§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Cross
I beg to move:That the Additional Import Duties (No. 11) Order, 1938, dated the twenty-ninth day of December, nineteen hundred and thirty-eight, made by the Treasury under the Import Duties Act, 1932, a copy of which was presented to this House on the thirty-first day of January, nineteen hundred and thirty-nine, be approved.This Order renews for one year the existing specific duty of 10d. per square yard on cut weft pile fabric made wholly or partly of cotton. This material consists of cotton velvet or velveteen and is used for dresses and other purposes. The industry is carried on by an old established branch of the Lancashire cotton industry. It is a highly specialised industry and gives very large employment of labour per unit of output. A specific duty was rendered necessary early in 1936, not because of the reasons suggested by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) but for another reason which he deplored namely that Japanese goods had appeared on our market at 1238 prices against which the British manufacturer could not compete. Moreover, the home market was also diminishing owing to changes in fashion and the competition of new manufactures of other kinds.
When the duty was first imposed the Committee took the view that the industry could improve its competitive power by reorganisation and the imposition and the renewal of the duty was on the understanding that there should be closer co-operation among the four sections of the industry—namely, the weaving, cutting, dyeing and merchanting. This view was fully shared by the bulk of the concerns in the industry and fair progress was made in the year 1937, a more prosperous year, when the industry felt itself in better fettle. Four sectional associations were formed to cover the four sections together with a co-ordinating Velvet Council. These units have been functioning regularly. At the end of 1937 the Import Duties Advisory Committee, appreciating the progress that had been made, recommended a renewal of the duty for a further year in order to afford further time for con tinned reorganisation with the object of achieving more orderly marketing and more economic production.
But in 1938 there was a severe setback in the cotton industry, and in the cotton velvet industry, under the pressure of competition from manufacturers who are outside the organisation; prices were cut and the voluntary scheme of price control broke down. In these circumstances it was impossible to make progress in reorganisation, and the Import Duties Advisory Committee came to the conclusion that it would be undesirable to remove the duty without considerable notice in view of the depressed condition of the industry. They held this view the more strongly since it was the evident desire of the industry to establish closer co-operation, as and when circumstances made it possible for them to do so.
§ Mr. Cross
There is one who is a regular weaver of velvet cloth and a number of other concerns who have velvet looms which they do not run ordinarily but which they run the moment there is any improvement in price. In the circumstances I have described the com- 1239 mittee recommend an extension of the duty to the end of the current year and they declare in their recommendation their intention to examine the position with a view to obviating the need for asking for further extensions of the duty. In particular, if the present enabling Bill proposals become law, a sectional scheme could be brought forward by this industry and this would greatly facilitate the avoidance of further extensions of the duty. It only remains for me to say that the duty has been effective in excluding Japanese products. The imports are not separately shown but they are extremely small, and at the present time prices, whilst at one moment a little higher and at another moment a little lower, are in general at the same level as before the duty was imposed.
§ Question put, and agreed to.1240
That the Additional import Duties (No. 11) Order, 1938, dated the twenty-ninth day of December, nineteen hundred and thirty-eight, made by the Treasury under the Import Duties Act, 1932, a copy of which was presented to this House on the thirty-first day of January, nineteen hundred and thirty-nine, be approved.'
§ The remaining Orders of the Day were read, and postponed.