HC Deb 13 June 1921 vol 143 cc24-5
32. Colonel WEDGWOOD

asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government have authorised the grant of £1,000,000, said to have been promised by the Colonial Secretary to the British Cotton-growing Association; and is he aware that most agencies for the purchase of cotton from natives in Africa are at present closed down by reason of the low-price of cotton and the heavy stocks on hand?


I have been asked to reply. No grant is proposed to be made to the British Cotton Growing Association. In pursuance of the recommendations made in the Report of the Departmental Committee on Cotton Growing within the Empire, a scheme has been prepared for the formation of an Empire cotton growing corporation, to be established under Royal Charter, and in the administration of which His Majesty's Government, the Governments of the cotton growing areas of the Empire, and trade interests will all participate. The corporation will not be a profit-making body, and its object will be the develop- ment of cotton growing in the Empire by provision of opportunities for training in tropical agriculture and connected subjects, the promotion of research, the establishment of experimental farms, co-operation with the agricultural departments of present or potential cotton growing areas within the Empire, and in such other ways as may be appropriate. The cotton industry in this country has agreed to a voluntary levy at the rate of 6d. a bale on all cotton consumed for a minimum period of five years, and the proposed grant of approximately £1,000,000 by the Government for the purposes of the corporation is conditional on this support from the trade. In the current Estimates the sum of £50,000 is taken for this year as the first of five annual votes for a corresponding sum for the promotion of cotton growing in the Empire; and the proposed capital grant is in lieu of these annual contributions. The grant is not to be derived from the taxpayer, but is His Majesty's Government's share of the surplus accruing from the operation of the Egyptian Cotton Control Scheme of 1918–19 which was carried out under a joint guarantee from the British and Egyptian Governments. I am aware that the general depression has for the time reduced very gravely in some parts of Africa the price at which cotton can be bought from the native grower, and that certain buying agencies have withdrawn from the business for the present, but other agencies are still continuing at work.


Is the result of the right hon. Gentleman's answer a restatement of the fact that we are not granting £1,000,000 to encourage the growth of cotton in the British Empire, and that the money is coming, not out of the pocket of the British taxpayers but out of the pocket of the Egyptian taxpayer? Is it an example of the new economy of the Government, that you are going to charge the Egyptian Government with the cost?


That is a matter for argument.