HC Deb 06 December 1960 vol 631 cc1054-5
31. Mr. C. Osborne

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that cotton goods exports for October had fallen from 31 million lb. in 1959 to 25 million lb. or square yards in 1960, whereas imports of grey cloth had increased from 43 million to 49 million square yards, and for the first 10 months of this year had risen from 363 million to 490 million square yards; and, in view of the fact that the Lancashire cotton industry received a grant last year of £30 million in order to assist it to increase exports, what action he is taking to ensure the best use of this money.

Mr. N. Macpherson

The purpose of the Government assistance to the cotton industry was to help to make the industry compact, efficient and fully competitive in export markets. Since the equipment of the industry is in its early stages, the full effects of the Government's assistance are not yet apparent, though there has already been a marked improvement in efficiency.

Mr. Osborne

Are there no new measures that Her Majesty's Government can take to get from the Lancashire cotton industry a real return to the taxpayer for the subsidy which was given? The only way we want that return is by exports. Can the hon. Gentleman do anything about it?

Mr. Macpherson

My right hon. Friend is meeting the Cotton Board and will consider what further steps can be taken to improve the export position.

Mr. J. T. Price

Could I assist the Parliamentary Secretary and his right hon. Friend by asking if the Parliamentary Secretary is aware that the £30 million granted out of taxpayers' money to re-equip and modernise the textile industry has been largely dissipated by repayments of surplus capital to previous shareholders, and that it has not gone where it was intended that it should go? Is he aware that, while we all welcome the temporary improvement in the cotton industry's record in recent months, we are by no means certain that any permanent contribution has been made to the re-equipment and modernisation of the textile industry in the ultimate sense?

Mr. Macpherson

I appreciate the attempts of the hon. Member to assist me, but in fact the £30 million was provided for a period of over five years and so far only £8.5 million has been spent.