Orders of the Day — Multilateral Trade Negotiations

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th June 1979.

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Photo of Mr Cecil Parkinson Mr Cecil Parkinson , Hertfordshire South 12:00 am, 29th June 1979

I accept what the hon. Gentleman says. May I take him up on another matter? He talked about our plans for reducing a number of supports to industry. We are not doing it for ideological reasons. We are doing it because they are very expensive and do not work. We are doing it because we do not believe that large sums of money, dispersed by politicians into marginal seats to try to buy votes, is the way to regenerate industry or do the country any good. It might do a party in government some good in the short term, although the indications at the last election were that even then it does not work. Those are the reasons why we are reviewing this very expensive area of Government expenditure.

The hon. Member for Keighley talked about the loss of jobs because of cheap imports. I know that there is a strongly held view in the Labour Party that we should implement the alternative strategy, and that behind the walls of protection we should modernise ourselves. I have just come back from the UNCTAD conference in Manila, where I met representatives from a number of the lesser developed countries. It is a fact that we run a substantial trade surplus with these countries. It is also a fact that if those countries are to be able to buy from us, they must be able to sell us some of the commodities which they are capable of and good at producing.

Textiles is an area in question. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the developing countries tend to set up textile industries. He may have seen some of the work that has been done recently, showing that although we have undoubtedly lost jobs because of cheap imports from those countries, we have also gained a considerable number of jobs—probably more—because of our exports to them. I sometimes think that the hon. Member for Keighley takes a rather simplistic view of these things.

The hon. Gentleman asked for a further debate. I do not wish to raise his hopes. He seems to be in a minority in having hopes of this kind. I suggest that today's attendance in the Chamber does not demonstrate a massive enthusiasm for debating this subject again. As he knows, there is a shortage of time available. It may be that we could achieve the end he desires by meeting later in the negotiations, when I could explain to him what has happened. However, I shall put the hon. Gentleman's point to the Leader of the House.

I want to emphasise a point made by the right hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North. I believe that implementing the MTN, as renegotiated, is absolutely critical if we are to maintain an open trading system. I believe that the outcome of the Tokyo round will probably be a great deal more decisive, and will have a great deal more effect on the standard of living and prospects of our people than many of the other measures that will fall to be implemented by this House. I am glad that a worthwhile package has emerged. I am glad that those who have spoken in the debate feel that way. I am sorry that not more hon. Members have been present, but I think that it has been a worthwhile debate.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.