HC Deb 26 January 1960 vol 616 cc3-4
3. Mr. Osborne

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that cotton yarn prices have increased over the past three months by over 1s. a pound, or about 15 per cent., whilst raw cotton prices are lower today than they were a year ago; and, since the £60,000,000 recently voted by Parliament for the reorganisation of the Lancashire cotton industry was to increase efficiency and to reduce prices, if he will have the recent price increases investigated and make a statement.

Mr. J. Rodgers

I have looked into the increase to which my hon. Friend refers. Average United Kingdom prices of cotton yarn have increased by 8 per cent. since September, 1959, and 5 per cent. since December, 1958. Over the same periods, prices of raw cotton have increased by 6 per cent. and 4 per cent. respectively. I do not propose therefore to take any action. I would add that, as my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury explained on 3rd December, the estimated cost to the Exchequer of the reorganisation and re-equipment of the cotton industry is £30 million, and not £60 million as stated in the Question.

Mr. Osborne

Whilst I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the correction in the total figure, may I ask him whether, despite that, he does not think that the public is entitled to lower prices as a result of this huge subsidy given to the Lancashire cotton industry?

Mr. Rodgers

The subsidy is for the reorganisation of the cotton industry, and I would point out that yarn prices are lower now than they were two years ago.

Mr. Hale

Would the Minister remember that there is an outstanding wage claim by the persons employed in the Lancashire cotton industry, who are now recognised to have been some of the worst-paid of our skilled workers throughout industry, and that if these additional prices did provide some possibility of meeting this claim in full many of us on this side of the House would welcome it?

Mr. Jay

Has the Parliamentary Secretary no anxieties about the working of the Cotton Act? Has he carried out the promises he gave us before Christmas to inquire into the allegation that some firms are using the money obtained for scrapping machinery to start up again in the business?

Mr. Rodgers

That is another question.