HC Deb 25 July 1950 vol 478 cc385-7

10.51 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. Rhodes)

I beg to move, That the Draft Wool Textile Industry (Export Promotion Levy) Order, 1950, a copy of which was laid before this House on 12th July, be approved. This is in accordance with the requirements of the Industrial Organisation and Development Act, 1947. It is the second Order to be made under Section 9 of that Act. The first Order, which has been in operation since January, 1949, imposed a levy on the lace industry to finance scientific research. The purpose of this Order is to provide money to finance the export promotional activities of the National Wool Textile Export Corporation by imposing on the industry a levy estimated to yield between £100,000 and £120,000 per annum. The Order has the full support of the industry.

The wool textile industry is closely woven into the fabric of our history. Wool has contributed much to the social development of our island and to its economic well-being. It is a tribute to the numberless generations of men and women who have fashioned fabrics from wool that in 1950 we still process more wool than any other country in the world, and we are responsible for about half the total world trade in wool textiles. Over 200,000 people are employed in the industry, and the turnover is approximately £400 million a year. It supplies over 90 per cent. of domestic requirements of wool cloth. It supplies 40 per cent. by weight of the yarns needed by our hosiery industry, and it is at present exporting directly about one quarter of its output, or over £100 million worth of goods a year. Its exports to North America are running at more than £21 million a year, which is 10 per cent. of all our dollar exports.

The National Wool Textile Export Corporation was set up in 1941 with the general object of providing a central service for exports of wool textiles. It was to establish a central office to help manufacturers in their war-time difficulties in producing goods for export. The Export Corporation has done a good job. In 1944 it set up and has since maintained an office in New York which undertakes market research and publicity to keep British textiles before the American public. It has arranged trade missions to the United States, Canada, South Africa, South America and Scandinavia.

It has also arranged for the production and display of documentary films on wool textiles, for the circulation of a news letter to all wool exporters, for statistical surveys on overseas markets, and for exhibitions. It has recently organised a display of British wool textiles at the Canadian National Fair at Toronto which was widely regarded as one of the best stands at the Fair. The Corporation has now, in agreement with the industry, made plans for promoting exports to North America which, it is estimated, will cost approximately £72,000 in each of the next three years. The Corporation also expects to spend some £40,000 a year on general export promotion work. These activities could not go on without the levy which is now proposed, and I have great pleasure in commending it to the House.

10.55 p.m.

Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley)

It would certainly be a lack of chivalry on my part if I did not pay a tribute to the way the hon. Gentleman has been able to give colour and warmth to the rather formal task of moving that this Order be approved. I associate myself with the tremendous tribute, past, present and future, that he has paid to this industry, which, happily, still remains in private hands

This is an occasion on which the Order and the plan submitted to us is agreeable, as I understand it, to all concerned in the industry. While the Minister, of course, does not surrender any of the rights or duties which he has under the Act, I am sure he also is pleased that on this occasion this Order and this scheme can be brought into being with general good will, for it is always better—and I think he will agree—when industry and the Government agree upon a scheme of this kind. Therefore, he has the support of my hon. Friends on this side of the House.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved: That the Draft Wool Textile Industry (Export Promotion Levy) Order, 1950, a copy of which was laid before this House on 12th July, be approved.