HC Deb 03 July 1952 vol 503 cc596-8
8. Mr. Anthony Greenwood

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many cotton-spinning firms have notified his Department by 30th June of their intention to continue buying their cotton supplies from the Raw Cotton Commission; how many had indicated their wish to employ private importers; and what approximate spindlage is represented by each group, respectively.

10. Mr. Holt

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many cotton-spinning firms have contracted out from the Raw Cotton Commission up to 30th June for the buying of part or all of their raw cotton requirements.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

One hundred and sixty-two cotton-spinning firms, representing 210 mills and about 23 million spindles, or 68 per cent., have notified their intention to continue to obtain the whole of their supplies from the Raw Cotton Commission; 47 firms representing 60 mills and about five million spindles, or 15 per cent., have notified their intention to import the whole of their requirements privately, and 15 firms representing 55 mills and about six million spindles, or 17 per cent., have notified their intention to obtain part of their supplies from the Raw Cotton Commission and part privately. Nine firms representing nine mills have not yet replied. Some firms are included in more than one of these categories.

From these figures it is estimated, on the basis of past consumption, that about 29 per cent. of cotton imports will be on private account.

The procedure for private import of cotton, which will include arrangements for consignment cotton, is being worked out by the Cotton Import Advisory Panel and will be announced as soon as possible.

Mr. Greenwood

Is not the fact that a large number of firms have refused to exercise their option to contract out a remarkable tribute to the work of the Raw Cotton Commission, and will the right hon. Gentleman add his compliment to that Commission in addition to those which have been paid by a number of big firms during the past few weeks? Why did he find it necessary to extend the period in which firms could make up their minds? Was it so that certain parties could get to work to persuade more firms to contract out of the scheme?

Mr. Thorneycroft

The important thing here is not the number who contract in or who contract out. The important thing is that people should be free to do what they want. They can buy their cotton, if they like, through the Raw Cotton Commission; or, if they like, on private account, which is more than they have been able to do for quite a long time.

Mr. Greenwood

The right hon. Gentleman has ignored both the questions I have put to him. Is not the fact that so many firms still prefer to continue to get their cotton through the Raw Cotton Commission a remarkable compliment to the work that the Commission has done?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I do not think the Commission requires any tribute of that character. I think it does a fine job of work and I have never questioned that. Certainly, we are indebted to Sir Ralph Lacey for the work he has done, but the important thing here is that people should buy cotton in the way in which they prefer to buy it.

Mr. Fort

Will my right hon. Friend convey to the Raw Cotton Commission and to the spinners generally that we do not wish, at least on this side of the House, to make party political capital out of what is a plain trading arrangement?

Mrs. Braddock

Does the answer of the President mean that this is another of the much-vaunted Tory promises that the Government will not be able to carry out—the opening of the Liverpool Cotton Exchange?

Mr. Thorneycroft

This matter has been handled in a manner satisfactory to all parties in all sections of Lancashire, including the trade union movement, and we ought to be very satisfied with it.