HC Deb 27 October 1955 vol 545 cc369-70
36. Mr. Thornton

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will consider a redundancy scheme to deal with the growing excess of productive capacity in the United Kingdom cotton textile industry consequent upon the rapid decline in production and numbers employed in that industry since 1951.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

If the industry proposes a redundancy scheme, I shall be pleased to consider it.

Mr. Thornton

By that answer, does the right hon. Gentleman mean that he is going to allow attrition to take its course in the industry? In view of the policies that the right hon. Gentleman has pursued so far, is it not necessary for him to take the initiative to attempt to bring some order into the chaos prevailing?

Mr. Thorneycroft

All my answer means is that I am prepared to consider any suggestion that comes from this or any other industry.

Mr. H. Wilson

Since the right hon. Gentleman has consistently turned down every suggestion made by the Cotton Board for dealing with the crisis, and since his attitude seems to be to passively stand by and let the industry die out in this country, will he say if he is going to take any action to help Lancashire in this crisis?

Mr. Thorneycroft

One effective piece of action was taken by my right hon. Friend yesterday.

Hon. Members


Mr. Jack Jones

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, following upon a decision that will be made tonight, we are hoping that he will not make the terrible mess of my own industry, the steel industry, that he has made of the cotton industry?

37. Mr. Thornton

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will take steps to seek a revision of the 1939 Indian Trade Agreement, in view of its adverse effects on the United Kingdom cotton textile industry.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

No, Sir. Her Majesty's Government's policy in this matter remains as stated by the Prime Minister in May of this year.

Mr. S. Silverman

Is it the right hon. Gentleman's interpretation of Government policy with regard to the cotton trade that they consider every proposal made to them and reject it, and make no proposals of their own?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I should think that would be rather a biased description.

Lieut.-Colonel Schofield

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the industrialisation of India since the 1939 Trade Agreement was made has put rather a different complexion on that Agreement? Would he not agree that the time has arrived when that Agreement, and possibly other agreements of a similar nature within the Commonwealth, should be re-examined?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I would agree that many alterations have taken place in the ensuing years, but I would still say that the Lancashire textile cotton industry, like many others in Lancashire, gets many great benefits from the Imperial Preference system.

Mr. Burden

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether one of the main difficulties of the Lancashire cotton industry at the moment is the constructive advance being made in the manufacture of alternative man-made fibres, and that Lancashire cotton manufacturers would be well advised to concentrate on ensuring that they are to the fore in the weaving and manufacture of those man-made fibres as an alternative to cotton?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I would certainly say that we ought to use all the modern new techniques that we can.