HC Deb 29 April 1952 vol 499 cc1203-4
16. Mrs. Barbara Castle

asked the Minister of Labour what part the cotton industry is expected to play in the shift of labour from the consumer goods industries to re-armament envisaged in the Economic Survey for 1952.

Sir W. Monckton

The extent to which workers in the cotton industry will transfer to re-armament work will depend very largely on the future level of the employment in the cotton industry.

Mrs. Castle

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that on page 37 of the Economic Survey it is stated that some 55,000 additional workers will be required for defence work by next March, a number of whom have to come from the consumer industries; and in view of his very indefinite reply, are we to take it that this Economic Survey contains no serious plan of action, or has no relationship with reality?

Sir W. Monckton

I hope that the hon. Lady will not draw any such inference. It is extraordinarily hard to say what contribution is likely to come from a particular section of the consumer goods industry until one knows more about the likely optimum strength of the workers in the industry, which I could not now say.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

Would the Minister bear in mind that there is very considerable unemployment in the cotton industry at the moment; that in the past the country has depended, as it will in the future, upon the cotton industry for a very significant part of the export trade by which it lives; and that to transfer labour from this essential industry to a temporary re-armament programme is certainly no advantage in dealing with the long-term policy in the industry?

Sir W. Monckton

I fully appreciate the troublesome difficulties of unemployment in the area to which the hon. Gentleman refers. I am not saying that there will be an attempt to reduce the number of workers in the industry. It is only that if they become available and there is not work for them, there are here opportunities, in some cases, which they could take.