HC Deb 20 May 1952 vol 501 cc262-4
47. Mr. Driberg

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the closing of the Courtauld works in Essex; and what steps are being taken to prevent such stoppages of production and employment.

Mr. H. Strauss

I am informed that two of the company's four mills in Essex are closing for two weeks, because stocks are very high. The company intend to re-open these mills immediately after Whitsun, even if it is necessary to operate them at a reduced level. We greatly regret the need for these temporary measures. The company have assured us that they are doing everything possible to maintain employment in their Essex mills.

Mr. Driberg

Can the hon. and learned Gentleman say what steps the President of the Board of Trade has so far taken urgently and actively, as he promised, to investigate the suggestion contained in Question No. 26 today by my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White), with regard to consultations with the Service Departments?

Mr. Strauss

I think that that has been the subject of an answer to other Questions. I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given by the Minister of Supply to the hon. Member for Flint on 19th May.

Mr. Driberg

I am asking what steps the President of the Board of Trade has so far taken to implement the promise that he gave to the hon. Lady and this House about consultations with the Service Departments. I take it that the hon. Gentleman can answer that?

Mr. Strauss

I think that the hon. Member is well aware that the Board of Trade is not the Department which places the orders, but my right hon. Friend has, of course, been in touch with the Minister of Supply. That was why I referred the hon. Member to the answer given by the Minister of Supply.

Mr. J. Hyud

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that Messrs. Courtauld have announced that these men are being stood off until they have disposed of accumulated stocks? In view of this, do the Government intend to terminate their appeals to the workers for more production, since obviously there will be no response if the workers realise that they are to be stood off when they have accumulated sufficient stocks to enable the firms to make profits on their labours while they are unemployed?

Mr. Strauss

The hon. Member's statement about what Messrs. Courtauld have said is incomplete. If he will refer to my original answer, he will see that though it is true that the accumulation of stocks is the reason for this temporary closing down, it is only temporary and they will be re-opening.

Mrs. White

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that discussions have been going on with the Ministry of Supply for two years, and that no specifications have been brought forward as a result of these discussions? Is not his right hon. Friend prepared to put pressure on the other Departments to expedite the matter?

Mr. Strauss

It is for the Departments concerned to say whether the goods in which the hon. Lady is particularly interested in this Question are suitable for that purpose, but it is quite true that my right hon. Friend and those responsible for the Departments concerned are urgently considering the proposal which the hon. Lady has made.