HC Deb 10 July 1962 vol 662 cc1121-2
4. Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many looms are in production in the cotton industry in Hong Kong.

Mr. H. Fraser

On 30th June, 16,383 looms were in operation out of a total of 19,691, producing piecegoods, and 785 looms out of a total of 896, producing cotton towelling. Six mills containing more than 500 looms, normally engaged in weaving piecegoods, had suspended production entirely.

Mrs. Castle

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this number of looms is not very much greater than the number in production in Blackburn alone and they could not possibly have produced all the cloth which is coming into this country under the voluntary agreement with Hong Kong? Is not Hong Kong acting as a gathering ground for cloth from all over the Far East, including China and Japan, this cloth then being imported into this country under the voluntary agreement? Is not this totally unfair to Lancashire, and will he raise the matter with the Governor of Hong Kong and the textile industry there?

Mr. Fraser

Without going into technicalities with the hon. Lady—I read her article in the New Statesman and Nation and found it most interesting—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—I did not say the "Staggers and Naggers"; I referred to the New Statesman and Nation.

I shall look into the matter, but the figures given to us show that there is ample capacity in Hong Kong to produce the 185 million square yards which are at the moment being imported, and I think it only fair to say, considering Hong Kong's difficulties, that people there have behaved extremely well in keeping until 1965 the 1961 levels, and we owe a considerable debt to them for their forbearance.

Mr. A. Royle

Is my hon. Friend aware that, unlike Lancashire, Hong Kong uses its looms 24 hours a day?