HC Deb 15 March 1948 vol 448 cc1820-40

9.42 p.m.

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I beg to move, That the Draft Order entitled the Cotton Industry Development Council Order, 1948, proposed to be made by the Board of Trade under Section 1 of the Industrial Organisation and Development Act, 1947, a copy of which Draft Order was presented on 27th February, be approved. This order is the first to be made under the Industrial Organisation and Development Act which was passed last year. This establishes a development council which is to be known as the Cotton Board, 1948, and will replace the existing Cotton Board and continue and broaden its work. The object in creating development councils was summed up by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer during the Third Reading Debate on the Bill in this House in these terms: The object is to get one responsible body of persons who can speak for all interests in the industry with a single voice and who, in their consideration on the interests of the industry, will have in mind as well, the interests of the nation and of the consumers of the industry's products. It is the intention of the Government to give great weight to the recommendations of these bodies when they are set up, and to use them in a large degree for that liaison with industry which is now such an essential part of any national planning or the execution of any plan which is made."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd June, 1947; Vol. 438, C. 90–91.] The present Cotton Board was set up in March, 1940, under the Cotton Industry Act of that year. The main and immediate reason for requiring a body of that kind was the need for the expansion in exports at that stage of the war. This Board was set up to perform certain central services on behalf of the industry, principally but not entirely in connection with exports. Soon it came to be relied on as a channel of communication between the Government and the industry in both directions. It performed a vital service in interpreting the needs and objectives of Government policy to industry, and also the needs and views of the industry to the Government. In my opinion, it has played an even greater part in the difficult years since the end of the war, particularly in connection with its task of unwinding the effect of the concentration scheme. It has represented a most valuable, single, focusing point for all policies and projects connected with the cotton industry. It has brought about a spirit of co-operation and unity among very diverse and sectional interests in this industry such as never existed before the Board was set up.

Students of public administration might go further and say that in the Cotton Board we have an entirely new conception in the relationship of government to industry, which, avoiding the dangers of syndicalism, has provided a body which can speak for the industry and which, at the same time, provides much-needed leadership for the industry. Anyone who knows the industry would wish me to pay tribute tonight to the Board and particularly to its Chairman, Sir Raymond Streat, for their industrial statesmanship over the most difficult period since the Board was established.

I am going into details on this matter, because our main purpose in the order is to continue the existing functions of the Board. Its main functions have included its work in connection with the direction of exports scheme, its work on the utility cloth scheme during the war and on concentration and since the end of the war the winding up of concentration. The Board have undertaken many other most useful functions. It has set up the Colour, Style and Design Centre, operated the recruitment and training department, and, in the field of research in addition to its own economic and statistical work, it has given strong assistance to the Shirley Institute. It has undertaken experimental work on the more scientific and economic use of manpower and machinery, which was sorely needed in this industry. At the present time it is doing much of the work on behalf of the Board of Trade on the re-equipment scheme which will come into full operation when the Bill at present before the House becomes an Act.

Under the order we envisage the work of this new Cotton Board going on as before, but strengthened. The members will be appointed by the Board of Trade and will be II in number. On the employers' side there will be one representative of the spinners and doublers, one of the weavers, one of the finishers, and one of the converters. On the workers' side there will be two representatives of spinning and doubling operatives, one of weaving operatives and one of finishing operatives. In addition, there will be three independent persons who have no financial or industrial interest in the industry.

Colonel Dower (Penrith and Cockermouth)

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us an indication of their qualifications?

Mr. Wilson

I will say a word about that point in a moment. Obviously, as was envisaged under the Act, we have very much in mind that they will represent the interests of the consumers and of the nation as a whole. They will be there to see that there is no danger—I hope there will not be any danger—of the two sides of the industry ganging up in a purely sectional way. They will see that the interests of the nation and of the consumers are brought to the fore. That is a partial answer to the question put by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I do not envisage any change in the chairmanship of the Board. Sir Raymond Streat, I am glad to say, has agreed to accept my nomination of him as Chairman of the new Board. I have not yet settled upon the other two independent members. In anticipation of the approval by Parliament of this order, the chief industrial organisations have been asked by me to suggest names to be considered for appointment as industrial members.

The first function given to the Board will be that of registration of the productive units in the industry. That function has not been undertaken by the old Cotton Board. Secondly, there is the function of finance. The House will probably want to know the financial details fairly fully. The income will be derived mainly from a levy on spinners. Their individual liability for payment will be determined by reference to the average number of spindles in use for spinning cotton, including cotton waste, and mixture yarns containing 50 per cent. or more by weight of cotton. This method of assessing the levy has been adopted rather than the one we have had so far, of the total quantity of raw cotton purchased. We have had representations from the existing Board that the new method will be fairer in its incidence.

Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham)

Why is the levy made upon the spinning section only so far as machinery is concerned, and not on the weaving section or on rayon operations, apart from the £1 per head?

Mr. Wilson

The main reason for that is that it would be extremely difficult to get an equitable basis for all the different and diverse types of establishments in weaving, and, more particularly, in finishing. It was felt, quite rightly, that if we had the levy at an early stage in the industry, it would be successively passed on to the later stages. As my hon. Friend knows it was previously based on the raw cotton at an early stage and because of the unfairness of that we felt it right to base it on the spinning section, knowing that it would be passed on in the finishe price. The rate of levy is to be determined by the Board and that will fall to be approved by the Board of Trade, but the order requires that it shall be so fixed as not to exceed £250,000 a year. That roughly corresponds with the figure raised by the old Board, the total fluctuating with raw cotton consumption between a minimum of £145,000 and a maximum of £290,000.

The next power given to the Board under the order is to obtain information and statistics. The House would wish to be assured that there is specific provision for the maintenance of secrecy about the financial position and other economic statistics of individual undertakings and processes. The functions are set out in some detail under the second schedule of the order. They follow the list of functions set out in a schedule to the main Act and in the main continue the present functions of the Board. It distinguishes between functions which are exercised in relation to the industry as a whole, that is, covering problems connected with the interlocking of the rayon and cotton industries, and those exercised for the cotton section proper. There is a very wide range of functions and obviously I could not go into it in any detail, but I know that my hon. Friends and a number of hon. Gentlemen opposite will be particularly interested in the welfare functions which are given to the Board.

In this connection I hope it will be possible for Lancashire to consider, under the levy arrangements, the provision of come kind of central welfare fund, per- haps on the model of the Miners' Welfare Fund of the past, to finance approved schemes for welfare and amenities. There is, of course, a limit to what can be done at the present time in the provision of amenities and especially on the building side, because of difficulties of materials, but my hon. Friends know to what extent deficiencies in the matter of welfare are hampering us in our recruitment drive, and even though there is a limit at the present time to what can be done in improving these welfare facilities, it would provide a real assurance to those now in the industry and those we are asking to come into it if there were a fund of this kind which could be expended under some kind of central guidance to repair the big gaps in the welfare provisions of the industry which existed for far too long before the late war.

There is a point in the order about the definition of the industry. This is set out in paragraph 1 of the first schedule. I do not need to go into it in detail. It is largely based on the definition of the industry compiled for the purposes of the Cotton Industry (Reorganisation) Act, 1939, and used in the Cotton Industry Act, 1940. Broadly, it covers the spinning and doubling of yarn from cotton and staple rayon fibre, the weaving, finishing and making-up and packing of fabrics made from such yarn and from continuous filament rayon thread, and the activities of the merchant convertors.

The order is due to come into force on 1st April, and, in accordance with Section 8 of the Act, provision will be made for the position to be reviewed by the Board of Trade in consultation with the new Cotton Board and with organisations representative of employers and workers in the industry some time before 1st April, 1951.

Before I sit down, the House will expect me to say something about the consultations which we have undertaken in and around the industry before placing the order before the House. Section I (3) of the Industrial Organisation and Development Act requires that before making a development council order, the Board of Trade shall consult the appropriate trade associations and trade unions. On the Committee stage of the Bill we were very much pressed to make available to the House, as each Order came up, the broad results, and the detailed results, of each individual set of consultations. My hon. Friend the Paymaster-General gave an undertaking that we would do so.

Apart from consultation with the existing Cotton Board, which has been very close, and practically continuous, the consultations which have taken place on this order have been divided historically into two parts. First of all, we drew up a preliminary draft in collaboration with the Cotton Board. We circulated it to all the principal associations and trade unions in the industry, and I am glad to say that our proposals were unanimously welcomed and approved by both sides. Whatever comments we had from them were on points of detail and machinery only. Then we discussed proposals with them at a series of meetings held in Manchester last November, and made a number of amendments to the draft as a result.

I do not think the House would want full details of the consultations, but the consultations principally referred to the question of representation, the number of sections not now included in the order, and then the method of the levy was a matter of some discussion. I think we have managed to satisfy the large majority of associations on that. There were certain questions of the definition of the industry, particularly on problems affecting the margin where the cotton industry passes into the wool and rayon industries. In fact 17 trade associations and trade unions were fully consulted—I can give hon. Members further details if they want them—and no important point of substance has been left outstanding. We can claim to have produced an order acceptable in all its basic principles, and almost every point of detail, to everybody concerned in the industry.

I do not think it is necessary to stress the importance of this order in the long history of this sometimes unhappy industry. The cotton industry and its problems are obviously a matter of the highest national importance. I think every hon. Member in last Friday's Debate stressed the importance of the cotton industry at the present time, and outlined their views on what ought to be done to bring it back into a state in which it can play the full part which the nation expects at this time. The meeting we had on Saturday with hon. Members representing cotton Divisions, and with leaders of the Indus- try, again brought this point home in fullest detail, and the Prime Minister's invitation to the leaders of both sides of the industry to meet him next week at 10, Downing Street, gives some idea of the importance we attach to the industry at this stage.

This order providing that the central body should exercise many of the functions which hon. Members want to see exercised will be of very great importance in the future development of the industry. In this House we are all concerned about Lancashire's future, not only those of us who are in any way connected with the Lancashire cotton industry, or with Lancashire constituencies, but everyone concerned with the development of our export trade and the production of the essential articles which Lancashire produces for civilian use. Everyone knows that the past of this industry has not always been as happy as it might have been, particularly in the inter-war periods. At various times we have blamed the industry for the troubles in that period. For, my part, I would be prepared to take a somewhat more charitable view of Lancashire's troubles in the inter-war period, and subscribe to a very important conclusion in the working party's Report in -which they say that Lancashire's troubles in the inter-war period: were due mainly to the tremendous contraction forced upon the industry by external developments quite beyond its own control. The primary cause of its loss of export trade was not its own 'inefficiency,' though the effects of this loss and the conditions which it created have militated against maintenance of progressive efficiency. The problems were contracted world markets, especially due to tariff barriers, causing the loss of the United States market, developments of home industries abroad which caused the loss of the Indian market, and the fierce onslaught from Japan with its "rice" standard of wages and nationalistic economy. The working party, commenting on this, did make criticisms of Lancashire which, I think, are relevant in connection with the order for the approval of which I am asking the House tonight.

The first thing the working party said, and this has a very stern lesson for us today, is that the industry squandered the temporary prosperity which it enjoyed after 1918. In my view, this is the most serious charge against the industry. That was the period when London finance got into Lancashire and floated prosperous and fairly efficient private concerns as public companies at three or four times their real worth. That is a thing which hon. Members on both sides of the House would condemn in the history of the industry. It was a case of the girl who took the wrong turning and met a slick suitor from the city. She did it only once, but has regretted it ever since, and she has been paying the price ever since.

The second charge which is made, and which has relevance to this order, is that the adjustment to new conditions has been painfully slow, and it was still uncompleted when the 1939 war came. The working party sums it up that the charge is not so much against the cotton industry as the national policy. The cotton industry itself could not have found employment for its surplus labour. But, if there had been a wise collaboration between the organising power of the State and the initiative of a vigorous industry, results might have been very different. I hope that the House will agree that this order goes a long way to creating the conditions for valuable and continuing consultation between the Government and a vigorous industry and creates conditions in which we may hope that the future of this industry will be very different from its most recent past.

10.2 p.m.

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre (New Forest and Christchurch)

Until three-quarters of the way through the speech of the President of the Board of Trade I thought that, for once, we were going to have something from him which would not mix his functions with party politics. I am very sorry that he descended in the last part of his speech to a statement which vitiated most, of the arguments of his own party, and certainly the argument which he addressed to the House earlier. The President of the Board of Trade has said that this Order is of vital importance to the cotton industry. I agree with him, but I would ask why it has been necessary to draw it in quite such wide terms. He has said, and hon. Members on this side of the House will agree, that it is necessary to give considerable scope to this new Clause. I would refer hon. Members to paragraph 1 (2) of the order: The Board shall exercise their functions in such manner as appears to them to increase efficiency and productivity in the industry as much as possible, to improve and develop the service that it renders to the community and to enable it to render that service more economically. … I do not think any hon. Member will object to any of those objects. If we go a little further in this, order I think there are a good many things about which the President of the Board of Trade has not offered any explanation. I would refer him to the next paragraph: The Board may enter into such agreement, acquire such property and do such things, as may in the opinion of the Board be necessary. … That seems to be a paragraph so wide that it enables the Board to do anything it likes. To take one example, there is nothing to stop it from buying a property out of its own funds and passing it on to the Coal Board for their use, at half the price which was paid for it. They can acquire a mill, stop it functioning and then hand it over to the Transport Commission at a quarter of the price which was paid for it, in order to make buses. The paragraph means that this Board can use whatever moneys we give it, and whatever is given it by the Act mentioned by the President of the Board of Trade, to bolster up another national board to pursue any function that the Government may wish without any reference whatever to this House. We would be very rash to pass a paragraph of this nature without some further information from the President of the Board of Trade or the Parliamentary Secretary.

I wish to ask a few questions about the independent members. The right hon. Gentleman said that he was glad that the present chairman of the Cotton Board would continue in office. I ask him to look at paragraph 3 (b) of the Third Schedule. It appears to me that we are running a grave risk if we pass this Order in its present form. I am fully prepared to believe that hon. Members on both sides of the House want these independent members to be truly independent, but hon. Members will see that the Board of Trade retains complete power to dictate to any independent member the terms on which he can continue to be an independent member of the Board. It is provided that if the member refuses to conform to what the Board of Trade says, then he may be dismissed from the Board as an independent member. That is a most dangerous provision to make in an order of this sort. I would like to know what is meant by paragraph 4 of the Third Schedule which states that certain salaries will be payable. On what basis are those salaries to be paid, what is the total envisaged and how will the qualifications of the members affect the salaries to be paid?

Paragraph 4 (6) states that any person engaged in the cotton industry may receive a notice from the Board of Trade which will state that in the opinion of the Board of Trade they are no longer members of the industry. If the firm does not lodge a protest within a month, the ruling of the Board of Trade will be confirmed and that firm will be crossed off the list of people engaged in the industry. I cannot see what will happen if the firm contradicts the ruling of the Board of Trade. Will there be any arbitration to decide which of the two is right, or is the decision of the Board of Trade final? If so, on what is it based? As that paragraph stands it is a most dangerous precedent, because it provides that any firm can be ruled out of the cotton industry on a notice of the Board of Trade from which there is no appeal.

I also wish to ask some questions on the subject of finance. Tucked away in a proviso to paragraph 6 (2) there is a statement: Provided that any charge or charges imposed in respect of any such period … shall be computed so as not to yield in the aggregate more than two hundred and fifty thousand pounds … I would like to know how that figure is arrived at. Why does the Board want £250,000 under that proviso? It seems to be a very large sum and I would like to know a little more about it. I noticed with regret that, throughout, the President of the Board of Trade did not give us any details about the finances of this Board. I would like also to ask, in relation to paragraph 6 (2, d) and paragraph 7 of this Order, why borrowing powers are wanted. If they are allowed to raise these charges, why do they want borrowing powers as well? I would like to hear some indication as to what all this money is going to do.

I myself, and hon. Members on this side, welcome any order of the general description made by the right hon. Gentleman, but I feel rather doubtful that so many extra powers are contained in the order, that finance seems to be so vague, and that the provisions of the independent membership, which as the President of the Board of Trade said himself, is the safeguard of the consumers, are made so entirely dependent on the President's thoughts, and, indeed, actions. I hope, therefore, that before we dispose of this order we may have a little more information.

10.11 p.m.

Dr. Morgan (Rochdale)

I would like to congratulate the President of the Board of Trade on this very fine piece of work. Anyone who knows the cotton industry of Lancashire will welcome the pronouncement he has made tonight, especially in view of the fact that he told us that this is the result of agreement made by both sides of the industry.

I want particularly to congratulate him on the projected appointment of the Cotton Welfare Board, because if anything ever was needed in the industry it was a Board of this description. I hope the term welfare will be extended to include health provisions. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, many of the mills in Lancashire are really of a backward age and need considerable improvement from the point of view of the health of the workers in the industry. Many of the conditions in the industry, so far as health is concerned, can be greatly improved—for example, by attending to the treatment of mineral oil, in the oiling of machinery, from a purification point of view, to deal with cancerous cases in the industry. That does not seem such a pettifogging point as may be thought on the other side. [Interruption.] I do not want to be provocative—not at all.

I want to congratulate our Minister on doing this very fine piece of work, which should have been done 30 years ago. On an occasion like this we should feel it appropriate that our Government—at a time when we are making a stand for increased production in the industry, not only because of the export trade alone but, I hope, from the point of view of the stability of the industry—should come forward and give us an order, not only on the production side but on the welfare and health side, which is of permanent benefit to the workers. I want the President of the Board of Trade to know that we are very proud, indeed, of tonight's work and of the pronouncement he has made, and, in addition to our congratulations, we wish him success and good luck.

10.14 p.m.

Sir John Barlow (Eddisbury)

This order is of very great interest to me, because I have been interested in the Lancashire cotton industry for the whole of my life. I was one of those who were opposed to the first Cotton Board which was made possible by the Act of 1939. Having felt rather strongly, it was rather strange that I should be asked to serve on it, as one of the three permanent members, in 1940. I took up that position for a very short time, but subsequently resigned, after which it was somewhat re-organised.

This new order and the new Cotton Board will fulfil a great purpose. The President of the Board of Trade has mentioned that the industry was blamed between the wars for many things which I believe were not its fault at all. The industry was blamed for inefficiency and for all kinds of things which were not its fault in the least, but which were due to world-wide conditions into which I do not propose to go tonight. This new Cotton Board, although I do not agree with it entirely, may be capable of very great good to the industry. The industry has regained its importance in the commerce of the country as a whole owing to the necessity for increased exports. It is the one industry which can, with efficiency, extend our much needed exports at the present time. There are still many great and efficient men in the industry, and I feel that the question whether this order is really beneficial to the industry and the country will depend first on the Minister's appointing the right men in the industry to serve on the Board. It is a very great responsibility. For good or for ill it is coming into force in the very near future. I wish it well, but I hope that the Minister will see to it that he does secure the very best elements in Lancashire to serve on the Board.

10.16 p.m.

Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham)

The right hon. Gentleman is to be congratulated upon this order. It will be welcomed throughout Lancashire and throughout the industry. I should, in particular, like to welcome the suggestion he threw out—it was new to me—and which seems to me a matter of very great importance, that there shall be a welfare levy on the lines of the miners' welfare levy which was introduced following the Sankey Report, and which was, regrettably, the only proposal in the Sankey Report which was introduced. It is not without significance that this should be the second time in two successive sitting days that Westminster should be discussing the cotton industry. It is about time that happened. Some of us have been pressing for this to happen for some time. I hope we shall now see that the proceedings in Westminster are for a little time as all-Lancashire an affair as the Cup Final. The right hon. Gentleman himself is entitled to a very great deal of the credit in this matter. Since he took up his appointment he has kept in contact with the cotton industry, and he has won a very great deal of genuine affection in the industry, and genuine respect for the efforts he is now making to get this industry on its feet again and to increase production.

There are one or two points I should, like to make about the order as it is drawn, although I do not object to any of it. I do not want to damn it with faint praise. But if I say it is not like the curate's egg, I make this exception, that it is good in particular parts; but it is not necessarily sufficiently strong, it is not necessarily sufficiently good, it is not necessarily sufficiently large. But there is nothing in it to which I object. One point of real importance—and I think I know what the right hon. Gentleman will say in answer to this—is the method of communication between the Board and the Government, the method of making representations; because, after all, so many of the powers that the Board are given are really advisory powers. Their powers over the industry are dependent upon voluntary representation. I think it is right to say that the response from both sides, on the whole, has been good during the time the Board has operated, but when they come to consider steps that ought to be taken—and there is considerable unanimity about some of the early steps that ought to be taken—to increase production the question will arise how they are to make representations. Any suggestion I make now has no merit of novelty. It is the sort of suggestion that has been handed about Lancashire for a considerable time. It is a case of what Lan- cashire said with one voice in 1945 being considered at Westminster in 1948.

The one vital point is air-conditioning machinery. It is really vital. No one doubts it is difficult, but conditions in many of the mills' spinning rooms are such that modern air-conditioning is really necessary if we are to get first-class results. What can the Cotton Board do about that? How can they make representations about that? It should be included amongst what should be subject to subsidy. I do not know if it was so included, but it ought to be, as I think it will be; but assuming it is not, how do they make representations about it? How do they present reports, and so on? I do not doubt there is the fullest confidence between the chairman of the Cotton Board and the President of the Board of Trade. From what I have seen, I am certain that Sir Raymond Streat can get on the telephone any day, speak to the President of the Board of Trade, and put forward to him any urgent matter. But I am not quite sure what the right hon. Gentleman's own powers are about air-conditioning machinery, or how far he makes representations to the Minister of Supply, and whether the Minister of Supply finds he is not responsible for it, or that it is some other Department, and that then we go on to steel allocation, and so on. The question of air-conditioning machinery is important.

One other matter to which I wish to refer is again a commonplace, about which the President of the Board of Trade knows. Supposing, on the question of overtime, those concerned come to the conclusion that the real factor preventing many people opting for overtime is that of taxation on overtime, how are representations met? Are they given effect to? What communication can they have with the Chancellor, and how is the united voice of the industry to make itself felt on such a question? There are many similar and familiar questions, such as staggered hours of married women workers. In Oldham, up to 28th March, and again from October, they will be working from nine o'clock in the morning till seven o'clock at night; but the shops do not open till nine o'clock in the morning and close at six o'clock in the evening, with the result that they are open only for the whole of the time during which the married women are working in the mills. This is a difficult problem, and consideration may have to be given to the question whether to increase the number and variety of goods sold in the canteens. The President knows—and I am sure he has already noted it from another place—the importance of up-grading the standard of goods in the canteens, including the allowances, so as to bring them into conformity with other industries. I am quite sure the Cotton Board would support that.

The other part of the order which is very welcome is that dealing with industrial disease. It is right that we should refer to perhaps the worst of the two great diseases which afflict the cotton industry, byssinicosis, which was the subject of a campaign which went on for years to try to get it scheduled in the Workmen's Compensation Act as an industrial disease; a campaign which met resistance after resistance, in spite of the fact that pneumoconiosis and similar diseases in other industries had already been scheduled—and it took us many years to get even that included. This is a great step forward in that direction, and we feel that we ought to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the way it has been included in the order.

I am sorry to have to mention one small niggling point, and I do so only because of its urgency, and because I now have the opportunity. The Minister did say that he had consulted all the trade unions in the industry. I should like his attention for one moment on this, because I am trying to put to him something which I want him to investigate straight away. I am told that there is considerable feeling among some of the smaller trade unions that they have not been consulted. I know he has consulted all the main textile unions, but I am told that the Association of Supervisory Officers and Technicians has not been consulted, and not invited to participate in the conferences. I am told—a matter of no small importance—that the union representing the men who stoke the fires in the steam mills has never been consulted in these matters, and feels it ought to be. I hope he will see that they are invited to the meeting with the Prime Minister on 22nd March; that would be appreciated, and I think it right that it should be done in order that the meeting may be fully representative of everybody in the industry. Having said that, I repeat my welcome of this order, which is an exceedingly important one. It is certainly a step in the right direction, and I hope and believe it will bring good results.

10.24 p.m.

Mr. Shackleton (Preston)

I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale) in saying that Lancashire welcomes this order. It is notable that the only discordant note was struck by the hon. and gallant Member for the New Forest (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre), who is not a Lancashire Member, and I felt that some of his arguments did not take into account the discussions we had, both in Committee and in the House, on the Industrial Organisation Act, in which we covered the appointment of independent members, and so on. Obviously, if the President of the Board of Trade has the appointment of independent members he must have some say in their qualifications. We need not bother too much about that sort of objection.

I feel that this order is in line with the spirit and intentions of the Industrial Organisation Act, on which in its final stages there was general agreement between all parties in the House. It is encouraging, this most important industry to remain in private enterprise, should be the first industry to be dealt with under this Act. It is a chance for private enterprise in the cotton industry, and I hope that they will take this chance which will undoubtedly be their last chance.

Sir J. Barlow

Does the hon. Member suggest that nationalisation can achieve better results?

Mr. Shackleton

I am making no suggestions at all at the moment. The hon. Member will agree that it is desirable, since we have harmony between employers and employees growing in the industry, that we should develop it. It is desirable that this order should be made the best use of, that we should now see Lancashire develop itself, and that the cotton industry, under the terms laid down, should be enabled to achieve a degree of efficiency which it did not obtain in the past for reasons with which we are not concerned at the moment.

I wish to refer to this question of labour utilisation referred to in Schedule 1. During the Committee stage on the Industrial Organisation Act, we discussed whether or not development councils which might be set up would be entitled to go into such questions as joint production machinery. I do not see how, if they are to investigate labour utilisation, that particular subject can be burked. I do not want to press the Minister too hard, but it is a point which will have to be faced up to in the industry. I believe that this order is of great importance. It continues the work of the Cotton Board which has been of great significance to Lancashire in the past.

10.27 p.m.

Mr. Burke (Burnley)

I welcome this order. For many years before the war some of us fought for this kind of thing to happen in the cotton industry. We had an Act passed in 1939, which went some of the way towards bringing unification in regard to both sides of the industry. That Act, unfortunately, had to be shelved. If that Act had been proceeded with, the pernicious system of "shuttle kissing" would have been ended. I was surprised to find that this is still in operation in a large part of the mills. I had a case brought to my notice this weekend of a woman who had to be dismissed from a mill because she was suffering from tuberculosis. She was teaching women alongside her how to thread shuttles by "shuttle kissing." This is something which has caused an enormous amount of ill-health among the operatives. I hope that my right hon. Friend will bear in mind this important point, and see that this pernicious system is put an end to under this order.

10.29 p.m.

Mr. Harold Wilson

The hon. and gallant Member for New Forest and Christchurch (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre), I am sorry to say, seemed to think that my remarks had been political. What I said in the concluding part of my speech about the history of the industry between the inter-war years was, I thought, completely non-controversial. I was only repeating the views of the working party which was representative of both sides of the industry, and I think my general judgment on that subject that many of the ills and difficulties of the industry were the responsibility not of Lancashire but of world conditions, was, I think, subscribed to by the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Sir J. Barlow). Certainly what I said about City finance in the boom of 1920 is surely something endorsed by Members of all parties. I should be very surprised if the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest and Christchurch does not support what I said. He raised a number of points which I think certainly need an answer. One of them was when he referred to paragraph 1 (3): The Board may enter into such agreements, acquire such property and do such things, as may in the opinion of the Board be necessary or desirable for the exercise of any of their functions, and may dispose as they think fit of any property acquired by them. I can reassure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that this is common form and is, in fact, taken over word for word from paragraph 19 of the Schedule to the Cotton Industry Act of 1940. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will look it up, he will see that is the case. In any case, the phrase is qualified by the statement that these are to be necessary or desirable for the exercise of any of their functions. The hon. and gallant Gentleman raised a number of points in connection with paragraph 4 (6). I can assure him there is no substance in the difficulty he raised. It had exactly the same effect on me when I read it. May I give him the results of the inquiries I made? If the hon. and gallant Gentleman reads it again he will see it is mandatory on the Board—I do not refer to the Board of Trade, but the Cotton Board—to maintain this register and keep on it any undertaking still in being. The idea of the paragraph is to avoid having the register cluttered up with dead concerns and although, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman pointed out, there is no provision in sub-paragraph (6) about appeal as to whether a particular firm is dead or not, if he will look at the earlier part of the paragraph he will find it is mandatory on the Board——

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre

The point is, what happens if the Cotton Board says a particular firm is dead and that firm says it is not? Who decides?

Mr. Wilson

I should have thought that if a firm says it is not dead, that is a pretty good answer that it must be alive. I assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that sub-paragraph (2) is the over-riding Clause: The Board shall enter in a register … the name of every person who has made an application to be registered. … When the hon. and gallant Gentleman looks at sub-paragraph (6), he will see that if there is an error, if the Board has not registered a firm which shows that it is not dead by making an application, the Board is in fact bound to accede to that application.

Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre

This does seem very important. If the President of the Board of Trade looks at sub-paragraph (6) he will see that the Board "may, if they have reasonable cause to believe" and that seems to give them complete discretion. I do not believe, subject to what the President of the Board of Trade says, that sub-paragraph (2) over-rules that.

Mr. Wilson

I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman is quite wrong. The Board may, if they have reasonable cause to believe that any person whose name is entered in the register no longer carries on business in the industry, by notice in writing inform that person of their intention to remove his name from the register. But if that person makes a come back, then that is the end of the business. The Board shall enter in the register the name of that person. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will refer this to his legal advisers I am sure he will be quite satisfied about it. The hon. and gallant Gentleman also asked how this £250,000 was reached. We went very carefully into the expenses paid and found that the average expenses were somewhat below this figure and, taking into account the additional functions that we hope may be exercised, we felt that £250,000 is a reasonable maximum. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman wants information at any time about expenditure I hope we will be able to give it to him.

Sir J. Barlow

Will the Minister say whether the contribution for cotton research comes out of that figure, or is it merely for the expenses of the Cotton Board?

Mr. Wilson

Contributions to the Shirley Institute come under that figure as they have done up to now. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan), in common with other hon. Members, stressed the importance of the question of welfare. There has been no decision on this question yet, but I say most sincerely that I hope members of the Board will look seriously at this matter because it is one on which we all, I am certain, feel very strongly. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale) raised a number of different points. He will not, I am sure, expect me to go into details on each of those, because most of the matters, such as that of air-conditioning machinery, are matters for the Board to handle; but I can tell my hon. Friend that we have been in constant touch with them on different aspects of such problems. He mentioned, also, shop closing and canteens. As he knows, I have discussed these matters with members of the Board over the weekend.

There is the general point—and it is one with which the House is quite rightly concerned—regarding the procedure by which the Board can make its views effective. First of all, I keep in close touch with the Chairman of the Cotton Board; he can ring me on the telephone, or can come to see me whenever he wishes; and I frequently meet members of the Board in formal or informal session when it is my good fortune to be in Manchester. We shall keep, as we have kept, in close touch with members of the Board. In answer to the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Sir J. Barlow) I would like to say that I attach the greatest importance to getting the right people on this Board, both from the industrial and executive points of view. We have approached the industrial organisations, and we have had some suggestions and are getting more, although, of course, the final responsibility for appointment and nomination must be my own.

With regard to my hon. Friend's question about the smaller unions which have not been consulted, my answer is that he will realise that if we had consulted every union about this order, we should not have got it through as quickly as we have.

Mr. Hale

If I may interrupt my right hon. Friend, I would say that I quite accept that. I put my point, perhaps, in an unfortunate way, but they could be invited to Belle Vue, and invited to participate.

Mr. Wilson

Yes, and I would go farther than that. These unions had a copy of the draft order before them for several weeks, and it was up to them to make representations to me, or to the Cotton Board, and so far as the invitation to Belle Vue is concerned I think it was our idea, in holding that "jamboree," to make it possible for us to have direct contact with executives and district secretaries of all these smaller individual unions which we could not meet in the ordinary way, and also a selection of men and women from every mill in Lancashire. There has been full consultation, and in this connection I would say that the name of A.S.S.E.T. was mentioned. The hon. Member who raised that matter will like to know that my Department sent a letter to the secretary of A.S.S.E.T. on the question of the development council only this afternoon.

To sum up, the House has given a welcome to this order, and Lancashire will feel encouraged at the interest which so many hon. Members have taken in its welfare so late at night. It is a genuine interest and, as I have said, it is one which anyone concerned with the future of the country must genuinely feel. I hope that when subsequent orders are put before the House, as several will be during the course of the next few weeks, we shall be able to deal with them with the same degree of unanimity on both sides of the House as we have had on this order tonight.

Mr. Burke

Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, may I ask whether he will deal with the point which I raised?

Mr. Wilson

I am well aware of the practice. It is a serious practice, and has been for a long time. I will ask the new Cotton Board to look into this question and to let me have its views upon it.

Resolved, That the Draft Order entitled the Cotton Industry Development Council Order, 1948, proposed to be made by the Board of Trade under Section 1 of the Industrial Organisation and Development Act, 1947, a copy of which Draft Order was presented on 27th February, be approved.