HC Deb 25 July 1963 vol 681 cc1774-5
Q5. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Prime Minister what recent representations he has received concerning Government policy for the jute industry; and what reply he has made.

The Prime Minister

I was informed of the views held by the industry at an early stage of its discussions with the Board of Trade. I was able to reply that the progress of the negotiations would remove any grounds for the industry to fear that those would, for the next year at least, be any decline in the measure of protection for the vast bulk of the goods it produces.

Mr. Thomson

Is the Prime Minister aware that the proposals put forward threaten thousands of jobs in this industry; and that he himself has caused grave confusion and uncertainty by making a statement on this matter to his hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan) which was quite different from what the Minister of State, Board of Trade was at the same time saying confidentially to the industry in Dundee? Will he therefore give an assurance that the Government will not take any action to make any changes in the present structure of protection in the industry until there has been a full-scale inquiry into the industry?

The Prime Minister

There are two points there. I do not think that there was anything inconsistent between what I said and the plan being discussed. As to a full inquiry, consultations are going on on this very point.

Mr. Jay

As this gratuitous intervention by the Board of Trade may, in the opinion of those best informed in Dundee, threaten the city with the worst unemployment crisis for 20 years, will not the Prime Minister, if he wants the Government's policy on Scotland to be taken seriously, now invite the Board of Trade to abandon these proposals, and reconsider the whole matter?

The Prime Minister

I think that by far the best thing is for the consultations and discussions that are now going on to proceed.

Mr. Ross

Will not the right hon. Gentleman give more thought to this subject, as it is so serious as to merit reconsideration and withdrawal of the existing proposals? Will he look at the report in Hansard of the debate that took place at about three o'clock this morning, and pay some attention to the speech delivered by the vice-chairman of the Unionist and Conservative Party in Scotland, which expressed very considerable concern and distress at the wayward policies of the Government in respect of Dundee and jute?

The Prime Minister

I have looked at that and, in fact, these consultations are going on, and I think it better to leave it there for the moment.