HC Deb 30 October 1952 vol 505 cc2096-8
34. Lieut.-Colonel Schofield

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that, despite unemployment in Lancashire, Japanese cotton imports into this country for the first nine months of 1952 rose to a value of £10,411,000 as against £5,915,000 in the same period last year and only £3,940,000 in the first nine months of 1950; in view of his decision in May last that no further licences were to be granted for the time being for the import of cotton textiles from Japan except in relation to outstanding commitments, in what circumstances this increase in Japanese cotton imports has taken place; and what further action he proposes to take in the matter.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

Yes, Sir, but while the value of these imports has risen over the period, the quantity has fallen. Imports this year have included considerable quantities of canvas for the defence programme which is appreciably dearer than the grey cloth normally imported. These contracts were placed in Japan between February and September, 1951, at a time when capacity was not available in this country. I understand that they have now been completed, and I do not think any further action is necessary.

Lieut.-Colonel Schofield

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the average price per square yard of Japanese imported cloth into this country has peen rising steadily during the past year, and that, according to the Board of Trade Returns for September, the price has risen to approximately 6s. per square yard against an average price of less than 2s. per square yard in the previous year, and that these high prices which are paid for Ministry of Defence contracts—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."]—merely allow the Japanese to average their total export prices and undercut us in every market in the world?

Mr. Thorneycroft

These particular contracts were placed as long ago as between February and September last year before I was at the Board of Trade. As a matter of fact, at the time when they were placed the capacity was not available in Lancashire to take up the orders.

Mr. Ellis Smith

Has the right hon. Gentleman got the figures with him of quantities, to enable us to measure the effects of this?

Mr. Thorneycroft

The figures for canvas were 13,500,000 square yards at a cost of just under £7 million.

Mr. Sutcliffe

Could my right hon. Friend confirm the fact that he has no intention of issuing any further licences for these goods at present?

Mr. Thorneycroft

No licences are being issued at the present time, except that a certain amount of grey cloth is still coming in either on licences issued before the ban was imposed or on colonial order.

Mr. S. Silverman

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that nobody in Lancashire has the slightest objection to orders being placed abroad so long as our own industry is fully employed? The objection arises only when orders are placed abroad when our own people are unemployed.