HC Deb 23 January 1962 vol 652 cc158-74

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Whitelaw.]

9.45 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)

The best cotton firms in Lancashire are second to none in the world. We are fortunate in the Rossendale valley in having a number of firms whose names are household words in almost every land. One of them—David Whitehead & Sons Limited—has been producing cotton goods in Rawtonstall for well over one hundred years, and since the war has spent vast sums in new machinery and new plant and in pioneering modern textile designs. Its labour relations are good.

On Monday, the firm's Lower Mill, where several hundred people are employed, will start operating a four-day week for an indefinite period, a state of affairs which seems to be semi-permanent in many mills in Lancashire. Expensive machinery will stand idle, managerial optimism will be impaired and the confidence of the workers will receive a further severe shock. The case of Messrs. David Whitehead is typical of what is happening, and it was for that reason that I decided to seek this debate tonight, in spite of the fact that we last debated the subject on 21st December, when the hon. Baronet the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Sir J. Barlow) initiated the discussion.

In the meantime, we have a clearer picture. Short-time working is difficult to assess, but there is reason to believe that 70,000 cotton workers were on short time over Christmas. There were extended stoppages of ten days in far too many mills, and the Cotton Board's quarterly statistical review for December stated: The situation of the United Kingdom cotton industry has deteriorated further since the last issue of this review…The recession has caused a number of mill closures, widespread short time working and wastage of labour. The tragedy is high-lighted by the fact that it is now almost two years ago since the Lancashire cotton industry completed what the Evening Standard called— the biggest mass destruction of assets in recent times". Two out of five spindles and two out of every five looms in Lancashire went on the scrap heap. The benefits which were hoped for have been wiped out by the heavy imports of yarn and cloth.

In my view, and in the view of many people in Lancashire, the present method of controlling imports is wholly unsatisfactory. The President of the Board of Trade, in the debate to which I have referred, said that in the case of the non-Commonwealth countries, the 17½ per cent. tariff on grey cloth should be the Government's main weapon for protecting the industry ".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st December, 1961; Vol. 543, c. 1640.] But in countries where competition would be at a low cost, and a tariff might not be sufficiently effective—in countries like Japan, China and Formosa—there are quota restrictions.

It is interesting to see that in the case of Formosa the quota has been fixed at 12½ million square yards a year, although the imports from Formosa were negligible until a short time ago. And in the case of Japan, the Board of Trade announced on 27th December, that Japan's quota will be increased in 1962.

With the three main Commonwealth competitors—India, Pakistan and Hong Kong—there were inter-industry agreements, but in these cases, too, the figures have been increased for 1962. The Hong Kong figures have gone up from 164 million sq. yards to 185 million sq. yards, India's figure from 175 million to 195 million, and Pakistan's from 38 million to 42 million. In fact, the total from these three Commonwealth countries has gone up for 1962 from 377 million sq. yards to 422 million sq. yards, an increase of almost 12 per cent. Now, a mission has gone to India and Pakistan to seek a similiar agreement in respect of yarn, because of increased imports of yarn from Pakistan and India.

These are the goods to which Mr. Robert Hill, General Secretary of the Rossendale Valley Textile Workers' Association, referred in the following terms: It is our opinion, judging from a trade union point of view, that the bulk of the cloth being imported into this country is made by sweated labour, working under bad conditions, and being employed for long hours contrary to what should be allowed. With Spain, there is the same sort of agreement, an inter-industry agreement. I understand from the Sunday Times of 3rd December that Spanish cloth is being sold in the United Kingdom at 10d. per lb. cheaper than the cost of the constituent yarn. We are now expected to be comforted by being told that the Spanish industry has accepted a voluntary cut of 30 per cent., but as imports have risen from practically nothing to 64 million sq. yds. and 11 million lb. of yarn in two years, the agreement does not appear to have any great significance.

In the circumstances, it is not surprising that Mr. Roger Lee, the Chairman of the Lancashire Cotton Corporation, in his annual report published on 18th January, referred to the help which had been given to the industry as having been too little and too late to be effective in promoting a healthy industry. Nor is it surprising that the Financial Times on 28th December should say: Britain is just about the only big open market for cotton textiles left in the world. That is perfectly true. The Common Market countries protect themselves against low-wage cloth very strictly. The United States takes only between 5 and 6 per cent. of her total supplies in this cheap cloth. The figure for France is a good deal lower. We in this country take 40 per cent.

I should be the last person to underestimate the importance of helping the under-developed countries of the world, and I believe that no one in Lancashire would wish to adopt a "dog in the manger" attitude to this problem, but we feel that, if we have this responsibility, which we acknowledge, it should be shared with the other Powers of the Western world. What are the Government doing to implement the suggestion of Sir Alfred Roberts that we should seek to get other Western countries to boost their figure of imports to 10 per cent. of their total requirements?

I do not believe that the Government are operating their anti-dumping powers with sufficient vigour, nor do I believe that inter-industry agreements, especially when Lancashire has no Government-backed sanctions behind it, can be effective. The only really effective method would be the purchasing commission advocated by the Labour Party.

What are the effects of what I regard as the Government's neglect? The overall effect, in my view, has been best described by Mr. Joseph King, General Secretary of the Accrington and District Card and Blowing Room Operatives and Ring Spinners' Association as almost complete frustration on all sides of the industry". I understand that order books in most cases at present are down to 10 weeks, which is generally regarded in the industry as being just about zero.

On 28th December, the Financial Times had this to say: The chances of the home industry's holding to a reasonable level of sales by its own unaided efforts are slender…It seems certain that whatever the industry did it could not survive under present conditions. I believe that there are three other effects. The first is that re-equipment is almost at a standstill. Mr. William Winterbottom, Chairman of the Fine Spinners and Doublers, has said that the Government's reorganisation scheme has floundered, and he added that in some ways it has been a waste of the investment, an investment which included £13 million of the taxpayers' money. The House will, I think, be shocked to learn that some of the new machinery bought under the reorganisation scheme is now idle.

Mr. Lewis Wright, General Secretary of the Weavers' Amalgamation, has made this comment: With import conditions as they are, companies are having to think twice before they invest their money in new machinery". Mr. Duckett, Chairman of Joshua Hoyle & Sons Ltd., one of the most progressive firms in the industry, after referring in his annual statement to the Government's "apparent indifference" to the industry's appeals, stresses that his firm will have to postpone its future schemes for re-equipment until the present situation is clarified.

The second effect is that the labour force is being depleted. At 170,000, the industry's labour force has now reached an all-time low. About 150,000 workers have left the industry since 1950. Some mills are closing and three have closed in the last few weeks. Some are able to continue only with the help of Italian and Pakistani labour. Some mills are keeping their workers on, in spite of not having full employment for them, only because they know that once they leave the industry they will never get them back. In fact, the workers have lost confidence in cotton's future.

The third effect is that production costs are increased. Because of the imports there is not enough work to keep three shifts employed and the new machinery is uneconomic unless it is worked around the clock. If the reorganisation scheme is to succeed it must be given a chance. With imports kept even at last year's level it might succeed, but if the permitted increases are taken up yet another blow will have been dealt at the industry.

If uncertainty persists, the already shaky confidence of the cotton industry's men and women will be destroyed. The time has come when the Government, if they want a cotton textile industry at all—and many people in Lancashire now doubt whether they do—have a last chance to decide what level of production the industry should maintain and, in consultation with the workers and employers, to decide what steps can be taken to ensure its survival. Unless the Government act now it may be too late.

9.58 p.m.

Mr. Ernest Thornton (Farnworth)

I am pleased to support the subject matter which my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood) has raised tonight. The cotton industry is a problem industry, but I would like the House to appreciate that the problem that the industry has been experiencing in recent years is one that will have to be faced by other British manufacturing industries unless an attempt is made to plan the development of some industries in the under-developed countries and to plan the contraction of some industries in the developed countries.

The Financial Times leader of 11th December last stated: Nevertheless, it is still true that it is easier to export cotton textiles to Britain than to any other major consuming country. With a world surplus of production capacity, it is inevitable that Britain should act as a magnet for exporters". That is what has been happening during the last two years.

Doubtless the Parliamentary Secretary, in his reply, will call attention to the voluntary agreements that have been entered into. He will, no doubt, speak of the decline that has taken place in imports in the last one or two quarters. I would remind the hon. Gentleman that similar statements were made in 1955 and 1958; that is, that there was then a decline in imports when a recession came in Lancashire. After that, imports rose again to new heights.

I am afraid that that will be the story again. It will be repeated unless something is done to tackle the problem. With only one thing my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale said I would not like to be associated; that our opposition to these imports is based on what is termed "sweated labour". I do not accept that position. By and large the wages paid in Hong Kong, Pakistan and India fit into the pattern of living standards in those countries. The problem concerns the whole wealth and productive capacity of those countries rather than the level of wages prevailing in any one industry. A few years ago I voiced protests against excessive and inhuman hours of work being operated in the cotton mills of Hong Kong, but I did not do so for the purpose of attempting to weaken Hong Kong's competitive position.

It being Ten o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. McLaren.]

Mr. Thornton

I raised that matter not in an attempt to restrict Hong Kong's competitive capacity, but because of the human problems which arise from excessive hours of work—twelve hours a day, seven days a week, with only four days' holiday a year. I am glad to say that as a result of what I revealed in the House, and the facts that I presented, action was taken, and improvements, although not enough of them, have been made.

I wish to call attention to another aspect of this matter which has caused considerable apprehension in Lancashire recently. According to yesterday's Financial Times, consideration is now being given in the Common Market discussions to the problems of the underdeveloped parts of the Commonwealth. A breakdown of under-developed countries has been made into two main groups. The first group consists of Commonwealth countries whose trade may be damaged if the United Kingdom applied the common external tariff of the Six. The second group consists of Commonwealth countries whose major exports compete with those of the present associated territories of the Common Market countries. It seems not improbable that association will be offered in respect of the countries in the second group, but the bigger problem seems to arise from the countries in the first group.

The Report of the European Parliamentary Assembly's Foreign Trade Committee emphasises that exports from the low-cost Commonwealth producers, such as India, Pakistan and Hong Kong, could endanger industries in the Common Market. It is interesting to note that these countries in the Common Market evidently attach more importance to preventing damage to their traditional industries than the United Kingdom. France and Germany import cotton textiles from low-labour cost countries to the extent of only 1 or 2 per cent. of the levels of their domestic production; and they do not rely only on their external tariff. Even the United States takes in only about 5 per cent. of the level of her domestic production. The level of imports of the United Kingdom from India, Pakistan and Hong Kong alone is 40 per cent. of the level of our domestic production.

The Report to the European Assembly recommends that solutions for these countries, such as India, Pakistan and Hong Kong, should be sought not so much through adjustments in the common external tariff as through the framework of a common commercial policy within the enlarged community, including the United Kingdom. The allocation of tariff-free import quotas, voluntary restrictions on exports and the negotiation of long-term trade agreements are suggested as possible solutions.

The serious apprehension in Lancashire in the last few days arises from a fear that Her Majesty's Government are thinking of continuing this ruinously high level of cheap imports while other Common Market countries take in only insignificant quantities. A serious situation will develop if the Lancashire textile industry has to enter into competition in the enlarged Common Market when the home market of the United Kingdom is being rapidly eroded by huge imports of low-cost textiles with which no Western country can possibly compete. I urge the Government to try to persuade the Six—

Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

I do not understand the hon. Gentleman's argument. If we were in the Common Market, and we took in from the Commonwealth countries a great deal of low-cost textiles which we then exported duty free to other European countries, would it make any difference to their competitive basis whether they went into those countries direct or came into our country first?

Mr. Thornton

That is the point to which I was coming. It is becoming abundantly clear that if special provision is made for access other than over the external tariff into the United Kingdom, special precautions will be taken to ensure that those goods are consumed within the United Kingdom and not re-exported to the Common Market Six. That is an apprehension that seriously troubles Lancashire.

I urge the Government to try to persuade the Common Market Six to increase their intake, so that our intake could be reduced to the region of 25 or 30 per cent. of our present level of production instead of 40 per cent. If the Common Market Six would increase their intake from the present 1 or 2 per cent. to 5 per cent., the all-round adjustments could be made without damage to the developing countries in Asia. From that point, it would be possible for planned advance to be made by the Western countries together to increase their intake of manufactured goods from the developing countries. That is something that the Western world must face. We cannot avoid planning in this respect.

We have to face the fact, whether we like it or not—there is nothing we can do about it—that one-third of the world's economy, in the Communist bloc, is now planned. The creation of the European Economic Community was, in my view, a subconscious, if not a conscious, reflex action against the planned economies of the Communist bloc, Eastern Europe and Asia. Unless we get down to this problem in an orderly manner, planning for and making possible the expansion of manufactured capacity in the developing countries and, at the same time, making provision to cease expansion of certain industries and arranging for their orderly and gradual contraction, we shall lose out in this competitive game with the planned-economy countries which now constitute one-third of the world's population.

I do not want to trespass too much on the time of the Parliamentary Secretary and will merely add again that it gives me great pleasure to support my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale.

10.8 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Holt (Bolton, West)

I should like to say a few words on this important subject. The vital thing for the cotton trade is what will be the Government's policy until the time when Britain enters the Common Market. The Bolton Journal and Guardian last Friday had a headline: Cotton up the creek again. Employers know it—Workers show it. Lancashire Members of Parliament are all too familiar with sentiments of this kind in their local papers. They have appeared at various times over the last ten years.

The trouble concerning Lancashire is that, whatever Ministers think about it, the Lancashire textile industry does not know what policy the Government have for it. It has been a mixture of toughness with unfairness—no other industry have been treated in the same way—and political expediency just before the 1959 election, when votes were required. Now, people are being exhorted to reequip, but on what kind of basis?

It is true that over the last year there has not been an increase in imports from the Commonwealth countries of Hong Kong, Pakistan and India, which we hear so much about, but imports over-all have gone up by £5 million and exports have gone down by £6 million. This is the familiar line. The imports from those three Commonwealth countries are roughly one-third of our imports, but one-third comes also from the Continent.

It is often asked, why cannot Lancashire compete with those European countries? Whatever has been the position in the past, there is still such a lack of confidence in the future that firms who, if they spent a lot of money on re-equipment, would be able to compete with Europe, are not spending the money because they still feel that there is the danger of an open door—if not this year, next year—concerning cheap imports from the Commonwealth. So they do not really feel that there is any sound basis on which to take their risk, because even if they get themselves into a position to compete with Europe, that will be completely undermined by the completely open door action from the Commonwealth.

I believe that, no matter what the difficulties are which we shall have to negotiate about over the next year or so, inevitably we shall go into Europe, and so I consider that there is an interim stage which the cotton trade must be got over. There is going to be a textile industry in the Europe of the enlarged Common Market. I see no reason why the cotton textile trade of Lancashire should not play a useful, economic and competitive part in that European textile industry. Indeed, I think it is quite undesirable that we should let the matter drift any further or that the textile industry of Lancashire should be almost decimated before we go into the Common Market.

I feel that the Government must now take action to give back confidence to Lancashire, confidence that they will see it through this period between now and our entry into the Common Market. When we are in the Common Market there will be, I hope, a fairly liberal import policy pursued by the Common Market countries, as was evidently the view of the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Thornton), but it will not be a completely open-door policy. There will be a European textile industry and I want to see Lancashire taking a full part in that textile industry, and I do not think that it is in the interests of Britain or of Europe that the Lancashire textile industry is any further reduced in size. It is most urgent that confidence is put back into it, and only the Government can do that, by telling it exactly what they plan for its future.

10.12 p.m.

Sir John Barlow (Middleton and Prestwich)

I shall speak for only a minute or two, as the time is so short.

When the President of the Board of Trade visited Lancashire early in December, and discussed local cotton problems with all sections of the community, he left them bitterly disappointed. I had the pleasure of raising the question of cotton in a debate just before the Christmas Recess. The answer by the President of the Board of Trade was similarly evasive and unsatisfactory.

It is very opportune that the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood) has raised the question again tonight. It is seldom that we have seen so many hon. Members here for an Adjournment debate. I have never seen so many hon. Members here for an Adjournment debate on the cotton industry the whole time I have been a Member of the House, which shows that people really are regarding this matter as of great importance.

I shall not go over again the questions which, broadly speaking have been admirably put by the three hon. Members opposite who have already spoken, but I would say that it is unfair to the industry and to the Government themselves to go on in the way in which they are at present. There is complete lack of confidence in the industry. Since the Government helped the industry extensively two years ago conditions have changed completely in a quite unforeseen way, and for that reason the Government should declare their policy.

If the Government say that they will, do nothing at all, the industry will largely go to the wall. We shall lose a large amount of valuable equipment and labour which we cannot get back. I believe that it is right to give reasonable protection to this industry, as is given to the textile industry in practically every other Western country—and most other industries of this country have had similarly good treatment.

I feel very strongly about this matter, but I shall not go any further with it tonight because of the lack of time and because we discussed at some length just before the House rose for the Christmas Recess.

10.15 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. Niall Macpherson)

It is unusual, to say the least, that we should have two Adjournment debates on the same subject on successive sittings of the House, but that is exactly what has happened. My hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Sir J. Barlow) raised this matter as the last but one Adjournment before the House rose for the Christmas Recess, and here we are discussing the same industry on the first Adjournment of the next sitting of the House.

The industry is naturally anxious to know about its future, and is naturally considering every development that is taking place. It is right for me to start by emphasising one or two things that the President of the Board of Trade said. I must disagree with my hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend left the industry completely without guidance on the question of policy. He made it clear that the Government's policy had remained unchanged from the time when they undertook to give special assistance to the industry. The hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) said that no industry has been treated in the same way. That is quite true. No industry has had the form of assistance which the cotton industry is now receiving.

Sir J. Barlow

What about the protection given to the motor car industry?

Mr. Holt

Is the Minister seriously putting forward that view? The textile industry had no protection from its chief Asian competitors for ten years, but the motor car industry has had protection from everyone, at 30 per cent.

Mr. Macpherson

The cotton industry has its protection of 17½ per cent.

As for imports from Hong Kong, Pakistan and India, they enter free from these Commonwealth countries. But the Government have not sat idly by in this matter. There are inter-industry agreements. It is suggested that when those agreements were extended there should have been no increase in the permitted imports, but is it thought for one instant that we could have got agreement on those terms between industries? Quite clearly the industries which were expanding in Hong Kong, India and Pakistan wanted to send more of their exports to this country.

The industry now knows where it is. It knows that agreements have been fixed, and it also knows that the President of the Board of Trade clearly stated that the Government would continue to restrain imports where appropriate, as permitted by our international obligations, and would assist in bringing about inter-industry agreements wherever this was the most practical way of dealing with the problem. We shall continue to carry out our obligations under the Cotton Industry Act, the purpose of which was always to establish a more compact and better-equipped industry.

Reference has been made to imports of cotton cloth. It has rightly been said that they have fallen off in the course of the year, but hon. Members may not realise the extent to which they have fallen off. In the first quarter of 1961 imports of pure cotton piece goods were running at 221 million square yards. In the fourth quarter they were running at 138 million sq. yds. Total retained imports, after re-exports had been deducted, were running at 100 million sq. yds., giving a total of retained imports for 1961 of 521 million sq. yds. That is what has been happening recently.

The hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Thornton) asked what would happen when we got another upsurge. We all know what happened on the last occasion. The industry's order books were completely full, and the merchants naturally looked abroad for goods to import. Probably they over-imported. The shelves in the warehouses were full and the result has been that there has been a considerable amount of de-stocking which, no doubt, has been at the expense of the production and output of the industry, with the result that the output has declined and there is at present a certain amount of short-time working. In the industry as a whole, there are vacancies outstanding. In spite of the contraction of the cotton industry, there has been no unemployment developing in the areas; far from it.

Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)

Employment in the industry has rapidly and progressively reduced. Many of the prophecies now being published by the experts indicate that there will be continuing reduction of the 170,000. It is true that highly-skilled spinners have been able to find some form of alternative work. That is the argument that was so contemptible in 1923, when we were told that distinguished people could get jobs as commissionaires at cinemas. That is not a valid argument. The skill of the industry is wasting away. Men who have lived in the industry all their lives are being driven out. The hon. Gentleman said that we had to restrict production by legislation when German production is rapidly expanding and is, for the first time in history, overtaking ours.

Mr. Macpherson

Surely the overriding interest in this country must be to devote itself to those industries in which it can compete with other countries. An opportunity has been given to the cotton industry to put itself in a position to compete by the redundancy scheme and, further, by the re-equipment scheme. Many firms are taking advantage of that and some are finding that with the appropriate lines they are able to compete and are competing very successfully at the present time. It is not every firm by any means that is working on short-time at present. Some firms are doing pretty well, even though, no doubt, they could do better, and we hope that they will do better.

The main point is that it really is not possible for the Government to assure to any industry a given proportion of the market in this country. They cannot give an assurance that imports will not be allowed to exceed a level which would endanger that level.

Mr. Rhodes

Why not?

Mr. Macpherson

Because if they do so they will be ignoring questions of demand, the effects of prices, competition, the effects on our trade relations with other countries with whom we cannot trade unless we buy from them, and all our international trade policies and all our commitments.

Mr. Rhodes

Does the hon. Gentleman mean to say that the Government are to do nothing at all? When we were coming up to the 1959 General Election, it was a different story from the Government Dispatch Box. Then the Government were prepared to dish out £30 million of public money. The trade pocketed £13½ million and I am not making any excuse for the trade for what they did on their part. I think, however, that it is up to the Government now to do something solid, imaginative and good for the trade instead of the hon. Gentleman coming to the Dispatch Box with this lame tale.

Mr. Macpherson

This is not a lame tale at all. This is the core of the trading policy of the country. We must devote our resources to those matters in which we can compete most successfully—

Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Macpherson

No, I cannot give way again. I have given way to hon. Members on a number of occasions.

It is up to the industry itself to make and determine its own place in our economy within the general framework of Government policy.

I wish to say—despite the interruptions I am glad that there is still time for me to say—what the Government are prepared to do. Of course, we recognise that other and large increases in low cost competition in cotton textiles may pose serious problems for the older established textile industries. It is widely recognised, as was said by the hon. Members for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood) and Farnworth that the underdeveloped countries must be given increased opportunities of access to the markets of the wealthier countries, and textiles will continue to be among the first exports of manufactured goods achieved by the developing countries.

The short-term agreement already reached at Geneva provides arrangements for limiting very low-priced and disruptive imports. The standard for the limitation of imports introduced into the agreement is the level of imports in the year ending on 30th June last. That is on imports from under-developed countries. Our current rate of imports from most countries is already well below the level of this base year. Formosa was one of the few exceptions and action has been taken to limit our imports from there to that level. If imports of very cheap cloth from other sources reverse the recent trend and increase sharply and rise above the figure for the base year, and are disruptive in effect, we shall be prepared to consider action in accordance with the Geneva agreement.

My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade made clear last November, when speaking in Geneva to the G.A.T.T. Ministerial Council, that having regard to the large proportion of the British market for cotton textiles now met by low-cost imports, we cannot accept any new commitment to take more, at least until others have made a comparable contribution to the problem of absorbing imports from the less-developed countries.

Mr. D. Jones

Is that enough?

Mr. Macpherson

The hon. Gentleman asks, "Is that enough?" He is again basing himself on the idea that we can decide what level of production we should maintain in this country—that the Government should do so. But the position of the Government is that they give industry the opportunity to become competitive and then it is up to industry itself to decide how much of the market it is able to win and to hold.

Mr. D. Jones

It is most unfair.

Mr. Macpherson

The difficulty has arisen largely because of the accumulation of stocks. The Board of Trade is attempting to see how this problem can be tackled at the present time in consultation with the Cotton Board and the Grey Cloth Importers' Association, both of which bodies have been most cooperative. An inquiry into the stocks of cloth held by merchants is on the way. Forms have been sent out to the grey cloth importers which are being completed on a voluntary basis. Once that information is more generally known, it may be possible to avoid the sort of over-importing and over-stocking which took place last year.

I wish to refer briefly to the question of anti-dumping action. In the debate on 21st December, my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade explained how we were anxious to help industry to secure its rights under the anti-dumping legislation. As was said by my right hon. Friend, there is a great deal of misunderstanding about this, and since then discussions have taken place between officials and the various trade associations concerned about the best way to deal with the problems. I think the discussions have been helpful to all sections of industry. With the full knowledge of the position, and with the procedures available understood, I think that industry is in a much better position to contemplate the future than it has been for a long time.

The Question having been proposed at Ten o'clock and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order.

Adjourned at half-past Ten o'clock.