HC Deb 20 November 1962 vol 667 cc992-4
22. Mrs. Castle

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what reply he has sent to the telegram addressed to him by Mr. Kenneth Shorrock, secretary of the Textile Action Group, calling for similar assistance to be given to the textile industry as he has recently given to the motor car industry be reducing Purchase Tax.

Mr. Maudling

I have told Mr. Shorrock that have noted his representations and will bear them in mind.

Mrs. Castle

While thanking the Chancellor of the Exchequer for that reply, may I ask if he is aware that the motor car industry, to whose help he has just sprung so generously, has always enjoyed a high degree of protection, Whereas the cotton industry has been exposed to the most severe competition? On the basis of the principle he himself outlined for his action in respect of the motor industry, namely, to give stimulus where it is most needed with a particular eye on investment and exports". would he not agree that the textile industry qualifies outstandingly under that head for urgent action without having to wait for the next Budget?

Mr. Maudling

I think the circumstances are quite different. Many textile piece goods and household textile goods are not charged to tax anyway. The tax on clothing is 10 per cent, and clothing sales are going up steadily.

Mr. Hale

Will the Chancellor bear in mind that in towns like Oldham, where mill after mill has been closed in the last few weeks, there are no alternative buildings available even if alternative industry were available? There is nothing we can do because of the physical restriction imposed on the firms and we have nowhere to accommodate the industry. The situation is growing grave and serious, and it is not enough to say that people can travel 20 miles across the Pennines or 40 miles across Lancashire where they may be able to obtain suitable employment. Will the right hon. Gentleman look at this again and not give the reply he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), which in its expression sounded a little callous, or at least casual?

Mr. Maudling

I have said, and I repeat, that I intend to review the whole Purchase Tax structure in connection with the forthcoming Budget. It would be unwise for me to say more.

Mr. S. Silverman

Is the Chancellor aware that the rate of unemployment in Colne now is about 9.7 per cent. and the rate of unemployment in Nelson is scarcely less? Is he aware that those two towns depend almost entirely on the cotton industry for their living, which they are not now making, and that the people unemployed are in middle age and are not now able to learn new skills, quite apart from moving long distances elsewhere? Will he not treat this matter so lightly as he and all his colleagues in the Government have done for many years?

Mr. Maudling

I am not treating it lightly at all, but I doubt whether the circumstances the hon. Member has referred to have any connection with Purchase Tax on clothing.

Mr. Silverman

Of course they do.