HC Deb 18 March 1958 vol 584 cc1070-2
15. Mr. Hale

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, following his recent interview with representatives of the workers and employers in the cotton industry and the municipal representatives of the cotton towns, he is now in a position to make a statement on Government policy on the cotton industry.

19. Mr. Allaun

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the outcome of his meeting on 12th March with twenty-three representatives of the United Textile Factory Workers Association about their "Plan for Cotton."

Sir D. Eccles

The five mayors and the representatives of the textile trade unions discussed with me the problems of the Lancashire cotton industry and, in particular, the duty-free imports of cloth from the Commonwealth. In addition, I had a valuable exchange of views with the trade union representatives about the conclusions and recommendations in the report "Plan for Cotton". I told both delegations that we hoped the inter-industry negotiations for the limitation of supplies from India and Pakistan would soon be resumed. The Permanent Secretary of the Board of Trade is about to go to Hong Kong in order to have talks with the textile industry there.

Mr. Hale

In so far as I was able to hear that reply in the noise made from the other side of the House, it appeared as unsatisfactory as the people with whom the right hon. Gentleman negotiated said it was. Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware by now that in this great industry, since the Tories came into office, one man in every four employed had been driven out of the industry by the end of last year, that factories are still closing down, that nothing has been done, that at the last General Election, in 1955, the Tories fought in Lancashire on a promise to aid the industry and that nothing of any kind has been done by the Government who are suffering from creeping paralysis?

Sir D. Eccles

If the hon. Member had been able to hear my reply, I think he would not have found it so unsatisfactory. Negotiations are now proceeding.

Mr. Allaun

Which of the seventeen constructive proposals made by the trade unions does the right hon. Gentleman feel able to accept and act upon, particularly since it is felt in Lancashire that without Government support for these proposals the industry will further and further decline?

Sir D. Eccles

I told the trade union delegation that I would be interested to know which of the seventeen recommendations had the support of both sides of the industry.

Mr. S. Silverman

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that both sides of the industry would like to know what his proposals are? Will he remember that many of us have been pressing the Government ever since 1951 for plans for the cotton industry, whose rapid contraction was known to everybody, and that throughout the whole of that time the Government have not offered a single proposal of their own but have always dealt with proposals made to them in the way in which the right hon. Gentleman dealt with my hon. Friends' Questions just now?

Sir D. Eccles

What the hon. Member said is not true. We have put imports coming in from countries other than the Commonwealth under quota, but it is a different thing to put quotas on Commonwealth goods.

16. Mr. Hale

asked the President of the Board of Trade what was the amount of imports into this country of cotton cloth, stated by yardage and by value, in the twelve months ended 30th September, 1951, and in the twelve months to the last most convenient date for computation.

Sir D. Eccles

The imports of woven cotton fabrics in the year ended 30th September, 1951, were 329 million linear yards at a value of £36.3 million, and during the calendar year 1957 amounted to 364 million linear yards valued at £30.3 million.

Mr. Hale

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the import figures given in his own statistics, up to the most recent date, show that there has been roughly a sixteen-fold increase in imports of cotton woven cloth as compared with 1952? Further, is he not aware that over this period his attention has constantly been called to the matter? Are not the negotiations that we are now told about very belated? Will he say what he is going to do?

Sir D. Eccles

The hon. Member will find that the figures I gave provide an accurate answer to his question. We now hope that these voluntary agreements will be concluded.

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