HC Deb 22 April 1948 vol 449 cc1985-6
19. Mr. Austin

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is satisfied that the Barton factory, leased by the Government to Messrs. Platt Bros, for the purpose of manufacturing textile machinery, is being used in the best interests of the nation, having regard to this firm's inability to reach anticipated production targets.

Mr. H. Wilson

Yes, Sir. This firm is making an important contribution to the needs of the textile industry.

Mr. Austin

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the failure to reach production targets is not a deliberate attempt on the part of this firm to revert to monopolistic practices, in reducing output and maintaining prices; and, in view of the fact that this combine has a tremendous impact on the cotton industry, will my right hon. Friend examine it in the course of the Debate this afternoon?

Mr. Wilson

Well, we shall be discussing monopolies this afternoon: but the particular dismissals mentioned in the Question are part of an attempt to reduce production costs at this factory. Certainly I can assure my hon. Friend that the whole question of the orders placed and the production achievements of this particular concern are being kept under close review by the Government.

Mr. John Lewis

Would my right hon. Friend resist ail implications against this firm, which is one of the largest employers in Lancashire, and is doing a most important job in the textile industry of this country?

Mr. Frederick Lee

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that while Lancashire Members are trying to get more cotton operatives in the industry it is most difficult to do so when they know that skilled engineers are being paid off from factories at which modern textile equipment is produced?

Mr. Wilson

Yes, Sir. In so far as that paying off is due to a falling off in orders we are very much concerned; but in so far as it is due to an attempt to get costs down in the factory by discharging workers who are not essential to production, it is a very different question.