HC Deb 13 November 1952 vol 507 cc1099-100
16. Air Commodore Harvey

asked the President of the Board of Trade to make a statement on the present position of the textile industry, and particularly as to what improvements have taken place in recent months.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

I am glad to say that a considerable improvement has taken place in recent months in production and employment in the textile industries. Unemployment has fallen by over two-thirds in five months, from 143,000 in May to 45,000 in October, and since May the latest figures show an increase of 35 per cent. in the production of cotton yarn, and of 26 per cent. in the deliveries of worsted yarn.

The recovery of the textile industries is far from complete but, helped by accelerated defence orders placed this year, it has made substantial progress.

Air Commodore Harvey

While congratulating my right hon. Friend on this very welcome achievement, may I ask him whether, when the conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers takes place he will discuss this matter with the British textile industry as fully as possible, in view of much unfair competition from Japan and elsewhere?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I assure my hon. and gallant Friend that the problems of the textile industry will never be forgotten by us.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood

While we all welcome the improvement to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, may I ask him whether he could tell the House to what extent there has been an improvement in the export position, and whether he could say whether he believes that the industry will be able to achieve the very high target set by the Cotton Board for next year?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I did make a statement in the debate recently about the export figures, but if the hon. Gentleman would like them in detail perhaps he would put a Question down.

Mr. Shinwell

As the real deterioration only set in after this Government was returned, why are the Government now bragging about the improvement?

Mr. Thorneycroft

If the right hon. Gentleman will consult those of his hon. Friends who understand this matter they will explain to him that the recession in textiles started long before this Government came into office.

Major Lloyd

Would it be too much to expect certain hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to cease from trying to exploit the difficulties of the textile industry for purely political purposes?

Mr. Lee

Is the Minister aware that he, like the Chancellor, is now stating that the improvement is due to the Government placing re-armament orders and that that means that as soon as those orders are finished the cotton operatives will have to go back into despondency again?

Mr. Thorneycroft

If the hon. Gentleman would study the terms of my answer he would see that I said the recovery was helped by accelerated defence orders placed this year.