HC Deb 03 July 1952 vol 503 cc616-8
34. Mr. W. T. Williams

asked the Secretary for Overseas Trade as representing the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, what has been the result of the recent meeting in Rome of the International Cotton Advisory Committee in respect of achieving an international cotton agreement.

Mr. Mackeson

A general discussion of an international cotton agreement took place at the meeting referred to, but preparatory work had not proceeded far enough for member Governments to form even a provisional view on whether a cotton agreement would be advantageous or not. The subject is very complicated technically and closely affects the interests of a great number of countries. It was, therefore, unanimously agreed in Rome that the Standing Committee of the International Cotton Advisory Committee should study the matter further in the light of numerous points raised by member Governments and with a view to submitting, if possible, concrete proposals at a later stage. Her Majesty's Government fully concurred in this decision.

Mr. Williams

Is the Minister aware that the position was described in the "Daily Telegraph" of 16th June, as "suicidal"—the adjustment of cotton production in the world due to the smaller world export trade; and that a new conference has been called at Buxton on 17th September? May I ask whether, before that conference, a genuine attempt will be made by Her Majesty's Government to make some contribution to solving this suicidal situation?

Mr. Mackeson

Yes, Sir, but this is a matter which concerns not only Her Majesty's Government. Twenty-eight countries are involved, and several of those who attended this conference were unbriefed technically on the complicated matters placed before them.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood

Does not the Minister appreciate that the one thing the textile industry needs almost more than anything else is a stable price for raw materials? And instead of just lying down like this, will not he press the other countries to try to work out an agreement of this kind, which is vital?

Mr. Mackeson

Yes, Sir, but at this particular meeting several countries were unbriefed. Pakistan and Switzerland spoke on lines adverse to an agreement and only France and Italy positively supported the idea. It is a matter on which we must go carefully, although the Government are anxious to do everything possible to achieve that objective.