HC Deb 22 May 1962 vol 660 cc215-7
32. Mr. D. Jones

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much British capital is invested in Hong Kong; and how much of that amount is invested in the cotton textile industry.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Sir Edward Boyle)

I regret that figures of the total amount of United Kingdom capital invested in Hong Kong are not available; the annual amount of direct investment by the United Kingdom in Hong Kong is of the order of £1–£2 million a year net. Figures of the annual amount of other private investment are not available, nor are any figures on the amount invested in the cotton textile industry.

Mr. Jones

Is the Minister aware that these figures ought to be available in view of the serious deterioration in the cotton textile industry? Is he further aware that I have a deep personal interest inasmuch as my constituency—Burnley—is most seriously affected? If these figures are not available, ought they not to become available so that we can see the extent of the effect upon our vital industry?

Sir E. Boyle

I assure the hon. Member that there are real difficulties about making these figures available, as was clearly shown in the relevant section of the Radcliffe Report. If the hon. Member wishes, I will send him the sections of the Radcliffe Report which point out the considerable magnitude and complications of the task of obtaining the figures.

Mr. S. Silverman

Will not the Minister further consider this matter? Is he not aware that if British capital is employed to any large extent in building up the cotton textile industry in Hong Kong, it is at the dire expense of a major industry in this country that is rattling fast to catastrophe? Is it not the Government's duty at least to ascertain the facts so that they may consider what their policy should be?

Sir E. Boyle

Certainly, within the limits of my previous supplementary answer, we will look at the question of these figures again, although there are real difficulties in the matter. The hon. Member's supplementary question raises, however, a general economic issue which is rather too wide to discuss at Question Time.

Sir C. Osborne

Can my hon. Friend confirm that the greater part of the money invested in the Hong Kong textile industry came from China and really came from the Shanghai-owned mills, and that competition with Lancashire is not a matter of how much capital there is there but how quickly it is turned over and use is made of it in the two respective countries?

Sir E. Boyle

I cannot answer the first part of that supplementary question without notice. With regard to the second part, there is a good deal in what the hon. Member says.

Mr. W. R. Williams

Reverting to the lack of information, would it not have been necessary for the Prime Minister to have this information available before he met the leaders of the textile industry last week to discuss the future of the cotton industry with them?

Sir E. Boyle

There is no desire on the part of the Government to hide these matters. Some figures have been published for past years by the Board of Trade. The figures are necessarily incomplete and, as I have said, the Radcliffe Report has explained the great difficulty of obtaining precise figures when one is considering a census of assets overseas owned by British companies. We will do our best, but this is a more difficult matter than hon. Members opposite suppose.