HC Deb 07 December 1953 vol 521 cc1621-2

3.44 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. Henry Strauss)

I beg to move.

That the Draft Lace Furnishings Industry (Export Promotion Levy) (Amendment No. 2) Order, 1953, a copy of which was laid before this House on 23rd November, be approved.

This Order amends the Order which was originally made in 1951 under Section 9 of the Industrial Organisation and Development Act, 1947. That Order imposed a levy for export promotion on the lace furnishings section of the lace industry. The basis of the calculation of the levy was the amount of yarn purchased in a base year. It is the wish of the industry that the base year should be brought forward from year to year and that from 1st January next it shall be the year 1952, instead of the year 1951.

The purpose of this Order is to change the base year accordingly and make adjustments which are necessary to ensure that the money brought in should be approximately the same as before, that is, £15,000 a year. Representative organisations of employers and employees have been consulted and it may possibly interest the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) to learn that the total amount collected up to date is £24,615 and that £23,142 of that has been paid out. It has been used mainly for publicity for exports in Canada. Now some of it is also being used in Australia.

3.45 p.m.

Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)

Turning from arsenic to old lace, or at any rate from sulphur to new lace, I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that we on this side of the House will not in any way resist or delay this Order. Certainly it seems reasonable that if levies have to be operated on this basis—and we agree that this is probably the best way of operating them—the basis should be as up-to-date as possible. There have been many changes in the lace industry, as in all export industries, between 1951 and 1952 and it seems right that the Minister should come forward with an Order based on the most up-to-date period possible.

I do not ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to reply now to the point which I am about to make, because I know that the House is anxious to get on to another debate. But there is some apprehension on the part of some of my hon. Friends who are in touch with this problem that the industry is not pursuing the export drive with quite the energy which we had hoped, chiefly due to the fact that it is having such a soft and easy time on the home market. Whether that is due to broad questions of Budgetary and economic policy I do not know, and it would not be in order to debate that point on this issue, but I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman and the Minister of State, Board of Trade, who is concerned with these export questions, would look into this matter.

The lace industry is quite an important export industry. We all recall the fine work which was done by the Lace Working Party in the period of the Parliament before the last and we should not like to feel that the efforts made by the last Government and the present Government to encourage this private export promotion levy were in any way frustrated by lack of effort owing to greater ease on the home market. We hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will consult his right hon. Friend, who is a great authority on questions relating to lace, quite apart from the duties of his office, and that he will be able to reassure any doubt on the part of my hon. Friends.

Question put, and agreed to.