, who for many years has played an active part in this industry.

Secondly—and far more importantly—the experience of our industry on the western side of the Pennine chain has at last rubbed off in the willingness of the woollen industry and the man-made fibre producers' section of the textile industry to recognise the importance of collaboration at a national level. It will be welcome news that within some five or six weeks a British Textile Confederation will be formally constituted. Perhaps there will then be an opportunity to discuss, or to make known to industry as a whole, the basic thinking which has underlain the establishment of the body which will cover the whole of this great industry. It must be remembered that the textile industry is the third, if not the fourth, largest single major industry in the country.

It should be noted that the Textile Council has made available considerable sums of money to the British Textile Confederation and those institutions which will continue after the demise of the Textile Council, including the Shirley Institute, the reputation of which has spread far beyond our own shores. The statistical services, which have been invaluable in the past to both industry and Government, will be continued but strictly on a voluntary basis. The productivity centre, which has played a valuable role, is to be expanded and will have the full collaboration of our trade union colleagues.

I am certain that the example set in the past by the Textile Council and by the Cotton Board will in the new climate of textiles nationally be a great encouragement and a first-class foundation on which the new voluntary formation of the British Textile Council will be based.

10.50 p.m.

Photo of Mr Frank Judd Mr Frank Judd , Portsmouth West

The Minster has rightly paid tribute to the work of the Textile Council and its staff and members. If we are paying honest tribute to a body of this kind, it is perhaps appropriate in this debate to look in a little detail at one of the recent experiences of the council before its demise. I refer to its report in 1969 entitled "Cotton and Allied Textiles: A Report on Present Performance and Future Prospects". That report proposed that a 15 per cent. tariff should be imposed on all cotton imports and that the present quota system should be continued until the mid-1970s while the industry adjusted itself to reliance on tariff protection alone.

As hon. Members will be aware, the real object of these proposals was to achieve a reorganised and revitalised textile industry able to provide secure and well-paid jobs for all those working in it. It was recognised that the industry required re-equipping and a multi-shift system to become more productive and that production and marketing needed rationalising to achieve greater profitability. It was argued that if this was to be achieved certain inhibiting factors had to be overcome, especially the lack of confidence in the future of the United Kingdom industry exacerbated by the rapid increase in imports and their disruptive effects on prices.

In answer to that last major report, the Government of the day announced that the present quota system would end on 1st January, 1972, and that a 6.5 per cent. tariff would be imposed on imports of yarn, a 15 per cent. tariff on imports of cotton fabrics and a 17 per cent. tariff on garments from Commonwealth countries, which was 85 per cent. of the full tariff. Tariffs against other producers except E.F.T.A. countries were to remain. Better depreciation allowances against taxation were agreed for new machinery.

To summarise the position of the Government of the day, in effect they were giving the industry 30 months in which to reorganise itself to compete with tariff protection. However, it is wise to look at an even more recent roduct of the council. In the final edition of its Textile Council Review, in June and July of this year, it indicated that the industry is, despite all this, now in grave danger because of its failure to respond to the incentives offered to it to re-equip and to restructure to meet projected productivity requirements.

In the report to which I have referred, an improvement in net trade was expected during 1970 by a modest increase in exports and a reduction in imports. Quotas were nevertheless only 70 per cent. filled in 1970. However, in the current year quotas are being filled completely and the improvement in the trade balance has proved in the end to be a flash in the pan. This has had an inevitable effect on employment. In the report, a reduction in the labour force of 8·5 per cent. per annum until 1975 was forecast. Until May, 1971, the reduction in fact had taken place only at the rate of 6 per cent. though more recently considerable redundancies have been reported.

At a time when unemployment in some textile towns is between 5 and 7 per cent., anticipated redundancies for which no special provision has been made are being made now to appear to be the consequence of rising imports when this is not the root cause.

I suggest that the new British Textile Confederation will be confronted with a real challenge as a result of certain ambivalences and contradictions in existing Government policy which have not been overcome in the past.

I hope that it is in order to refer briefly, in the context of these remarks, to a matter that we debated last week. I refer to the very enlightened policy of the Government in their Import Duties (Developing Countries) Order. The objective of that order, as we were clearly told by the Government, was to facilitate the development of the economies of the developing countries by encouraging them to develop the industries and exports which they were particularly well suited to develop.

We know when we look at the unemployment crisis in the Third World that it is no good doling out charity if we are denying the developing countries the opportunity to develop their production where they can do so. Nowhere is this more true than in the production of cotton textiles which involves fairly simple manufacturing techniques and skills. But although the Government introduced their other order last week, and although the Cotton Textile Council is going out of existence, new machinery is being introduced in a situation in which the Government are determined to protect the British industry with both tariffs and quotas although by doing this they may only delay its death.

If we accept this challegene of the consistency logically demanded by the Government's measures last week, we and the new machinery should be concerned to establish a coherent and consistent policy which will create alternative, viable industry in the areas which are dependent to such a large extent on the cotton industry in this country.

I was very encouraged to hear the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) say that trade union leaders in Lancashire believed that the answer lay in a diversity of industry in that area and not in delaying tactics which are bound to be self-defeating in the long run. Will the Under-Secretary therefore give an assurance that together with the new machinery there will be a real attempt not simply to replace old machinery with new but to ensure that a thorough policy is worked out with a long-term prospect rather than just buying a little more time on the basis of short-term improvisation?

10.58 p.m.

Photo of Mr Joel Barnett Mr Joel Barnett , Heywood and Royton

I should like to join in the commendations to the Textile Council and agree with the tributes to those who did so much to make it the success it was. I endorse all that the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) said about the co-operation that the trade union movement has always shown in the industry.

When the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Normanton) was speaking about the statesmanlike approach of the trade union movement and how he would have liked to have seen this practised on a wider scale, I could not help reflecting that many trade unionists in the industry and elsewhere might wonder whether their statesmanship had got them low wages and massive unemployment. Irrespective of whether it is in the national good, they are entitled to ask whether it has been for their particular good. One can go too far at times in this statesmanlike approach and the textile workers have not had a fair return for the statesmanship they and their leaders have shown over a long time.

I hope that the Under-Secretary will reply to a number of questions I shall ask him tonight, unlike his right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade a few nights ago who made no effective replies to a number of questions I asked. To receive proper answers, perhaps one needs to plant Questions. Perhaps I should have given the hon. Gentleman notice of my questions.

In the context of the dissolution of the Textile Council, it is clearly impossible not to refer to the position of the Lancashire textile industry. On a previous occasion I welcomed the Government's acceptance of the council's recommendation that the tariffs and the quotas should operate side by side. In Lancashire the position has been and is appalling, with mills closing every week and with unemployment and short-time working at a terrible level, not only in textile mills but in other industries, making it virtually impossible for many women thrown out of work in this industry to find other employment. It helps nobody, certainly not the developing countries, to destroy Lancashire's textile industry.

My hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd) referred to the industry's failure to respond to incentives. If my hon. Friend were to talk to some of the owners of both single-unit mills and of groups in Lancashire, he would find that it is not too surprising that they have not responded, since they have had to sell their products at literally below cost because of the disruptive effect of many of the imports from the developing countries, in which I include Portugal.

I agree with my hon. Friend about the need for alternative industries in Lancashire. There has been considerable diversification but many parts of Lancashire—certainly my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East—have, and are likely to have for a considerable time, great dependence on the textile industry.

I am sure that the Under-Secretary has the answer to these questions because they are clearly relevant and must be troubling the Government. First, what will happen about the voluntary quota system? It was a system operated by arrangement between ourselves and the Commonwealth countries; there was no law enforcing it.

For how long do the Government propose to retain the existing system? Do they propose to accept entirely the recommendations of the Textile Council? Will the quota system be retained until the mid-1970s or is it only an arrangement of an even more temporary nature? It is understandable that countries such as India and Hong Kong are disturbed that this is introduced at the very last moment, when they thought that they would be able to start the new system on 1st January. I see that the Minister is smiling.

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

The hon. Gentleman had the courtesy to say that I did not answer the questions he asked last week. That is not true. We were then discussing every Customs duty. I promised to write and answer the questions which had been raised and I do not think that more than one question remained unanswered after that. The hon. Gentleman is now asking a lot of questions which are totally irrelevant to the order we are discussing tonight.

Photo of Mr Joel Barnett Mr Joel Barnett , Heywood and Royton

On the last occasion I was asking about the new system. However, if we are to get an answer now I will leave it at that.

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

It has nothing to do with this order.

Photo of Mr Joel Barnett Mr Joel Barnett , Heywood and Royton

We are talking about the dissolution of the Textile Council. The council made some important recommendations which are, apparently, now being accepted by the Government.

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

It has nothing to do with the order.

Photo of Mr Joel Barnett Mr Joel Barnett , Heywood and Royton

It is no use the right hon. Gentleman saying that it has nothing to do with the order. If, when my constituents ask me what will happen about the imports of textiles into Lancashire, I say "The Minister of State in this Government says that it has nothing to do with a particular order"—

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

Will the hon. Gentleman remember that I am not the Minister of State in this Government? Will he also remember that if hon. Members want to ask questions, there are right and wrong times for doing so?

Photo of Mr Joel Barnett Mr Joel Barnett , Heywood and Royton

I accept that the Government are experts at knowing how and when to put down the right kind of Questions and how to get the right kind of answers. If the Textile Council and its dissolution is not concerned with textiles, very well, my hon. Friends and I will go back to Lancashire and tell our constituents that that is the situation. But if Ministers come to the House when we are discussing the dissolution of the Textile Council and they do not have answers to questions which are of vital concern to our constituents, I am sure that those constituents will be very surprised.

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

It depends what we are debating.

Photo of Mr Joel Barnett Mr Joel Barnett , Heywood and Royton

I am concerned with the textile industry. The right hon. Gentleman says that we are discussing only the dissolution of the Textile Council, but that body was concerned with the textile industry. It is not good enough, after this, to have to go back to Lancashire and say that we shall have to wait for some other occasion to get the answers to the questions which our constituents are asking us.

Photo of Mr David Waddington Mr David Waddington , Nelson and Colne

Will the hon. Gentleman recognise that there are only two hon. Members, besides himself, on the Opposition benches? If he is suggesting that this is the right moment to debate the important question of the future of the textile industry, he seems to have chosen a most remarkable forum.

Photo of Mr Joel Barnett Mr Joel Barnett , Heywood and Royton

I do not know what that is supposed to mean. If the hon. and learned Gentleman cares to come to my constituency, as he did on another occasion when he found that he was unable to get himself elected, and tell my constituents that this is not the appropriate occasion to get answers to the questions they want answered and that they should wait for some future occasion, I should be happy for him to do so. We have the opportunity now. I should have thought that the Government were aware of the answers to the questions which I am putting. If so, whether it is the appropriate occasion or not is totally irrelevant. If they have the answers to the questions, which they should have, there is no reason for not giving them, even if there are only a few Members in the House.

Photo of Mr Joel Barnett Mr Joel Barnett , Heywood and Royton

If the hon. and learned Gentleman wants to make that sort of sedentary remark, he would be better doing so in the place from whence he has come. He is not helping the people of Lancashire by making such comments.

What representations has the Minister had from the developing countries, India and Hong Kong, and what has he told them? What is happening about Portuguese imports which have been so disruptive in many parts of the textile industry? Does the hon. Gentleman still expect that, given a continuation of the quota system, we will still be importing, 55 per cent. of home consumption next year and beyond? We have imported that percentage even with quotas. What co-ordination and discussion is he having with the Common Market countries? Will they increase their quotas whilst we come down with ours so that gradually we come together on the level of imports? Will this happen during the transitional period if we enter the Community? In other words, will we all come down to a level of, say, 25 per cent. of our home consumption? This would be more beneficial to the developing countries than the present situation and much more beneficial to the workers in Lancashire.

My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East said that quotas would not solve the problem. With the present quotas we still have 55 per cent. imports, We in Lancashire have always accepted the inevitable rundown of the industry and in this respect the trade unions have been very helpful. Now, however, with a very high level of unemployment in other industries in the area, it is vital that the rundown should not be as fast as it has been recently. It is important for Lancashire and the developing countries to have clarification of the Government's policy. We must know what is to happen from now onwards. Will we continue with 55 per cent. imports or, as I hope, will there be a movement—

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

Order. I know that the debate on the order is acknowledged to be fairly wide, but to discuss the general policy on imports is perhaps going a little wider still.

Photo of Mr Joel Barnett Mr Joel Barnett , Heywood and Royton

I was coming to a close, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but the Textile Council referred to these matters in its reports. If Ministers have come unprepared to deal with these questions, we will know what to do when we return to our constituencies. I hope that we will have this clarification.

11.12 p.m.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I endorse what has been said about the rôle of the trade unions in the textile industry. As I acknowledged in my opening speech, I entirely accept that their co-operation has led to a much more orderly industry than would otherwise have been the case, although, as the hon. Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Joel Barnett) said, those concerned might not be completely happy with the present outcome of that co-operative approach. But it has nevertheless contributed to the strength of the industry.

This figure can be overplayed, but 11,500 people have left the Lancashire textile industry in the last year. We think that about 7,000 of them have already found jobs or have retired from the labour market. That shows the extent to which there is still a certain buoyancy in the Lancashire industry.

Photo of Mr James Lamond Mr James Lamond , Oldham East

Is there not also a very serious position over short-time working? Are not many women now completely out of work? Will not almost all the people who work in textiles in the Oldham area be out of work because they will be laid off over the Christmas period?

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

This is not the occasion to debate employment in Lancashire. I wish to confine myself to the textile industry and the Textile Council. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman can raise these matters another time.

There is a dilemma between the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) and that of his hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth. West (Mr. Judd). The latter was saying that the decline should continue because this commodity could be produced by under-developed countries. He pleaded for greater penetration from overseas, which would have resulted in more short-time working or more unemployment in the textile areas. More openings for trade can be carried to a certain point and then no further, and our record as an importer of textiles from the underdeveloped countries is better than that of any other industrialised country. I therefore believe that what the Government must do, faced with these two dilemmas, is to try to get the balance right. That is why my right hon. Friend felt inclined to continue the quotas after the end of this year.

Photo of Mr Frank Judd Mr Frank Judd , Portsmouth West

The Minister has not summarised my position unfairly, although I was at pains to point out that the industry had been unable to take the opportunity presented to it as a result of the last main report of the council. I also made a strong plea for more direct Government policies designed to introduce a greater diversity of industry in areas at present reliant on textiles.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

No Government have tried to get more diversity of industry into the regions than we have, but in a period of low industrial activity it may not be wise to pursue one's desire to see imports come in to the point at which one does real damage to the industry, and that is why the Government felt it right to extend the quotas at least for a further year. I will return to this point shortly.

The hon. Member for Oldham, East put in a plug for his Bill on origin marking. Perhaps he will get in a corner with his hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West and argue it out with him as to whether, as well as a tariff and quota, they wish to use compulsory marking in the interests of manufacturers as a non-tariff barrier to trade.

Instead of always trying to strike a balance between the two obviously wrong extremes in this matter, I suggest that the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel) is about right in that it is a defence against deception by importers or retailers in this country. That Measure is perfectly justified in the interests of consumers and is not one further Measure of protection, which seems to be the motive of the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Oldham. East.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Normanton) for his generous words about the council in the past and I support him in his hopes for the future. Of the speeches that have been made tonight, his was the only one directed to the past and future of the representation of the industry. Nevertheless, I do not wish to evade answering the questions of the hon. Member for Heywood and Royton because I appreciate the concern that is felt in Lancashire on this subject.

The hon. Gentleman first asked about the basis of the existing quotas and their extension. Each country's exports of textiles to the United Kingdom are subject to individual licences and if they were to refuse to co-operate in keeping within the quota it would be possible ultimately for us to control their exports to this country by this means. It is to be hoped, however, that voluntary agreements can be reached, but there is this licensing power underlying the voluntary agreements.

The hon. Member for Heywood and Royton then asked for how long the quotas would run. We have provisionally extended them for one year from the end of this year. He will recognise that by that time we shall be deeply involved in the European Economic Community's common policy and that collective solutions will be worked out within the E.E.C. for the textile industries of Europe. I think it is only right, therefore, that this should be regarded as a holding operation between the present time and such time as we know a little more about what can be agreed with our partners in Europe for the protection of the textile industries.

Thirdly, the hon. Gentleman asked about the reaction from India and Hong Kong. It has been generally recognised as being in the interests of our major supplies—India and Hong Kong included—that the quotas should be extended for a further year and I think the hon. Gentleman will find that what I have said is borne out in those two countries.

I am sure that it would be wrong for me to be drawn into a long discussion about the future of the textile industry. I have tried to answer the specific questions that have been put to me and I think it right that I should have taken this opportunity to try to help the hon. Gentleman. We must, however, remember that the occasion tonight is the dissolution of the Textile Council. I hope that the House will share my feelings that it has been a successful council which has done great good, with the good will of all concerned, for the textile industry. I hope equally that the House will feel that the auguries for textiles are perhaps a little brighter than one has been wont to think in the past and that the industry will go forward in prosperity and with success from now on.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Textile Council (Dissolution) Order 1971, a draft of which was laid before this House on 16th November, be approved.

Resolved, That the Textile Council Committee (Discharge) Order 1971, a draft of which was laid before this House on 16th November, be approved.—[Mr. Ridley.]