HC Deb 01 November 1955 vol 545 cc815-7
3. Mr. H. Wilson

asked the Minister of Labour the net number by which employment in the cotton industry has fallen over the last year and the last four years, taking the latest month for which figures are available.

Mr. Watkinson

In the 12 months to the end of September, 1955, there was a fall of 29,000 and in the four years to the same date a fall of 60,000.

Mr. Wilson

In view of these alarming figures, has the hon. Gentleman made any calculation as to how many more years of this Government will be needed for the cotton industry to die out altogether in this country?

Mr. Watkinson

If I may say so, that is the kind of supplementary question which does not help anybody, much less the cotton industry. I am trying to give the facts. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is right that the industry and the country should know them, but another fact, which is at least of some consolation, is that my Ministry has found a job in some other industry for practically every man and woman who has been displaced from the cotton industry.

Mr. Nabarro

Is it not a fact that any fall in employment in the cotton industry has been more than counterbalanced by increased employment in those industries making man-made fibres? In addition, is it not a fact that any unemployment in the cotton industry has been immediately absorbed in other industries in Lancashire?

Hon. Members


Mr. Watkinson

The fact with which I am concerned is the employment position. As I have said, we are very glad, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman is, that so far every man and woman displaced from the cotton industry who wants another job we have been able to place in some other industry in Lancashire.

Mr. J. T. Price

Can the Parliamentary Secretary give any idea of the number of native Lancashire workers who have been forced to emigrate to other industries in the Midlands and other parts of the country? Is he aware that in such migration the position of middle-aged people in their fifties and sixties, whose lives have been invested in the native industry of Lancashire, is not an easy one to solve and cannot be dealt with purely as a matter of statistics?

Mr. Watkinson

I quite agree. I cannot answer that question without notice, however, and if the hon. Member puts it down I will do my best to answer it.

Mr. H. Wilson

Do the Parliamentary Secretary's two supplementary answers and the question by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) mean that the only policy that the Government now have for the cotton industry is to stand aside and see it decline so long as they can find work for the displaced workers in other industries?

Mr. Watkinson

The question of policy for the cotton industry is not for me but for my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. I have given the information asked for by the right hon. Member as to the present unemployment position.