HC Deb 28 July 1955 vol 544 cc1336-8
28 and 29. Mr. Fort

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) the average weekly production of cotton cloths in the United Kingdom primarily used for industrial purposes, and for apparel, respectively, in January and June, 1955;

(2) the average weekly retained imports of cotton cloths suitable for apparel in January and June, 1955.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

I regret that these figures are not available.

Mr. Fort

In view of the importance of the manner in which imports are affecting production in this country of apparel cloths, can my right hon. Friend undertake to collect the statistics so that he himself, as well as the rest of us, can be better informed as to how these imports affect the production of apparel cloths in England?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I will certainly try to get any information which would be of value, but there are real difficulties in distinguishing the different types of cloth. If my hon. Friend would have a word with me, I might explain some of them to him afterwards.

Mr. S. Silverman

What is the good of the right hon. Gentleman's equipping himself with all this information if his basic outlook on the problem is that it is one for the industry itself and that the Government disclaim all responsibility in the matter?

Mr. Thorneycroft

One of the reasons for getting this information is to ensure that the Government's broad commercial policy is on lines favourable to the industry.

33. Lieut.-Colonel Schofield

asked the President of the Board of Trade by what amount United Kingdom exports of cotton cloth have decreased and imports of foreign cotton cloth have increased during the first six months of this year.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

Generally, both imports and exports have decreased during the first six months of 1955. I will, with permission, circulate the figures in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Lieut.-Colonel Schofield

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that these imports of foreign cloth are very heavy indeed and are seriously aggravating an already very difficult position in the cotton textile industry, with the result that short-time working and unemployment are now beginning to rise more steeply?

Mr. Thorneyeroft

The situation in Lancashire is more complex than can be attributed solely to imports of foreign grey cloth.

Mrs. Castle

Would the President of the Board of Trade not agree that the general picture in the cotton industry is now one of steady shrinkage and decline, with the result that young workers are either leaving the industry or are not entering it from school, and that unless the Government announce a plan showing what they think the size and rôle of the cotton industry should be in the economy, there will be simply an unregulated decline?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I do not think any help would be given by a statement from any Government as to what they thought the size of the cotton textile industry ought to be.

Following are the figures:

Thousand sq. yds.
1955 Imports United Kingdom Exports
Total of which grey unbleached Total*
January 36,881 33,569 59,631
February 31,165 28,052 51,783
March 31,600 28,686 53,825
April 24,322 22,124 45,842
May 29,909 27,795 45,426
June 17,437 15,803 24,838
*Excluding cotton fents, exports of which were valued at -£371,604 in the period Jan.-June, 1955.