HC Deb 05 April 1951 vol 486 cc356-8
14. Mr. Assheton

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many looms in Lancashire are now stopped owing to lack of supplies.

Mr. H. Wilson

No figures are available of looms which may have been stopped for lack of supplies, but the latest available figures of the total number of looms working show a slight increase since the beginning of this year. These figures, however, do not allow for short-time working, which, I understand, may have increased slightly in rayon weaving.

Mr. Assheton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some six-loom weavers are now having to be content with four looms, and four-loom weavers with two, and so on, and that this under-employment is really rather serious?

Mr. Wilson

The right hon. Gentleman will know the deep concern we feel about this very restricted degree of underemployment compared with the large amount of under-employment that Lancashire knew before the war—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—and I think he will be aware of the causes.

Mr. Assheton

Will the right hon. Gentleman realise that I am trying to discuss a serious problem, which is related to the lack of supplies of cotton and rayon in this country due to his policy?

Mr. Wilson

The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, because we have discussed this many times, that the lack both of cotton, and of rayon, which is affected by sulphur, is not in any way due to the policy of the Government.

Mr. Shepherd

As the exports of cotton today, in volume, are only 40 per cent. of the 1937 figure is the right hon. Gentleman able to estimate what the effect of this short-time work will be on our already too low export figures?

Mr. Wilson

No, Sir, but the Cotton Board, who are, of course, in very close touch with industry in this respect, report that cotton looms have, in general, been very little affected by the shortage of supplies.

Squadron Leader Burden

In view of the fact that because of the conversion rate the exportable value of this staple fibre as manufactured cloth is much higher than when exported as fibre, will the Minister ensure that this fibre is not exported?

Mr. Wilson

I agree with what the hon. and gallant Gentleman has in mind. There is another Question on that on the Order Paper.