HC Deb 01 March 1956 vol 549 c1358
37. Mr. Thornton

asked the President of the Board of Trade what change he contemplates in his policy in relation to the duty-free quota-free imports of cotton cloth and yarns, consequent upon the representations made to him on 20th February, 1956, by the Lancashire cotton trade delegation.

The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. A. R. W. Low)

I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer which I gave to the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) on Tuesday last.

Mr. Thornton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that will give very cold comfort to Lancashire—in fact, colder than last month's weather? Is he further aware that since May, 1954, a hundred mills in Lancashire have closed, never to open again, and 37,000 operatives have left the industry?

Mr. Low

I am aware of the reduction in employment in the industry, and also that a number of mills have closed. All these matters were very fully discussed with the Cotton Board delegation by my right hon. Friend and, as the hon. Member will see from the Answer to which I have referred, he asked that they should keep him in touch with affairs.

Mr. W. R. Williams

Does that mean that although the Minister knows exactly what is the feeling in Lancashire, and how serious the situation is there, he is not proposing to do anything about it?

Mr. Low

For the reasons which were given on Tuesday in the Answer to the hon. Lady, to which I have referred, we are not altering our policy at present. These reasons are very considerable and important ones to industry as a whole, as well as to the cotton industry, which in 1955 exported about £51 million worth of cotton piece goods under preferential rates to various countries in the Commonwealth, whereas we retained in this country only about £7½ million worth of Commonwealth cotton piece goods.