HC Deb 28 October 1954 vol 531 cc2118-9
17. Mr. Hale

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the Granville Mill, Oldham, which has been operating as a weft and big cop spinning mill since 1884, has closed down on the grounds of foreign competition; and, in view of the resulting loss of employment and production, if he will make a statement of Her Majesty's Government's policy as to the cotton industry.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

My information does not suggest that the closing of this mill is due to foreign competition.

Mr. Hale

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer two questions? First, will he say whether he has any policy for employment in the cotton spinning industry, particularly in view of the fact that there are now 13,000 fewer people employed in that section than in October, 1951? Second, will he say whether he has power to hold an inquiry into the closing of this mill, which had 97,000 spindles, employed 240 people, made a profit of £24,000, paid a dividend of 15 per cent., changed hands at £2 a share as recently as last June, paid £9,000 for loss of office by directors and was bought by a gentleman who before the war operated successfully as a mill knacker? Will the right hon. Gentleman inquire into this and let us know what the facts are, because the whole of the workers in the industry are concerned about the facts in this case?

Mr. Thorneycroft

As far as employment policy is concerned, I am glad to say that there are four vacancies for every man out of work. So far as this mill is concerned, I suggest that the hon. Gentleman himself might make a few inquiries in Lancashire about this matter. It is true to say that it was taken over as recently as last June by the present owners, who paid £2 for each £1 of issued share capital. At that time imports of foreign grey were running at about the same level as at the present time. On that basis, I think it very hard to contend that it was foreign competition which closed the mill.

Mr. Hale

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. The only trouble was that had I not suggested that it was foreign competition, the Question might not have been allowed at all. But does not the right hon. Gentleman think that if a mill which ought to make money is closed down for tax reasons, he owes a duty to the House and to the public to say how this comes about?

Sir T. Moore

That is a shocking charge to make.

Mr. Thorneycroft

The grounds upon which I could order an inquiry into operations of this kind are, as the hon. Gentleman knows, limited by legislation.