§ Mr. Alfred Morris
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he expects to come to a conclusion on the proposals for investment support for the textile industry in the report published by the British Textile Confederation entitled "A Plan for Action", a copy of which has been sent to him.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) when he expects to make a statement on the report, "A Plan for Action", submitted to his Department by the British Textile Confederation in March 1983;
(2) if he will extend the small engineering firms investment scheme to embrace the textile and clothing industry by applying the scheme to individual establishments instead of to the total employing enterprise.
(3) what decision he has reached on the proposition submitted by the British Textile Confederation in its report "A Plan for Action" that there should be a five-year scheme of interest abatement, whereby the interest rate paid by the textile industry for approved investment plans would be fixed at 5 per cent. with the balance between that rate and the commercial rate financed by the Government; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Trippier
[pursuant to his reply, 30 January 1984, c. 37–38]: My right hon. Friend is not yet in a position to respond to the British Textile Confederation's "A Plan for Action'. He is carefully considering the proposal for investment assistance, including an alternative proposal for a now scheme similar to the small engineering firms investment scheme, together with similar proposals made between August and December 1983 by the clothing economic development committee, the knitting economic development committee, the footwear economic development committee and the British Leather Federation. He hopes to be in a position to reply to all these organisations in the next few weeks.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what representations he has made to the European Economic Community in respect of sectoral aids for the textile industry provided by the Italian, French and Belgian Governments and their impact on competition within the EEC;
(2) if he will make a statement on the implications for the United Kingdom textile industry of the approximately £100 million aid scheme for the industry in France which has been approved by the EEC Commission; and what representations he has made to the EEC about the scheme;
(3) if he will make a statement on the implications for the United Kingdom textile industry of the investment of £1,600 million made by the Italian Government in their man-male fibre industry over the nine years to 1984; and what representations he has made to the EEC about this unfair sectoral aid.
§ Mr. Trippier
[pursuant to his reply, 30 January 1984, c. 37–38]: The Government have on a number of occasions made very clear to the Commission their serious concern about the proliferation within the Community of sectoral aid schemes for the textile industry, particularly in Italy, France and Belgium. The Commission has replied that it 158W shares this concern and is taking steps to ensure stricter observance of the relevant aid guidelines. It is the Commission's responsibility to judge whether aid is compatible with the treaty of Rome.
I am not aware that the Commission has approved a £100 million scheme to aid the French textile industry. However, I understand that the Commission is considering whether it will allow the French Government to reintroduce, for a further period and subject to stringent conditions, an earlier scheme involving reductions in social charges, which, I am informed, was suspended last year as the result of a decision by the European Court of Justice. In reaching its decision on this matter I would expect the Commission to take into account the concern which was expressed by the United Kingdom Government when the scheme was originally introduced in 1982.
The Government have pointed out to the Commission that the maintenance of uneconomic Italian man-made fibre production capacity by means of sectoral assistance has adversely affected the benefits obtained by the United Kingdom and other member states from the rationalisation of the industry; and has urged it to take appropriate action with the Italian authorities.