HC Deb 13 December 1960 vol 632 cc199-200
30. Mr. Blackburn

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will state the volume of imports of cotton cloths for the first 10 months of 1960 and for the corresponding period of 1959; and if he will list the countries from which increased imports came.

Mr. Erroll

Imports of cotton cloth amounted to 595 million square yards in the first ten months of 1960 and to 422 million square yards in the corresponding period of 1959. With permission, I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the names of seventeen countries from which the increases have amounted to 500,000 yards or more.

Mr. Blackburn

Is it not clear from these figures that, whatever benefits were expected to accrue to the cotton industry in this country from the agreements with Hong Kong, India and Pakistan, they have not accrued? Why is it considered possible for India, Pakistan and Hong Kong to control the level of the exports of this country when it is not possible for this country to control the total level of imports?

Mr. Erroll

This is a very long supplementary question for me to try to answer. The point is that home production has been well maintained but is limited by the severe and continuing shortage of labour. Imports have risen because of strong demands following the recession in 1958–59. As for import-export control between Commonwealth countries, I suggest that the hon. Member will find on examination that the procedures involved are satisfactory.

Mr. S. Silverman

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that this voluntary agreement with Hong Kong, which has no sanctions behind it, is very shortly coming to an end and that the present indications are that it will not be renewed? Have the Government paid any attention to this fact, or are they merely keeping the situation under constant review until catastrophe occurs?

Mr. Erroll

There is a time for review and a time for action. Imports of piece goods from Hong Kong have declined this year and we are considering what appropriate action to take for the future.

Mr. H. Wilson

Is not that the point? Is it not a fact that while these Commonwealth countries have reduced exports, countries like Spain have sharply increased exports to this country? Is not the reason for that partly that the Government, at a cost of £30 million to the taxpayer, have carried out a Luddite policy in Lancashire of reducing capacity so that prices have gone up?

Mr. Erroll

The right hon. Gentleman did not pay his usual close attention. I said that part of the difficulty was the continuing shortage of labour which limited home production. I wish that the right hon. Gentleman had referred to that point as well.

Following is the information: The seventeen countries for which the increases amount to 500,000 yards or more and which account for some 95 per cent. of the total increases are:
India. Italy.
Pakistan. Austria.
Irish Republic. Hungary.
Western Germany. Czechoslovakia.
Netherlands. Yugoslavia.
Belgium. Egypt.
France. Japan.
Portugal. United States.