HC Deb 04 June 1962 vol 661 cc1-5
Mr. S. Silverman

Mr. Speaker, I beg to present to the honourable Commons of the United Kingdom the humble Petition of the inhabitants of the Parliamentary constituency of Nelson and Colne in the County of Lancaster. The Petition is signed by 20,292 residents in that constituency, among them the Mayors of Nelson and of Colne, the Chairmen of the Trawden Urban District Council, the Brierfield Urban District Council and the Barrowford Urban District Council, these being the constituent parts which make up the Parliamentary constituency, and representatives of both sides of industry as well as of the Chambers of Commerce in all parts of the constituency.

The Petition showeth that all the petitioners are resident in the constituency, and in a series of paragraphs it recalls the catastrophically deteriorating situation of the cotton industry, not merely in the constituency, but throughout Lancashire.

The petitioners pray that this honourable House will limit the import of cheap textiles, will effectively use available national and international arrangements to prevent market disruption, to ensure safeguards in the event of the United Kingdom entering the Common Market, to extend the period during which applications must be made under the Cotton Industry Act, 1959, and to give such immediate aid and relief as will restore confidence in and stimulate the industry. It concludes with the words: And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. I bring the Petition to the Table with the request that the learned Clerk will have the goodness to read out the terms of the Petition.

The Clerk of the Houseread the Petition, which was as follows: To the honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the inhabitants of the Parliamentary Constituency of Nelson and Colne in the County of Lancaster. Sheweth as follows:—

  1. 1. Your Petitioners are resident in the Parliamentary Constituency of Nelson and Colne and are dependent either directly or indirectly on the textile industry for their living.
  2. 2. Throughout the last half century the textile industry has suffered periods of unemployment, some severe, and also periods of prosperity, but it has remained an unstable industry.
  3. 3. Immediately after the end of the second world war the Government's appeal for greater production in order to increase the export trade of the country was responded to wholeheartedly by those engaged in the textile industry.
  4. 4. During the past nine or ten years there has been a reduction of textile exports, caused mainly by the foreign customers themselves entering into the textile manufacturing industry.
  5. 5. There has also been an ever-increasing importation into the United Kingdom of textile fibres and manufactured goods from other parts of the Commonwealth and Eastern countries, and latterly from Europe, with a resultant reduction in British textile sales on the home market.
  6. 6. The imports of yarn, cloth, and made-up goods have shown a heavy increase each year since 1953 and the exceptionally high figures reached in 1959 were further alarmingly increased by 1961. These imports are much higher than the "Import Quota Figures" fixed by the Government in 1959 as the basis for the Cotton Re-organisation Scheme and are to no small extent responsible for the present state of the Industry.
  7. 7. Imported textile products, being produced in countries with a low standard of living, can be sold in this country at prices with which it is impossible for the Lancashire industry to compete.
  8. 8. This has resulted in a widespread depression in the textile industry, and despite the introduction of the scheme for the re-organisation of the cotton industry under the Cotton Industry Act, of 1959, the recession in the industry is now much more serious than it has been for many years, with the result that a number of re-organised firms have been compelled to close down permanently.
  9. 4
  10. 9. The remainder of these firms have been forced to restrict output, which has resulted in short-time working, and the cutting down of shift working with a consequent fall in efficiency and increased production costs.
  11. 10. Notwithstanding the contractions in the cotton industry over the past years, 50 per cent. of:the insured population of the area are still employed in that industry and ancillary trades.
  12. 11. The unemployment figures for the area have risen considerably over the past six months and the percentage of unemployed on the 9th day of April, 1962, was 6 per cent. in the Nelson area and 4.2 per cent. in the Colne area, an average of over 5.4 per cent. for the constituency. Even this figure does not reflect the true position. as no regard is taken of spasmodic short-time underemployment, and of certain classes of married women workers who are "played-off" and who do not register at the Employment Exchange.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that your Honourable House will take action without delay:
  1. (i) to limit the import of cheap textiles produced under unfair competitive conditions at least to the "Import Quota Figures" fixed by the Government in 1959 when the Cotton Re-organisation Scheme was introduced.
  2. (ii) effectively to use available national and international arrangements to prevent Market disruption, dumping and subsidised imports from any source.
  3. (iii) to ensure that if the United Kingdom enters the Common Market it will be on terms which will not put the cotton industry at a disadvantage by permitting Commonwealth textile imports to enter the United Kingdom on preferential terms.
  4. (iv) to extend by a period of twelve months the final date now fixed as the 8th July, 1962, for the receipt of applications for mill re-equipment grants.
  5. (v) to give such immediate aid and relief as will restore confidence in, and stimulate the Industry.
And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, etc.

To lie upon the Table.

Mr. P. Williams

On a point of order. Is it in order to raise the question—and if it is not, I apologise to the House—as to the taking up of Question Time with the perfectly legitimate exercise of presenting a Petition, but nevertheless overstaying the leave which the House would normally be willing to grant with tendentious arguments about the contents of that Petition?

Mr. Speaker

We cannot debate what is in the Petition. With regard to its presentation, that is governed by Standing Orders.

Mr. Mapp

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I beg leave briefly to present the humble Petition of the people of the north-west of England textile industry.

The Petition seeks to demonstrate the increasing distress that is being caused in that area by the lack of orders for yarn and cloth, which is resulting in a lack of confidence in the industry through short-time working and mills closing down. The increase in the lack of confidence has resulted in approximately 154,000 signatures to this Petition. These signatures are drawn from every section of the industry management, operatives and consumers ——

Mr. Warbey

On a point of order. Without any disrespect to my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp), may I point out that our Standing Orders require that the first Question shall be taken not later than 2.45 p.m.?

Mr. Speaker

I think that we have just about got to that time. What is proper is that the business on which we are embarked, namely, the presentation of the Petition, should be completed.

Mr. Mapp

I was about to conclude that your Petitioners humbly pray that your honourable House may introduce immediate legislation to apply further and substantial restrictions to the importation of textile commodities, and your Petitioners will ever pray, etc, etc.

To lie upon the Table.