HC Deb 24 October 1950 vol 478 cc2733-7

5.10 p.m.

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

I beg to move, That the Draft Wool Textile Industry (Scientific Research Levy) Order, 1950, a copy of which was laid before this House on 17th October, be approved. This Order, which is now presented to Parliament for approval in accordance with the requirements of the Industrial Organisation and Development Act, 1947, is the third Order to be made under Section 9 of that Act. The purpose of the Order is to provide finance for the activities of the Wool Textile Research Council in the field of scientific research by imposing on the industry a levy estimated to yield between £100,000 and £120,000 a year. It is a parallel Order to that approved by Parliament in July which imposed a levy to finance export promotion work by the National Wool Textile Export Corporation. The Order has been made with the agreement of both sides of the industry and after full consultation with them.

I ought to say a few words about the Wool Textile Research Council and what happens to the money. The money collected under the Order by the Board of Trade will be paid out to meet expenses incurred by the Wool Textile Research Council in carrying out scientific research. The Council will be composed of representatives of the Wool Industries Research Association, Leeds University and the technical colleges as well as representatives of organisations representing employers and employees in the industry. The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research will be represented on the Council by an assessor. The Council will spend the levy money on research to be carried out by the various research institutions in the industry and in doing so will ensure a proper co-ordination of research programmes. The Council will also have the important task of encouraging a speedy application of the results of scientific research within the industry.

The Board of Trade are required by Section 9 (8) of the Industrial Organisation and Development Act, 1947, to consult representative organisations of em- ployers and workers in the industry before making a levy order. This Order has the full support of the Wool Textile Delegation, representing the employers in the industry, and the National Association of Unions in the Textile Trade representing the workers in the industry. The detailed provisions of the Order have been worked out in full consultation with them. The Board of Trade have also consulted a number of other trade associations, some of whose members are directly or indirectly affected by the levy provisions.

5.14 p.m.

Mr. Spence (Aberdeenshire, West)

I want to bring to the attention of the Minister a point which was rather fully debated when the Act was before the House as a Bill. In the British textile industry the firms which have built the renown and esteem that British textiles enjoy in world markets are often the small firms, the small specialists, sometimes in remote areas of the country. Experience, from which I hope we shall learn, has shown that when a research council is set up it tends to look after the interests of the bigger employers. I should like the Minister to give the research council for this industry a very definite directive that the interests of the whole trade shall be studied and that the small men shall not be neglected.

5.15 p.m.

Mr. Fort (Clitheroe)

I want to follow up the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Spence) by asking the Parliamentary Secretary to consider not only the small firms but the special sides of the wool textile industry about which, with his expert and detailed knowledge of the industry, he will know. I refer in particular to firms manufacturing industrial cloths. I know from the Wool Working Party Report that we are not as sure in the wool industry as we are in the cotton industry what proportion of the total output is used for such purposes as paper making felts, printers' blankets and the like. It looks as if it is well over 10 per cent. of the industry's output and perhaps it is about 20 per cent. of the output for the home market which we certainly know is the percentage for the cotton industry from very comprehensive statistics.

I should like to have an assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary that the problems of these specialists of the industry, as well as the smaller firms, are considered and that much of the levy will be spent on fundamental research into the chemical and physical properties of wool and allied raw materials, covered by the Order. Then not only will the apparel side of the industry benefit from the levy but also those who are specialising in these industrial cloths which might easily be overlooked in the wider expanses of the industry. It would be of benefit to all of us if the speciality sides of our industry were recognised in this way.

5.17 p.m.

Mr. Shepherd (Cheadle)

The remarks of the Parliamentary Secretary, as well probably as those of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Spence), may have given rise to the impression that this industry is having some research organisation for the first time in its history. That would be a grave and quite unwarranted reflection upon an industry which was the second in this country to establish a research organisation. In 1918 the Wool Research Association was founded, being the second trade association for research purposes to be founded in the United Kingdom.

Therefore, we are not on this occasion starting up at the behest of His Majesty's Government a new development in an industry, but are carrying on in a more official form what the industry has voluntarily done over a long period of time. That is not to say that the Department of Scientific Research has not assisted in this matter. It has assisted the Research Association to the extent of £30,000 per annum and I know that the Research Association is very grateful for not only the financial assistance but also the technical and administrative assistance which it receives from the Department.

The Parliamentary Secretary has pointed out that this will involve a levy of about £120,000. I ought to say that this does not envisage an extension of the existing expenditure on research in the wool industry. If one looks at the balance sheet of the Research Association, leaving aside entirely the work of Leeds University, one sees that last year the total expenditure was £120,000. So we are not asking the industry for an amount greatly in excess of the amount which it now voluntarily extends towards the Research Association.

My hon. Friend can be assured from what I know of the research organisation at Torrington that there will be no desire on the part of Dr. Cassey, the head of the organisation, to favour large firms at the expense of the small ones. The industry is extraordinarily fortunate in having a man like Dr. Cassey to run the association, in the same way as it is extraordinarily fortunate to have Dr. Speakman at Leeds University. There has been the closest collaboration between the University and the Research Association, and that does not always apply. It speaks volumes for the personalities of both Dr. Cassey and Professor Speakman.

It would be unreasonable to give the impression that only organised research is going on. One instance I might mention is the invention of Air Vice-Marshal Ambler, who has made to the textile industry perhaps the most significant technical contribution of this century. That has been not the product of the Research Association or of Leeds University but largely of Air Vice-Marshal Ambler's own ingenuity. However, it speaks also for the co-operation when I say that this invention could not have been brought to its present stage but for the co-operation of the university in the higher mathematics necessary for it to be brought to perfection.

I am glad to see this Order brought forward because I hope it will settle a period of some dispute between His Majesty's Government and the employers in this industry. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that, despite the rugged individualism of those who run the industry, they have an admirable sense of public duty and that within the Wool Textile Delegation they have built up an organisation which is a pattern to many industries in this country. They have been quite ready to put joint consultation at all levels into their own organisation.

I hope, therefore, that in a short time this little dispute will have been forgotten. I understand there has been an announcement of an agreement to set up a joint consultation body. I hoped the Parliamentary Secretary would say something about that since it was made public yesterday. I hope that body will prosper. Both the unions and the employers are to be congratulated, and His Majesty's Government are no less to be congratulated for so belatedly agreeing to a voluntary council. We wish this research organisation every success, and no doubt it will continue to do the fine work which Torrington has done in the last 30 years.

5.23 p.m.

Mr. Rhodes

If I may give a short reply, I would say to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, West (Mr. Spence), that the interests of the small man will be looked after because there is adequate representation over the whole field on the Wool Textile Research Council. The same applies to the particularly specialised branch mentioned by the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Fort). I understand that branch has a member on the Council. I cannot say, of course, how the money will be spent. That will be at the discretion of the Wool Textile Research Council which will have the disposition of it but, knowing Yorkshiremen, I think the House can be assured that the money will be well spent. I, too, hope that research in the wool industry will go forward with profit to all those engaged in it.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved: That the Draft Wool Textile Industry (Scientific Research Levy) Order, 1950, a copy of which was laid before this House on 17th October, be approved.

Resolved: That the Draft Wool Textile Industry (Export Promotion Levy) (Amendment) Order, 1950, a copy of which was laid before this House on 17th October, be approved."—[Mr. Rhodes.]

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