HC Deb 23 January 1962 vol 652 cc136-58

8.31 p.m.

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

I beg to move, That the Wool Textile Industry (Scientific Research Levy) (Amendment) Order, 1962, a draft of which was laid before this House on 28th November, be approved. The sole purpose of this Order, which is to be made under Section 9 of the Industrial Organisation and Development Act, 1947, is to increase by one-third the rates of the levy payable by the wool textile industry for scientific research.

The research levy was introduced at the request of both employers and of trade unions in the industry, the first Order being made in 1950, and it has been varied from time to time since. The levy is paid by both merchants and processors of wool, payments being based on the amount of wool supplied or consumed, or on the number of persons employed during each six-monthly period. Since 1957 the levy has yielded on average £184,000 a year.

The levy is paid into a special account held by the Board of Trade, out of which payments are made to meet expenses incurred by the Wool Textile Research Council, the body responsible for co-ordinating research in the industry. Most of the expenses concerned arise from the work of the Wool Industries Research Association at Torridon, which also receives a grant from the D.S.I.R. The basis of the grant has been modified for the present quinquennium which started in October, 1961, so as to require a rather higher industrial contribution in relation to grants. It is the policy of D.S.I.R. that industry should bear a gradually increasing percentage of research. Work is also done for the Council by universities and technical colleges.

The reason for the increase of one-third proposed, to about £245,000 a year—which, in passing, I would say is only one-twentyfourth of 1 per cent. of total turnover—is that without it the Council will not be able to continue to provide for the industry the service it ought to provide. Apart from the change in the basis the D.S.I.R. grant and the rises in costs, a new wing was recently completed at Torridon and has allowed more work to be undertaken there. New inquiries have been undertaken still further to improve the efficiency of the industry and the quality of its output.

In addition, it is considered desirable to rebuild the reserves held by the Board of Trade for the Research Council, which are likely to be encroached on this year before the levy at the increased rate can be collected. Nobody, I am sure, will dispute the great importance of research to the industry at the present time when technical developments in the textile field are taking place so rapidly and world trade is becoming more and more competitive. To be compelled to reduce the scope of research through lack of funds now, therefore, would be most unfortunate.

As required by the 1947 Act, the Board of Trade has consulted the various organisations concerned. The Order was requested in the first place by the Wool Textile Delegation, which represents 85 per cent. of employers in the industry. It is supported by the National Association of Unions in the Textile Trade and by the National Union of General and Municipal Workers, the principal organisations representing employees. Five trade associations sent in objections, the burden of which, with one exception, was more against their being subjected to the levy at all than to its being increased. Although the objectors represent only a very small proportion of the interests affected, their objections have been carefully examined, but they do not appear to be serious enough to outweight the support given to the proposed Order by the majority of the industry.

The fact that the increase in the levy proposed in the Order has been asked for by the largest organisation of employers in the industry and is warmly supported by the trade unions indicates that the industry as a whole values the research work which is mainly paid for by the levy and wishes to see it continued. For these reasons, I hope that the House will agree to approve the Order.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

May I ask the hon. Gentleman one question? Am I right in supposing that the increase in the levy necessarily brings about an increase in the grant? Can he give us the figures?

Mr. Macpherson

The way in which the grant is to be calculated is now changed. By and large, the maximum grant payable at present is £70,000, on an industrial contribution to the Wool Industry Research Association of £170,000. Under the new arrangements, the maximum contribution will be £83,500, against an industrial contribution of £208,000.

8.37 p.m.

Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)

As the Minister has pointed out, this Order is made at the request of the Wool Textile Delegation, which is a very representative body in the industry and is also supported by the trade unions. I therefore think that the Order should be approved.

The research that is being carried on in the industry in undoubtedly of value, and I think this is widely recognised. We may expect increasingly competitive conditions, and under those conditions the need for research will grow. Research is carried on in a number of different institutes. Perhaps, as one of the Members representing Huddersfield, it is fitting that I should mention the Huddersfield College of Technology, but I am not unmindful of the fact that there are other places, such as the Halifax Technical College, the Bradford Institute of Technology, Leeds University, and—by no means the least important—the research station at Torridon, where, as the Minister has pointed out, a new wing has recently been opened.

One would expect the cost of this research to increase, and I think that, before we finally approve this Order, it should be made quite clear whether this increased levy is primarily due to increased costs or is due to a proportionately lower contribution from the D.S.I.R. May I formulate my question in this way? Is the additional levy due, firstly, to increased costs of carrying on research at the existing level; or, secondly, is it due to the increased scope of research; or, thirdly, is it due to the proportionately lower grant from the D.S.I.R.? I notice that in a memorandum provided by the Wool Textile Delegation it is stated that an industry contribution of the same amount for the year commencing 1st October, 1961, will earn £13,000 less from the D.S.I.R. under the new terms of grant. From the figures which the Minister has just given, I gather that he is in agreement about that, but I think it is only right that the position should be clarified in order that the House should know whether the reason for this increased levy is primarily the reduced proportion of the grant. Notwithstanding that query, I support the Order.

8.40 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Hirst (Shipley)

I support the Order. It will, I think, be helpful. As my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary pointed out, its history goes back for quite a time. In fact, it was the Working Party in 1947 which paid a particular tribute to the Wool Textile Delegation at that time for putting before the Board of Trade the desirability of a statutory levy for scientific research. Thus, in 1950, the Wool Textile Research Council was born.

There have been two increases since that date, and this is the third. From a perusal of the terms of the Order, one sees that the sums of money involved, despite the increases, are really comparatively small, bearing in mind the advantages to the industry as a whole.

I am glad that the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) asked his question. The point he raised is important, and we should in considering the matter recognise that the terms of D.I.S.R. grant have changed materially from what they were when first instituted. Not only is a much greater contribution required to earn the level of D.S.I.R. support obtained in past years but a minimum amount of £170,000 is needed now to get any grant at all. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary used average figures, which were fair enough, but the fact is that, last year, the industrial contribution was £165,750, which, as the House will understand from what I have said, would earn no grant at all this year were there not to be a change. As my hon. Friend explained, it requires about £208,000—I think that was the figure he gave—to get the maximum grant.

If no change at all took place, all the funds available would have to go to the Wool Industries Research Association. The hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) rightly paid a tribute to that Association, but he will, I know, join with me in saying that there are other organisations, such as Leeds University and the technical colleges to which he referred, which also do excellent work. This marginal amount is required if those purposes are to be fulfilled. If I remember aright, at the time when the Working Party reported, it was suggested that something like 25 per cent. of the funds collected should be available for research by organisations such as those I have instanced outside the actual organisation of the W.I.R.A. The £50,000 or so extra in an average year under the Order will be invaluable for that purpose. Those of us in the parts of the country concerned know what excellent work is also done in the other organisations to which I have referred.

My hon. Friend has spoken about certain of the industries—sometimes people rather unkindly call them fringe manufacturers—which have offered some sort of objection to the proposal before us. It is only fair to supplement what he said by saying that it is borne in mind—and the Board of Trade clearly have it in mind—that the facilities of the Wool Industries Research Association are fully available to them in their own particular branch of manufacture. Also, it is recognised throughout the industry that it is really impossible to segregate the process procedures with which they have particular connection from the products themselves which, of course, are an integral part of the wool textile industry.

I sometimes feel that my noble Friend the Minister for Science occasionally runs away with himself in—I imagine that I shall have the hon. and learned Member for Kettering with me if I say this—his rather more "bell-ringing" type of speeches. Of the particular subject of this Order, among others, my noble Friend made a speech to, of all people, the Scottish Young Unionists. According to the report in the Sunday Times of recent date, after some very purple passages, he said: We have been compelled by necessity to live in an age when all the old props, such as the Empire on which the sun never sets, the primacy in the old technologies of coal and steam, cotton and wool and iron and steel, have been knocked away.' I suggest that that is less than justice to the tremendous, quiet technological work of the Wool Industry Research Association. This organisation has been doing this work for years—without all the flash and excitement—and has been finding out how far technological arrangements can incorporate new fibres, thereby producing more than before.

The House should pay some tribute to an industry that is well ahead and which deserves not only all the help it can get from this Order and the research that will come out of it but, also, a few kinder words from the Minister of Science.

8.47 p.m.

Mr. David Ginsburg (Dewsbury)

As an hon. Member in whose constituency wool is the major industry I must add my voice to the debate and take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Wool Industry Research Association for all its work. I had the privilege last year of visiting Torridon, the research association under discussion. I was extremely impressed with everything I saw and I can say confidently that a fine organisation exists there.

I do not begrudge the association one additional penny that it requires. Nor have I any criticism of the research programme that goes on at that organisation. Quite the contrary. My feelings go rather the other way, for I believe that far more needs to be spent on research in the wool textile industry. Even taking account of the expenditure of the International Wool Secretariat—which is extremely important in the context of wool—more needs to be spent, particularly by the individual firms in the industry.

I do not have the precise figures, but I believe that I am not incorrect in saying that the total expenditure of the individual firms is very low, possibly something in the neighbourhood of £50,000 per annum. As I said, far more needs to be spent on research and development, not only by individual firms but also by the co-operatively financed association we are now debating.

From time to time in my constituency there is some good-natured controversy between those in the industry who say, "There is no substitute for wool" and those who say, "We must be processers of fibres, of which wool is only one." As a layman, I endeavour to preserve a modicum of neutrality in this controversy, but I think that it would be agreed that if the wool industry is to maintain itself, vis-à-vis man-made fibres, it must spend far more on research than is at present the case.

As far as I know, expenditure on research and development on man-made fibres—and this is important in the context of another controversy that is taking place at the moment—is £3½ million a year. The total expenditure on research and development in the wool textile industry, to the best of my knowledge, is about £⅓ million per year. Doing a little simple arithmetic, spread among the 40,000 to 44,000 people employed in the man-made fibres industry and the 180,000 or so employed in the wool textile industry, it represents £70 spent on research per head in the man-made fibres industry and £2 per head in the textile industry. I agree that that is pitching the argument in the most extreme terms. As I have said, we should take into account the very important expenditure of the International Wool Secretariat. Even so, there is something here which should cause this House and the Board of Trade considerable concern.

The possible advent of the Common Market and of greater competition makes the need for research expenditure on wool even more vital. In a survey of British industry, the National Union of Manufacturers, commenting on the wool textile industry, said that, while the Common Market will benefit, for example, the more expensive end, the worsted section, it will have an adverse effect on the cheaper end because of Italian competition.

The heavy woollen industry, the cheaper end, is preponderantly situated in my constituency and in that of my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton). Therefore, our constituents have a very strong interest in maintaining the competitiveness of our local wool industry. I have no doubt that they welcome the contribution that science can make and that they would warmly approve of this Order and would press for even more to be done than is being done.

Finally, I should like to refer to the Report of the 1947 Working Party an Wool. It is worth noting that it is to the Report of the Working Party that the levy, I believe, owes some of its historical origins. I would draw the attention of the House, particularly that of the Parliamentary Secretary, to the fact that other proposals were made in the Working Party's Report apart from the proposal for the levy, including one in particular of local importance which, from the Government angle, has not seen the light of day. Although the Report recognised that everything should be done to stimulate the efficiency of the industry, it also recognised that in the district with which I am most intimately associated there was a need for new industry.

I therefore hope that the President of the Board of Trade will take the opportunity of the passing of this Order to re-read the Report of the Working Party and will recognise that, though the levy which we are debating and which I think in general we all support is important, his responsibility to the people who work in the wool textile industry and who live in the wool textile areas does not end with this Order.

8.53 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Tiley (Bradford, West)

Briefly, I wish not merely to support the Order, but to support it with enthusiasm. The Wool Textile Delegation has its office in Bradford, and I am glad to see that the city which I represent is notable for other things besides smallpox. If the Order is not accepted, our technical colleges will suffer, because they will not receive the grant, as there will be insufficient money for them to have a share. In our city the Advanced Institute of Technology is doing magnificent work in textiles along with the main research centre at Leeds University.

My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst) paid a tribute to textiles. It is right that we should consider this great industry on occasions. In the last few years, country after country and market after market throughout the world has raised barriers against our textile exports. Younger countries, newer countries, are taking on the processes of manufacturing, and even the making of wool tops is being done abroad to a larger extent. Somehow or other, the wool textile industry has maintained its place in the country's export figures. In spite of fierce competition in markets, we still hold our own and play this huge part in the country's exports. These things are essential to that progress.

It would be interesting to know whether my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has the number of firms who contribute to the total sum. I do not have this information and it would be an interesting fact to consider. I hope that the House will approve the Order.

8.56 p.m.

Mr. H. Rhodes (Ashton-under-Lyne)

Having started in a woollen mill at the age of 12 and only just relinquished an up-to-date mill within the last four months, I will risk boring the House for a few minutes and at the same time will address a few questions to the Parliamentary Secretary, who is responsible for bringing the Order before us. Before doing so, however, I wish to follow the point made by the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst), who referred to a speech by one of his noble colleagues to the Scottish Junior Conservatives. I follow it up by a speech made by the same noble Lord in another place on 15th November, when he said: In surveying British engineering and British industry as a whole, I see two great needs which ought to dominate our thinking technologically. These are, first that British industry in general should be based on advanced technology so that it may keep abreast or ahead of its main competitors… One has no quarrel with that. He then went on to his second point, and said: secondly, that the traditional craft industries should no longer continue to be craftsman-based but should employ technologists with a more flexible outlook, who will need to keep a continuous watch for new ideas worth applying."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 15th November, 1961; Vol. 235, c. 720–1.] If it were not for the craft element in the wool and worsted textile industry, there would be no industry. It is no use a scientist coming to an industry like this and expecting, by having a few years' training at a university, to carry on in the industry and to be able to express himself authoritatively, because it is experience that counts.

I will give a small illustration. Two years ago I started a new dying plant with the most up-to-date machinery I could buy anywhere—stainless steel, chromium plate and all the rest—and I ran into trouble. I applied to my research association, who knew "nowt" about it. I went to I.C.I., which has a large, first-class wool research establishment and sent men along to see me. They were most co-operative, but could do nothing. I then went to a friend of mine, who happened that year to be the president of the organisation of dyers and colourers and who is the head chemist for Courtaulds. I tried them all. He came along, but we had the same sort of result.

Then, one Saturday afternoon, I thought that I would try something different. So I went to an old friend of mine, who came along and had a look at it. He had a cloth cap on the side of his head and he had a look at the way we were running. After a few expletives, which it would be most unparliamentary to repeat, he gave me the advice that I needed. We had no more trouble. Look at the trouble we should have had if we had been dependent upon technologists with a more flexible outlook who will need to keep continuous watch for new ideas worth applying!

The wool industry is the sixth most important export industry in this country, despite the fact that it is craftsman-based, and I would remind the House that until recently, until it gave way to the motor industry and the vehicle industry combined, it exported more goods by value to the North American Continent than any other industry in this country. In other words, it earns its keep.

Being a craft industry means that it has advantages and disadvantages, and a disadvantage is the difficulty of coordination of research to cover the needs and different kinds of work done in 1,500 factories. It is true that the amount of money subscribed or spent on research in a year by individual firms in the wool industry comes to no more than £55,000. The total spent in a full year has been told to us several times, but it is a very difficult job for the Wool Research Association to satisfy the inquiries and the different types of inquiries which come from so many members.

Comparisons have been made between what is spent on research in the wool industry and what is spent by other research associations. I should like to make a comparison with the research which is done in other industries, because I feel I must do so to make my point. Internal expenditure in the wool industry by private firms is £55,000; the Research Association expenditure is £280,000; D.S.I.R. grant is included in the £280,000 and is £70,000; making a total of £335,000, which means that the Research Association is responsible for 84 per cent. of the total research done in the wool and worsted trades.

Compare that with the contribution through the research association for the chemical industry. That takes care of only 1 per cent. of the total, because in the chemical industry there are gigantic firms like I.C.I. which spend a tremendous amount of money on research. The same sort of comparison applies in the case of rayon. According to the report of the Federation of British Industries, at the time when investigations were carried out in 1960 the rayon industry had spent £4,451,000 on research. There we get the same picture—only 7 per cent. of the research being done by the research association, the remainder being done by the gigantic firms. That is one problem which hon. Members will have to consider when deciding whether it is a good thing to have large mergers and amalgamations and when considering the value of the research work going on in the larger organisations, as distinct from that carried out by the research associations which govern craft industries of this sort.

Mr. Hirst

I do not disagree with all that the hon. Member is saying, but I would point out that the mere existence of a statutory levy for a special purpose tends to concentrate some research which would otherwise be taking place on a more individual basis. I am not trying to kill the hon. Member's case, but that addendum must be added.

Mr. Rhodes

As the hon. Member knows, a small factory, employing between 100 and 250 work people, cannot stand the cost of a laboratory, with highly paid scientific assistants. It so happens that research associations suit the set-up in this industry better, perhaps, than that of any other industry.

But what happens is that with 1,500 firms, all making many inquiries, many of those inquiries being practically identical, and with the change-over of personnel from the research association to better jobs, every time the association gets an inquiry from one of its members it has to start again almost at the grass roots. If research associations are to hold their own and develop they must start a system of case histories, which their members can consult when trouble arises in their firms. It is very difficult to cope with the demands of an industry with 1,500 factories, using perhaps as many as 1,750 different types of wool and material, but an immense improvement could be made if research associations made case histories of the problems they were able to solve, so that they could go on to other more important matters.

Up to comparatively recently there has been very little liaison between one research association and another. I can quote a case from my own experience. When I began to put in a spinning plant in my factory I quickly realised that it would be necessary to analyse the yield of the wool that I was using. That is elementary. But the people in the smaller factories, where they have used the same sort of wool throughout the years, know instantly by the feel and the look whether it is the sort of wool that they want, whether it will do the job that they want, and whether the yield is right. This is where science comes in, and that is why I am supporting the need for a more scientific approach in this industry.

I sent a sample to Australia to Dr. Lipson, who is the chemist for the Australian wool growers, asking him for his formula for the assessment of yield in the wool that I was using. I made the same request to Torridon. I could not get any satisfaction either from Torridon or from Australia. Using the best chemists that I could get put on the job by I.C.I., I found that the Australian formula took three and a half days. The best that could be done at Torridon was a fortnight, and then it was not accurate. So I went to another research association to see what it had got. I went to the Shirley Institute in Manchester where I found that it was using a machine which had been invented to do the same job for cotton that I was trying to do for wool. But because that was over the border in Lancashire, they would not play with it at Torridon in Leeds. So I took 50 samples to the Shirley Institute, and a pattern emerged. I found that it could be done. I then went back to Torridon with my results. There was no action at that time.

After altering the machine to suit myself and making tests on wool that I had bought, and having some wool delivered, I found that the first sample was 10 per cent. lower yield than that which I had bought. That was proof of the effectiveness of my machine. I contacted the people who had sold me the wool, but they said, "No, that won't do; you do not know enough about it." I asked them to send two samples back to Australia, which they did. The person responsible came to me a fortnight later and said, "You are quite right. They say they have sent the wrong wool." So I made them pay for that installation. It was the cheapest installation that I ever had.

That was not the end of the matter. The largest exporter of scoured wool in Australia came to this country to find out how I had managed to do it. He brought with him a car full of samples. He asked where I had got the machine and I told him that it was made under licence by Howard and Bullough, of Accrington. I was asked whether I would alter a machine and I agreed to do so. The machine went to Australia and has been followed since by many others. In Australia they were able to tell the Japanese the yield in the wool before it was used in this country. Hon. Members who are interested in the industry will have noticed that a company has been formed at the docks near the wool warehouses and equipped with machines to do the job which I started four or five years ago. Had there been better liaison between the research associations surely the cotton method would have been tried in the case of wool. Just because a thing is called scientific it does not mean it is unique. It depends on the application.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Ginsburg) commented on how money was spent. The amount spent is not important. What is important is how it is spent. We ought to examine every penny being voted in such cases before we make legislation. I am saying nothing against research associations which are doing a good job. I am referring only to methods of research suitable for such an industry as this one. I am trying to draw attention to certain matters with a view to improvements being made in the future.

9.17 p.m.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

I am sure that I was not the only one interested in the practical, sensible and knowledgeable speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Aston-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes). I know very little about wool, or about Yorkshire, but sometimes I have a suspicion that, while Yorkshire is not as bad as Lancashire, it is not as good as Yorkshire says it is. But be that as it may; I do not wish to provoke any "tribal" feeling.

The Order which we are considering raises broad questions of Government responsibility in these matters. We are asked substantially to increase the levy on the trade, with a corresponding increase in the Government grant of public money. I do not think that the proportion makes much difference. It was mentioned by the Parliamentary Secretary, but if his figures are right I think that it is the other way round and that the proportion the industry has to pay is decreased. But that is a small point.

We come to the whole question of what is being done about what the F.B.I. call "Industrial Research in Manufacturing Industry", on which it issued a report last month. I found it a fascinating Report. It called attention to many things which have been mentioned in this debate. They seem to me matters which obviously require a great deal more investigation and attention than they are receiving at present. The first thing pointed out in the Report was that the limitation on the expenditure on research activities was not only a question of money; it was also a lack of qualified manpower. There is a standing vacancy at the rate of about 13 per cent. overall in industry's research and development departments. That includes not only the research association bodies which we are considering particularly today, because of the structure of this trade, but also other industries where there is extensive research activity by big firms.

I should like to know from the Parliamentary Secretary what the position is. If this additional levy is to be raised and, with it, an additional grant, can we be assured that there is in this case not a vacancy rate of about 13 per cent. overall in the qualified personnel required to make use of the money? If there is some difficulty in that matter—the Report says so very definitely; and the F.B.I. is not exactly a Socialist body—what do the Government propose to do about it? How will they see that this industry is sufficiently provided with personnel to use the money?

I turn to another matter. I am not suggesting that this Association, which does practically all the research in and for the wool trade, has done anything but an excellent job. All the evidence is the other way. The evidence is that it has done a very good job, but it has a great deal to do yet. What is the only thing I always associate with wool? It is moths. A final solution to the moth problem has not yet been found, or had not been in the last Report of W.I.R.A. There is a passage in that Report dealing with moths. It tells how a particular remedy was tried. It was found to have all sorts of faults and the association had not solved the moths problem.

Some things will be produced which are called moth-proof, but the other day there was a broadcast which gave considerable annoyance in Yorkshire because it suggested that they could not produce moth-proof materials. If we go through the whole Report—which is stiff reading for someone who is not a wool expert—it is perfectly clear that a great deal remains to be done.

That is not the whole story. The research in the wool industry is inseparably connected with other industries—if I may use the phrase, both vertically and horizontally—horizontally, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne has indicated, in connection with the cotton trade and one particular problem. By the way, the last Report of the W.I.R.A. does not mention his activities and what happened in connection with Australia. It says something quite different about the yield of wool. Perhaps it is one of those reports which very carefully says all the good things which are being done and does not pick up every possible mistake or omission that may have been made. One understands that sort of report; even Government Departments have been known to make it from time to time.

If the wool industry is to have a research association, and if that association is to study problems, it must be connected both with research into cotton and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Ginsburg) said, with research into man-made fibres. That horizontal arrangement has to be coordinated in the sense that we have to see that the people who are doing one job know what people in another industry are doing. It is clear from the instance which my hon. Friend gave that they do not always know that.

The other kind of co-ordination which seems necessary is what I would call vertical co-ordination. Wool is wool, but we reach a certain stage when we are dealing with fabrics. When we look at the research associations we find that there are vertically connected industries which have their own separate research associations.

The body which is supposed to some extent to co-ordinate these is, I suppose, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. No doubt it does so, to some extent but we should make a very great mistake if we did not regard this as a general problem which will affect the manufacturing powers of this country, its competitive powers, and its competitive powers particularly in relation to other European countries, where we may soon have the possibility of increased competition in industries of this kind. I am not at all satisfied that either the Minister for Science or the President of the Board of Trade is at present in a position to say that he is ensuring proper co-ordination between research in one industry and those other industries connected with it both, to use my own metaphor, horizontally and vertically.

I go on from that to another question which has run throughout the debate. As the F.B.I. said in the same Report: The time is ripe for a re-examination of the situation with a view to stimulating the application of new scientific and technological knowledge in small firms. I am not for a moment minimising the rôle of the man in the cloth cap, but my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne said that this is a matter partly for experience and partly for sheer scientific knowledge, starting from an almost academic attitude to the matter, and the two things must be worked together. But when that is done, what is the means of distributing the knowledge which is obtained? How, in the wool trade, do we get it round to all these firms?

The F.B.I. had sampled about a quarter of the F.B.I. firms in the wool trade. About a third of the firms sampled did not belong to this research association. The significant point is that these did not include any of the large firms; all the large firms which were sampled did belong to the association. But they included exactly a third of the medium-sized firms and half the small firms. If the industry is to be in small and medium-sized units and to depend for scientific research on an association of this kind—and there may be good reasons for it—we must do more than that to see that those who pay the levy—because these people will be paying the levy—make proper and full use of the knowledge which is obtained as a result of the levy and, moreover, that they are in a position to do so.

I suggest that this is a matter in which the F.B.I., with which I do not always agree, was right, and that the time is ripe for an examination of something of this sort. The same point was put in the same report by the National Institute for Economic and Scientific Research, which added a review of its own. What it said is even more widely phrased, and I quote it with agreement: There is need for a more systematic dissemination and application of the existing body of knowledge, for speedy and efficient communication of the results of research work done in universities, in research associations, in D.S.I.R. laboratories, in other firms and abroad. I do not say that nothing of the sort is done. I expect that something is done. But when, on a cross-section of the wool trade or a substantial section of it, we find this comment made, I suggest that it is time that somebody was in a position to do this, and that somebody, I think, must be the Government.

I am not at all certain that the people at the Board of Trade are the right people for it. It seems to me to be a matter for the Office of the Minister for Science. I never know what it does, but here is something which it could well do. I have no doubt that in the course of time some Department or another of the Government will do it, unless it is allowed to fall between two stools, or unless the Government fall into the error of thinking that business is always right and that business can be left to run its own affairs. I do not think that it can in a competitive world such as this.

Hon. Members ought to be in a much better position to obtain available information. I obtained the F.B.I. Report from the Library without any difficulty, but I failed entirely to obtain the W.I.R.A. Report there. The Librarians had to borrow it for me They were very kind to do so. These sources of information are of vital importance and we should be able to obtain the information.

We should have much fuller reports about what the Government Department primarily concerned—the D.S.I.R.—is doing about it. The Minister for Science ought not to be allowed to shelter behind a cloud of eloquent verbiage. We ought to know what the office of the Minister for Science is doing. It is about the time that it issued an annual report. This industry happens to be a peg upon which this depends. The House and the Government should consider our position as regards information, because unless the necessary information is forthcoming there will be a great failure to apply results, a failure to bring them to the attention of people who can apply them, and a failure to co-ordinate as between one industry and another the research which is being done all over the country by the devoted people who study these problems. They are too few in number, but no doubt, as in this case, they are excellent in quality.

9.32 p.m.

Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

I should not have detained the House if it had not been for the very interesting speech of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison). I apologise for not being here during the speech, which I am sure was a very valuable one, of my old friend the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes).

As regards research in various industries, particularly the woollen industry, I do not think that the answer to many of these problems is the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. Discoveries are made in the day-to-day activities and the research activities of any industrialist. The difficulty is that many of these discoveries are lost in the clouds of time. The hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne may be trying to produce a certain finish to a piece of cloth. He produces an entirely different finish, which may be a howling success, but that year everybody wants a smooth finish. Therefore, he scraps it and it lies in the limbo of forgotten things. What is needed for the development of many industrial processes is a trade library of the failures of the activities of yesteryear.

Mr. Rhodes

That is what I said.

Sir D. Glover

I was interested to read in a newspaper recently of two famous dancers who demonstrated the twist in front of Mr. Baldwin, as he then was, in 1928. It has taken until 1962 for this dance to become popular.

Mr. Speaker

How would the activities of those dancers be affected one way or another whether or no the Order before the House be approved?

Sir D. Glover

I apologise, Mr. Speaker. I was using it as an example of how something can be forgotten.

Mr. Tiley

On a point of order. Twisting is a process in the textile industry.

Mr, Speaker

I adhere to my Ruling.

Sir D. Glover

My experience over many years in industry and commerce convinces me that many things that could be valuable, particularly in the woollen industry, are discovered and then scrapped. The way they were arrived at is not registered. Years afterwards when people are looking for that very thing they do not know how to set about it and spend weeks and weeks trying to discover it. If a library of registrations and processes were set up, which every textile manufacturer knew about and could rely on, the Board of Trade would have done a valuable piece of work.

This applies not only in the woollen industry but to most processes in industry. Some of the greatest discoveries in textiles and in every form of industrial activity have been made by accident. They are not always made as a result of the vast sums spent on research. They are often discovered when someone is after a particular thing. In his efforts to produce that he produces something entirely different. It is that which two or three years later would be very valuable to our export market which should be registered and available for others to use. If my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary would bear that in mind, it would be very helpful to the textile industry.

9.35 p.m.

Mr. Niall Macpherson

By leave of the House, I shall answer some of the points which have been made. I would start by thanking the House for the welcome it has given to this Order. I am sure that the wool textile industry itself will be extremely gratified by the extensive notice taken of the Order by the House, will pay considerable attention to what hon. Members have said, and will be grateful for the general support given to the Order.

The hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) asked how much of the increase was due to each of the three factors he mentioned: the increased cost of carrying on research at the present level; the increased scope of research; and the lower grant made by the D.S.I.R. According to the budget made, first of all, in 1961 the levy payment to W.I.R.A. amounted to £165,750 and the D.S.I.R. grant was £70,000. That was then the maximum, so in any case a new agreement would have had to be negotiated. For the current year, it is proposed that the Council should hand to the Association £188,000, and the D.S.I.R. grant will be £72,250. Slightly lower expenditure and a slightly lower D.S.I.R. grant is budgeted for 1963, but in 1966 the levy will rise to £199,000 and the D.S.I.R. grant to £80,500. That is the general pattern.

As to the increased scope of research, as I have said, a new wing has recently been opened, and I understand that it is now being devoted to further research work. I understand that where there is an increase in cost during the current year it will to some extent be financed out of reserves until it is possible in October—as it is a six-monthly levy—to make the levy for the following year.

My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst) dealt with what he termed fringe industries, and I was very glad to have his support of the Board of Trade's view that all the industries that objected either to the levy being made on them at all or to the increase in the levy are considered as part of the wool textile industry and that the levy was properly chargeable upon them.

The hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Ginsburg) made a comparison of the amounts of research expenditure for man-made fibres and for wool. He was rather answered by the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes)—who, as usual, delighted us with his intervention—because the hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that it is experience that counts. After all, man-made fibres have not been going for very long and the capital expenditure on research in that industry must be very high. The capital expenditure on research in the wool industry is relatively low, but from now on it is proposed to run it at about double what it has been, which is about £10,000 a year.

There is no doubt that there is a great deal of accumulated wisdom about wool which is of immense value to the industry and to the country. That is not to say, of course, that further advances cannot be made, but I quite agree with the hon. Member for Ashton-under Lyne that the whole purpose of bringing these Orders before the House is to make certain that, as far as possible, there is no obvious waste of money. If there were, if the Association appeared to be wasting money, then quite clearly objections would be raised by the industry itself. My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Tiley) asked how many firms contribute to the total sum. I am sorry that I cannot give him that information tonight.

Both the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne and the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) dealt a good deal with the question of co-operation between research establishments. The research establishments are, of course, independent institutions. Many of them are grant-aided through D.S.I.R., but it is open to question how far, because of that grant aid, it would be practicable for us here to demand certain information. Of course, it is open to research establishments to supply the information to this House, and I have no doubt that the Wool Industry Research Association will take note of the desire expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering, that it would be a good thing if its research reports were available in the Library, and of the fact that Members are actively interested in what it has to report.

I cannot say how far there is a direct exchange of information between research associations, but here again, as has been said, this is a matter that goes rather wider than the purview of the Board of Trade which keeps the accounts of the research association and runs it administratively, but I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that what he has said will be carefully ''examined. The whole question of making information available is, I think, primarily a question for the research association themselves and for their members. After all, the purpose of the contributions that are made is primarily to benefit the industry itself. It may well be that there can be advantages in the exchange of information as between industries, and I agree that that would be a matter well worth studying and for the appropriate Department to draw to the attention of the industries concerned.

With these few remarks, I hope that the House will now agree to the Order.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Wool Textile Industry (Scientific Research Levy) (Amendment) Order, 1962, a draft of which was laid before this House on 28th November, be approved.

  1. CONSOLIDATION, &c., BILLS 175 words