HC Deb 27 May 1952 vol 501 cc1143-5
36. Mr. Boardman

asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps, apart from Government contracts for cotton textiles, have so far been taken to reduce unemployment in Lancashire.

Mr. H. Strauss

Unemployment in Lancashire arises mainly from the worldwide recession in demand for cotton and rayon textiles, and it is on a revival of this demand that a reduction in unemployment and short-time working must mainly depend. Meanwhile, in addition to accelerating Government contracts for textiles, Her Majesty's Government in their trade and fiscal policies have sought to help the industry to take full advantage of a recovery in demand when it comes and, where possible, to encourage new industries to come into those areas which are heavily dependent on the industry and are Most affected by the recession.

Mr. Boardman

Is the Minister aware that this type of reply to Lancashire people will, I think, be most depressing? It certainly does not offer any hope to the people of Lancashire. Will he, with the President of the Board of Trade, look at this question again, in order to avoid the heavy leakage of the most skilled and conscientious workers from the Lancashire cotton textile trade?

Mr. H. Hynd

Is the Minister aware that he is quite wrong when he says that improvement depends on reviving the export trade? Is he aware that three-quarters of the trade is for the home market, and it is the home market which is being depressed by the Government's policy of increasing food prices and other matters?

Mr. Sutcliffe

My hon. and learned Friend has mentioned the conditions with regard to new industries, but will he, together with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply, do everything in his power to attract new industries to this area and find suitable accommodation for them?

Mr. Strauss

The hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) said that I referred to the export trade. I did not. I referred to the world-wide recession in demand, which includes demand at home as well as abroad. There is a world-wide recession in the demand for textile goods.

Mr. Stokes

Can the hon. and learned Gentleman say whether the recession in the export trade may not be quite speedily overcome by a measure of lease-lend within the Commonwealth?

Mr. Strauss

That is another question.

Mrs. Castle

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that unemployment in Lancashire is steadily rising, and are we to take it from his reply that he and the President of the Board of Trade have now become the Micawbers of Millbank, waiting for something to turn up.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

How has it come about that at the present time large quantities of American made frocks imported from the U.S.A. are being sold in London? Is that the way in which the Government's fiscal policy is helping the textile trade?

Mr. Strauss

That is quite a different question, and I think that the hon. and gallant Member will get the answer if he consults any of his hon. Friends who are familiar with the trade.

Mr. Sutcliffe

Can the Minister give some assurance on the point I raised?

Mr. Strauss

The possibility of persuading industries that are free to do so to enter some of these districts was explained by my right hon. Friend in a recent Adjournment debate. Certainly the Government have the object which my hon. Friend has mentioned well in mind.