HC Deb 22 February 1966 vol 725 cc305-30

6.45 p.m.

The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. George Darling)

I beg to move, That the Wool Textile Industry (Scientific Research Levy) (Amendment No. 2) Order 1966, a draft of which was laid before this House on 2nd February, be approved. With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I think that it would be convenient to take, at the same time, the second Order: That the Wool Textile Industry (Export Promotion Levy) (Amendment) Order 1966, a draft of which was laid before this House on 2nd February, be approved. Both Orders are closely connected.

Mr. Speaker

I understand that both sides of the House share that opinion. So be it.

Mr. Darling

The purpose of the Orders is to amend Orders at present in force under the Industrial Organisation and Development Act, 1947. The levies were first introduced at the request of the employers and trade unions in the industry. The first Orders were made in 1950 and have been varied from time to time since. One levy is for the promotion of exports of woollen goods and the other is for scientific research into the technical problems of the industry.

I should explain that the levies are paid by both the suppliers of wool and the processors. The terms are based upon the quantities of wool, supplied or consumed and on the number of persons employed in processing it. The accounting periods for this arrangement are the six months ending 31st March and 30th September of each year. To get the purpose of the organisation of the levies into focus it should be explained that they are collected by the Board of Trade and paid to the National Textile Export Corporation to reimburse expenses incurred by it in the promotion of overseas sales and to the Wool Textile Research Council, the body which is responsible for co-ordinating research in the industry.

The purpose of the Orders is to increase the total current annual yield of the two levies by about one-third—in other words, from about £369,000 to approximately £500,000 a year. This is done by increasing the rates of charge and, at the same time, adjusting the incidence of the rates so as to reduce the proportion paid in respect of the supply or the consumption of wool, and increasing the proportion based on the processing operations.

In recent years the raw material section of the industry has been contributing a greater proportion than it should have done. The rates per worker—in my brief it says employment units, but I think that this is going a bit too far—are now to be increased by 45 per cent., while the rates on the sale and consumption of wool are to be increased by 31 per cent. This differential should correct the balance to the proportions originally agreed in 1950 between the raw material and processing sections.

The new rates are intended to operate for the period beginning 1st April, 1966. This means that the returns will fall to be made after 1st October. On previous occasions, and we are following the same arrangements, the charges have been requested by the industry with the support of the trade unions. I might mention, in passing, that I wish that all industries had the same kind of friendly labour relations which exist in this industry.

The main reason for the increased charges are the continued rising costs since the levies were last increased and the continuing decline in the industry's labour force. The falling off in the number of workers employed, is I hope, due to increasing efficiency and is important because 75 per cent. of the levy that is collected is charged in respect of the number of workers employed. On the export promotion side, the levy, when it was instituted in 1950, was expected to produce about £100,000 to £120,000 a year. The last increase in the rates, in 1957, was expected to produce a total of about £200,000 a year. But for the reasons I have given, the current annual yield has fallen to about £160,000. The amended rates proposed in the Orders should produce initially about £214,000 a year and it is calculated that this sum amounts to about l/27th of 1 per cent. of the turnover of the industry, so that the incidence of the levy on the industry is very small indeed.

Mr. Peter Emery (Reading)

Do I understand that the figures which are being given relate only to the export promotion side, and do not relate to the two Statutory Instruments?

Mr. Darling

That is perfectly true. I am sorry if I confused the hon. Gentleman and perhaps other hon. Members. This is purely for the export promotion levy. As I say, the amended rates now proposed should, we think, to begin with at any rate, produce about £214,000 a year, and the increased income is needed so that there may be an extension of the export promotion work done in overseas markets.

As everyone knows, the industry is meeting ever increasing competition overseas and the income from the levy is no longer adequate to maintain the export promotional effort which has been stepped up in recent years and, at the same time, allow for increased expenditure in the United States. It is necessary to have this apparently high level of expenditure in the United States to take advantage of the recent change in the United States labelling regulations relating to the marking of imported woollen cloth.

It has been announced already that to assist the Corporation in this endeavour the Government have agreed to contribute £50,000 towards expenditure incurred between 1st April last year and 31st March this year. This is being incurred on publicity in the United States and is being provided on condition that the Corporation spends an equivalent sum on this work in the United States. To compete successfully, not only in Europe and the United States, but in all overseas markets, it is necessary for the industry to participate in major trade exhibitions overseas, such as that held in Tokyo last September, and in British weeks—in Amsterdam last year, Copenhagen, Düsseldorf and Milan. These are recent instances. Hon. Members may be interested to know that the Corporation's outlay on the Tokyo exhibition alone was about £24,000. The cost of this sort of enterprise will undoubtedly continue to represent, on occasions, quite a large proportion of the Corporation's budget for promotional expenditure.

Alongside the promotional work there is the need to maintain the industry's measures for protecting the interests of exporters against adverse tariffs and quota legislation in overseas markets. As hon. Members probably know, missions are sent abroad to put the industry's case at tariff hearings.

That is the case for the export promotion levy. I turn to the levy for scientific research. When this was instituted it was expected to produce much the same amount—about £100,000 to £120,000 a year. That was in 1950. The last increase, which was made in 1962, was expected to produce a total of about £245,000 a year. But again, for the reasons which I have given, the current annual yield has fallen to a little over £200,000. This is considered to be insufficient. It is estimated that the proposed amended rates will produce about £286,000 in the financial year which starts in 1966. We reckon that this sum will amount to about one-twentieth of 1 per cent. of the turnover of the industry. The increase proposed is not designed to cater for an expanded programme of scientific research, but is required to meet the rising costs of maintaining research at its existing level.

The Wool Textile Research Council reimburses expenses incurred by the various bodies which are carrying out programmes of research approved by the Council. The bulk of the proceeds of the levy is allocated to research schemes carried out by the Wool Industries Research Association, and this constitutes the major part of the Association's income. In addition, the Association receives a grant from the Ministry of Technology which, in the current year, amounts to about £82,500.

But it is Government policy to ensure that an increased percentage of the cost of research is borne by industry. While the Ministry of Technology cannot yet say what grant terms will be offered to the Wool Industries Research Association in the next quinquennium which begins in October this year, the Association will probably have to find a greater proportion of the funds which it needs from industry rather than from the Government. This is a factor which the industry has taken into account in seeking the increased rates of levy proposed in the Orders. Without the increase now proposed, it is doubtful whether adequate research could continue in the industry. At a time when world competition is intensifying, the need for research is more important that ever.

As is required by the 1947 Act, the Board of Trade has consulted the various organisations concerned. The Orders were requested by the Wool Textile Delegation, representing about 85 per cent. of the employers in the industry, and its application is supported by the National Association of Unions in the Textile Trade and the National Union of General and Municipal Workers, which are the principal organisations of employees in the industry.

In addition, 21 other trade associations, some of whose members are directly or indirectly affected by the levy, have been consulted and three have sent in objections. Although these three represent a very small proportion of the interests affected by the levies, the representations which they made have been carefully examined but have not been found to be of sufficient substance to outweigh the support given to the Orders by the overwhelming majority of the industry. The industry in general values the work paid for from these two levies and wishes it to be continued and extended. This is borne out by the fact that the increased rates have been requested by the principal organisations in the industry and are warmly supported by the trade unions.

6.58 p.m.

Mr. Peter Emery (Reading)

We on this side of the House welcome these two Statutory Instruments, which increase the levies of the wool industry of Great Britain. I was intrigued to listen to the Minister of State, or perhaps I should say to follow him through his speech, because it is printed almost word for word in today's HANSARD of another place—with one or two minor alterations.

It is important to make plain that, on the whole, these Orders are required by the wool industry. Obviously, we in this House would want to do everything we could to assist the work of the industry in the vital part which it plays, not only in the manufacturing process and the opportunities for work which it provides, but in the export effort of industry generally.

I should like to deal, first, as did the Minister of State, with the Export Promotion Levy Order. The hon. Gentleman's argument for the alteration in the percentage did not altogether follow the facts as I understand them. It is true that there has been a decline in the labour force within the industry. What we in this House should face, however, is that there has been great competition with man-made fibres, which accounts for the decline in the increase which might normally be expected for wool. I should have thought that the arguments put forward by the wool industry for alteration of the percentages relate as much to this specific factor as to any other.

I suggest that the total sum of the export levy is not as high as the industry might like. It is a difficult matter when the industry has to provide this money, but I wonder whether the Minister of State has any views about the total which is required for export promotion, which is the purpose of the levy. How much does he consider that this sum should be?

The increase from £160,000 to £214,000 is considerable. It is slightly above the norm and might be said to be about 36 per cent. I gather, however, that it can be argued that it is still not as much as the industry might like. Therefore, as the Government are at all times at pains to point out that they will do everything they can to help exports, I wonder whether they would not consider anteing up a little bit of extra money to increase that specific side of the levy.

Does the Minister have any new ideas about how the money is to be spent? We have heard from him about trade fairs and trade weeks which are being organised in different parts of the world. I do not know whether I should declare an interest, but, as the hon. Gentleman knows, I have specific connections with purchasing in industry and I am aware of the need to have the ear of buyers. I am not always certain that trade fairs are the best places for obtaining the ear of potential overseas buyers.

I should be worried if I were of the view that the greater percentage of the increase was to be spent only upon more and more trade fairs throughout the world. Can the Minister say what proportion of the levy will be spent upon trade fairs, or, if that is not possible, what the percentage has been in the last year or accounting period for which he has figures Frequently, it is the ear of the buyer which has to be obtained.

It is not always buyers who visit trade fairs. One has only to go to a trade fair to realise how often—and this is much more the case outside Britain—it is an occasion for visiting by all sections of the community, who, much more than the ordinary buyer, are the main people who visit these fairs. I wonder, therefore, whether the use of journals has been sufficiently considered as a means of advertising to reach the bulk buyers who spend the money and whether there are not other methods which should not be more fully considered by the Wool Export Council.

In saying this, I am not suggesting that the Council does not take as many opportunities as possible, but when the Japanese Trade Fair, for example, cost £24,000, which was way over 10 per cent. of the total amount of money available last year, one wonders whether, if a lot more were spent on trade fairs, the proportion devoted to this purpose might be excessive.

The scientific research levy also has increased, from £209,000 to £286,000. This, too, is an increase of about 36 per cent. and it is considerable. It has been demanded, I believe, by all sections of the industry. It is interesting to note that the Wool Textile Research Council receives the proceeds of the levy and, as the Minister has stated, reimburses the expenses incurred by various bodies. These include the Wool Industries Research Association, which, I believe, receives the bulk of the money which is collected. The universities and certain technical colleges also benefit. I should like to know from the Minister of State how much money has been given by this manner of grant to universities and technical colleges during the last accounting year. This is a matter of interest, because it is in this direction that much more original research can often be stimulated.

I wonder whether the money available is sufficient. Can the Minister—I have given him notice of the question—say how much of the research work is being done on wool mixtures? By this I mean the new fibres which are blended with wool, which often are able to create fabrics which have a modern appeal, sometimes greater than that of wool. I realise that I must be guarded in what I say about that from the Dispatch Box. Nevertheless, there is great potential for an extension of the form of fabrics in which there is a mixture between man-made fibres and wool. I wonder how much of the grants have been used for experiments in this direction.

The other thing which concerns me is the amount of aid which smaller firms have been able to get from the scientific research levy. When one considers the matter, it is fairly obvious that the larger firms are to a much greater extent able to carry out research. They have the necessary facilities and they have the money and the personnel to allow them to do it. It is the smaller firms which frequently do not have the capital backing and, therefore, are not able to carry out the types of research that they might desire. Is the Minister satisfied that the smaller firms are getting a fair and proper return from the scientific research levy?

In looking round the industry, one cannot help but be impressed by the number of small firms which play their full part, whether in Yorkshire or Scotland, from which I have just returned. The Scottish wool industry has kept well abreast of advances in both manufacture and export in the past few years. However, I wonder what the crofters know about the Scientific Research Levy and how much they are likely to benefit from it.

I noticed a Scottish Member on the Front Bench opposite, and I say at once that it is not my intention to encroach into his world for very long, but I am certain that he would be the first to agree with me that the crofters have the right to be assured that, in new processes, new aspects of production and new skills, their interests will be considered and that they will be able to benefit just as much as the biggest firms in the country. Therefore, I wonder if the crofters themselves have been considered, and I ask the question because I do not know. I am not trying to make a political point, but it is of importance, because I see no reason why they should not benefit.

I come then to something which was said by the Minister of State in his speech, because I found it more worrying than anything else that he said. Apparently, notice has been given to the industry that the grant of £82,500 is to be cut. I do not see how the Minister's words can be interpreted in any other way. Direct notice has been given to the Ministry of Technology that the Government are not to continue the grant at the same level as they saw fit to make last time.

That is a major error, because I suggest that, if anything is to be done, there is a need for more money and not less. It hardly seems to fit in with the Minister of Technology's supposed desire at all times to help in scientific advance to find that, when we come to deal with an export industry which is achieving £160 million of foreign earnings, the Government should be mealy-mouthed in cutting a figure of £82,500. That, surely, is a nonsense.

If I pursue that argument for very long, doubtless I shall be wandering a little wider than the Statutory Instruments allow—

Mr. Speaker

I shall call the hon. Gentleman to order if he wanders too far away.

Mr. Emery

I have no doubt about that, Mr. Speaker.

If the Ministry of Technology grant of £82,500 is to be cut, then we say quite categorically that it should be considered again whether the amount of the new levy as envisaged by the Order is enough. Before we pass the Orders, I hope that I can have a clear answer to my specific question on that grant.

That, apparently, is the only discord which exists between the two sides of the House on the main parts of the two Orders, and, therefore, I would urge my hon. Friends to support them.

7.15 p.m.

Mr. George Craddock (Bradford, South)

Unfortunately, the debate was expected to come on at a much later hour, and therefore many hon. Members did not hear my right hon. Friend from the Front Bench. Nevertheless, I think that the Orders have the firm approval of hon. Members representing Bradford constituencies, three of whom are present. We have been giving them serious consideration, as we are particularly concerned with holding the £160 million worth of world trade which is done by the woollen industry, very largely in the heavy woollen district. We find that there has been a rundown in recent years because of man-made fibres, such as Terylene and other similar materials mentioned by the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Peter Emery).

These are just casual thoughts that occur to me, not having heard the beginning of the debate, but I can say that we feel we have a special interest, and we hope that what occurred in the other place yesterday, when approval was given to these two Orders, will be repeated here.

The hon. Member for Reading made a good deal about the increased levies in the two Orders from £369,000 to £500,000. He thought that it was insufficient. At least the Government have given attention to the matter and tried to redress the position to some extent. Having regard to the enormous trade of Bradford in particular, the heavy woollen district has built up a powerful image for good grade material throughout the world, and, when we are still doing £160 million worth of trade, I feel that the Minister might give further consideration, a bit later on, to an increase beyond the £500,000 suggested by the hon. Gentleman.

Finally, may I say that we in the Bradford area—members of all parties and the trade unions—support both the Orders.

7.18 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Tiley (Bradford, West)

I am happy to be associated with and to follow the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. George Craddock) in making a short speech in support of the two Orders in his presence and that of the hon. Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Ford) as well.

I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. Peter Emery) that there is nothing as good as wool. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I nearly shot out of my seat when I heard my hon. Friend talking about other fibres mixed with wool. We have to put up with them, and the wool textile trade owes its success at the moment in no small measure to the way that it has reharnessed itself to mixtures of man-made fibre with animal fibre. Hon. Members on both sides of the House hope that that success will be extended. But it does not alter my first definite statement that there is nothing to take the place of wool.

I join with the Minister in his tribute to industrial relations in the great wool textile industry. In Bradford, it is over 50 years since there was a strike of any sort in the industry, and that has been due to the two matters which the Minister mentioned. First, we have been blessed with wise trade union leadership for more than half a century. Secondly, because small firms—hundreds of them—together with the big ones, take part in this great industry, and we have had the tradition of the employer knowing almost everybody on his staff by name, and knowing their family troubles. I have experienced this tradition of friendship all my life. I was born in Bradford, and the Wool Textile Delegation, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Bradford, South has its head office in the centre of the city.

Mr. Speaker

I am moved by what the hon. Gentleman has said, but he must come to the Order.

Mr. Tiley

I was only congratulating the Minister on the way in which he introduced the Order and referred to the wonderful industrial relations in this trade. I regret that I trod outside the narrow path.

I do not think that successive Governments have appreciated the extent of the competition which the wool textile trade has had to face during the last 15 or 20 years, but we are still sixth in the country's exporting table and we export £170 million worth of goods, at a time when markets throughout the world have been closing to the textile exporting trade.

The first thing that people do when they begin to manufacture things, or to advance their way of life, is to make their own clothes. In spite of the fact that many markets have closed to our products, we have maintained our place in the country's export league table, and have achieved this magnificent total of £170 million a year in exports. I am glad to support these Orders and to be associated with what has been said by the Minister, by my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, and by the hon. Member for Bradford, South.

7.22 p.m.

Mr. Hector Monro (Dumfries)

These two Orders have been of great benefit to the wool industry of Scotland, and I rise to add my general support for them if only to break the Bradford monopoly. Both the Orders have particular reference to my constituency, with hosiery in Dumfries, and tweed in Langholm. In fact, in Langholm, virtually all the manufacturing capacity is concentrated in the tweed mills where cloth of the highest quality is made. The woollen industry is, of course, the staple employer in the Borders, and is of prime importance to the economy of the south of Scotland, in much the same way as the Harris tweed industry is to the Islands, and those who have been to the Island of Stornoway know how vital it is to have a good tweed industry in the North-West. These Orders are valuable to Langholm, because any recession there will have the gravest consequences to a town which has no alternative employment.

Continued promotion and research into the products of this industry is the stepping stone for expansion and advancement. I propose to deal, first, with research. There is general praise for the Wool Industries Research Association, and particularly for the help which it is giving in testing materials and in improving quality. It has done excellent work as an arbiter, and in encouraging university research, but more of the money that we are voting tonight should be devoted to this end, and particularly to the technical colleges. I wonder whether the Minister knows that a proportion of this money goes to the technical college at Galashiels, which is the basis for education in the woollen industry in the Border area.

The export levy is of vital importance to an industry which is made up basically of a large number of relatively small businesses, often long-standing and progressive family businesses. Indeed, firms with a staff of more than 300 are very much the exception, and most are very much smaller. Their resources as individuals are limited, but co-operative efforts under the wing of the Wool Textile Delegation and the Export Corporation are producing good results.

Exports are exceptionally high. Some mills are sending about 80 per cent. of their production overseas. This is something of which we can all be justly proud. It must be particularly heartening to the President of the Board of Trade when he sees the way in which this industry has responded to the call for exports, and I believe that the hosiery industry alone exported more than £10 million worth of goods last year.

In their export activity I have heard a suspicion of criticism, and this was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. Emery). It is that perhaps these big trade fairs are not so advantageous in producing results as are the smaller exhibitions attended primarily by buyers, but this is a matter where their long experience is probably producing the best results.

I agree with what has been said about the good relations which exist in this industry between workers and management, and I conclude by welcoming the extension of these Orders, which I am sure will stimulate all concerned to even greater efforts, and will go a long way to ensuring that the craftsmen and crafts-women of Langholm and the Borders will have employment for many years to come.

7.26 p.m.

Mr. A. E. Duffy (Colne Valley)

I start by apologising to my hon. Friend the Minister of State and to the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Peter Emery) for having missed their speeches. I very much wanted to hear what they had to say.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. George Craddock) will forgive me if I say that it is not good enough to welcome these Orders and then paint such a complacent picture of the industry. If it were in such a fine state we would not need these Orders. The levies would not need to be hoisted up as they are being done here. I think that it does the industry a disservice to talk as though all is well.

It is true that management and labour relations are fine and that the industry has a good export record, but it does not mean that notes of discord are not creeping into the relations between management and labour. Nor does it mean that there are no blemishes on the industry's export record. During 1964 and the early part of 1965 exports fell, and I think that we know why. We know the markets in which this happened, and it does not do the industry anything but a disservice to conceal this or to gloss over it.

Mr. Tiley

The hon. Gentleman was not here when I made my speech, and I think that he has misunderstood me. It is a good thing now and again to let the heart rejoice about things that are right, be it in Bradford or anywhere else—that is what we have been trying to do for a few moments—and to get away from the great pressures of life. We have been enjoying ourselves, and have not been doing a disservice to the textile industry.

Mr. Duffy

I heard the hon. Gentleman's speech. I was not aware that this was a place in which one rejoiced. I have heard it described as many things. Many constructions are put on the behaviour of right hon. and hon. Members, but never the one which the hon. Gentleman has just advanced.

The hon. Gentleman talked about the raw material now going into the industry, and the percentage of it which was accounted for by man-made fibres. It is not good enough to say that wool is best. We know that it is. Being emotional will not help the people in Bradford. It is much better, for their sake, to be rational. It is much better to look ahead to 1968 and 1969. We know that wool is best, but that will not prevent man-made fibres accounting for a larger and larger percentage of the raw material being consumed by the industry. Of course it is fine to see, as the hon. Member might have said, and as many others have said. It seems to be an article of Conservative faith to pay tribute to small family businesses. That is a virtue of the industry that we are discussing. But in some ways it is the great fault of this industry that it is still dominated by these small family businesses—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I must remind the hon. Member that it is not in order to keep entirely away from the Orders that we are discussing.

Mr. Duffy

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. Big changes are pending in this industry. as in other industries. The lessons of the cotton textile industry have not been lost upon the more farsighted firms in the wool textile industry, of which there are several in the Colne Valley. These firms are very interested in these Orders and, like myself, would like to see a much higher levy. They are introducing more automatic machinery into their mills.

Nowadays, unfortunately, the best machinery is not British but foreign. It is perhaps three times as expensive as the home-produced equipment, and if it is to be used to the best advantage there will have to be a different relationship between management and the unions. It will require a different basis of shift work—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I must ask the hon. Member to come to the levies that we are discussing in the two Orders.

Mr. Duffy

I shall certainly do so, Mr. Speaker. The introduction of the machinery that I have been describing is reflected in the declining labour force. Questions that I have put in the House since I came here have revealed—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must keep to the terms of the Orders.

Mr. Duffy

If you will bear with me for a moment, Mr. Speaker, I shall show how relevant my remarks are to the Orders. The labour force in the industry declined from 131,000 in December, 1960, to 116,000 in December, 1963. The assessment of the levies is based, as to about 75 per cent., on the number of persons employed. In those circumstances I ask the Minister whether he thinks that this is a satisfactory basis for arriving at the levies. Does he think, in view of the big changes that will take place in the industry, that it will be able to cope if it does not have added resources for research and export promotion?

Does he think that the industry will receive the help that it should have when the basis for the assessment of the levy is self-defeating for the industry and is based largely on the number of persons employed?

7.34 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Hirst (Shipley)

Several hon. Members have been surprised at the early starting of this debate. I rise only to make three points. I do not want anybody to imagine that the places that have been referred to are the only important wool textile centres. I represent Shipley, which is also an important centre, and which adjoins Bradford, I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Tiley) has said. I deprecate much of what was said by the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Duffy).

Not sufficient tribute is paid to the enormous extent to which voluntary efforts in research have been responsible for export promotion in the wool textile industry. These efforts went on long before the House ever thought fit to bring in Orders of this kind. They characterise the industry as being rather more wide awake than the cotton industry.

The sums to be raised under the Orders do not represent all the money that is spent on research in the wool textile industry. There is a co-operative movement in the industry, and much bigger sums than those to which reference has been made tonight have been spent by the collective endeavour of individual firms. The hon. Member for Colne Valley is not being fair to the industry in denigrating its efforts. I am sure that he did not wish to do so, but that is the impression he gave in his speech. I agree that all is not well in the industry, but all is not well in many industries. There is always room for greater efficiency and co-operative effort. But I have always paid tribute to what the industry has done and is doing.

Mr. Duffy

Why does the hon. Member deprecate what I have said and then go on to make exactly the points that I have made?

Mr. Hirst

Nobody listening to the debate could imagine that I was making the same points as the hon. Member for Colne Valley made. I am prepared to stand by what HANSARD says tomorrow. That question does not arise out of the Orders and I shall not pursue it, but I am not making the same point. I am pointing out that considerable sums of money, far beyond the sums involved in the Orders, are spent by the industry, and that it is not right to give the impression that it is not doing very well, and has had to come to the House for permission to raise a few hundred thousand pounds.

When making mandatory Orders of this nature we must think of the many small firms which are doing exceptionally good things. The idea that these small firms are of no value is nonsense. Some of the small runs bring out the individuality of this trade. People pay far more than the normal price for something which has an individual character, and some of the small firms are doing a very good job in this respect. It must be remembered that they do not benefit as much from co-operative research as do the large units. We must therefore ration our enthusiasm for statutory Orders, providing we know that a great deal of money is already being spent in the industry and that it has always recognised, from the word "go", that however valuable wool is, and despite the fact that wool is best, it must march with the times.

The industry does recognise the merits of man-made fibres, and it has carried out research work to see how far these fibres can be combined with wool, so that although less wool is sold in any one article more wool is sold in total. That is the purpose of these Orders, and that is why I support them.

7.38 p.m.

Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)

I want to make one or two points concerning the weavers of the Hebrides. The hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) mentioned them in passing, as did the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Peter Emery). The Orders state that the Board of Trade has consulted organisations concerning exports and the processing of wool. If my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) had been here he would have taken part in the debate. Unfortunately;, he has had to attend a meeting. I apologise if I do not make the case as well as he would have made it.

The weavers in the Hebrides produce Harris Tweed, which is probably the finest woollen produce in the world—and I say that with due respect to the Borders. That is a different product, but Harris Tweed is well known all over the world. The Harris Tweed weavers in the Hebrides are organised on a different basis from most weavers in the United Kingdom. I hope that these weavers in the Hebrides were consulted through organisations, either of trade unions or employers, about the extent to which these levies—or any Government assistance—will go towards marketing their products all over the world.

Harris Tweed is such a splendid product, and is recognised as such all over the world, that its imitators are many. There is no wool product so imitated. As my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles has said so often, the weavers in the Western Isles often find their markets prejudiced by imitations. I hope that Government assistance and grants will be made available and that consultations will be held with the weavers to help extend their markets for the genuine Harris product.

This product plays a great part in the Highlands and will play a part in the Highlands' expansion. Any other industry and activity there must be complementary to it and not a substitute for it. I hope that there will be regular consultations and that the weavers can be assured that the Government are doing as much, if not more, for them in their remote fastnesses of Scotland as they are doing for Bradford or even the Borders.

7.41 p.m.

Mr. David Ginsburg (Dewsbury)

I wish to interpose myself between the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst) who has now left, and my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Duffy). Much of what my hon. Friend said in criticism of the industry is valid, but it would be wrong to let the order go without the House paying some tribute to this important British industry. In my own constituency, there is still no substitute for wool. The industry has a very fine export and labour relations record. One could wish that other industries had this collective levy arrangement to finance greater scientific research.

Of course, one could wish for more scientific research by individual firms. It is essential that there should be more. The difficulty with this important industry is that it is still, unfortunately, a low wage industry. Therefore, the more that can be spent on scientific research the better will be the long-term outlook for the industry.

I have studied the recommendations of the National Plan about this industry, about its needs in finance, building and re-equipment, all of which one recognises. The passing of these two Orders will give much help to the efficiency and the health of an industry on which the prosperity and well being of the vast majority of my constituents depends.

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Darling

I would tell the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Peter Emery) that, if the previous debate had run its expected course, I might have had time to paraphrase a joint brief more into my usual style. All the same, it was a very good brief.

I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Duffy) put his finger on the key to the debate. He said that the woollen industry is doing well, but that it should not be complacent. The levies and the increased expenditure on research and exports promotion which they involve are proof that the industry is not complacent. I think all would agree that there is room for improvement. It is to seek in certain ways the improvement which is needed that we ask the House to agree to these increased levies.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) raised the question of consultation with the weavers in the Western Isles. There has been consultation and I regret to tell him that one or two of the members of the Harris Tweed Association are not very happy about the increased levies. I will not go over their arguments, but they think that they do not get enough benefit from them. The Board of Trade has pointed out in answer to these objections that the work done, for instance, by the research association contributes to the development of even the section of the woollen industry in the Western Isles. Also, of course, what is spent on export promotion is surely of general benefit to the Harris Tweed Industry.

My hon. Friend raised the question of protecting the trade mark of Harris Tweed. The new Protection of Consumers (Trade Descriptions) Bill, now going through another place, will, of course, give the Board of Trade the authority it needs to protect the agreed trade description and mark of products in this country, so that if anyone tries to put the agreed trade mark on a product which does not come up to that definition, that body of people—industry or any other group—would be committing an offence under the Bill. I am sure that, when that Bill is considered by this House, my hon. Friends the Members for Dunbartonshire, East and the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) will give it a warm welcome.

The hon. Member for Reading asked a number of pertinent questions. He wanted to know whether the levy will be sufficient for export promotion. This is, of course, a very difficult question to answer. No industry raising its money in this way will ever find enough to pay for the real export drive which the industry wants to mount. For instance, it is a matter of judgment whether the trade fair, the British Week or any other form of export promotion is the right form on which to spend the money available. Also, there is difficulty if one tries to spend the money too thinly over too many projects. Yet I would mention that additional funds are available for trade fairs from the Board of Trade and the British National Export Council, as well as from the industry itself.

Discussions are going on all the time to try to find the best way of using the money for export promotion. I say this without reflection on the industry, but I think that British industry as a whole does not pay enough attention to market research in overseas countries. This line could perhaps be profitably exploited, from wherever the money comes.

Mr. Peter Emery

I do not wish to embarrass the hon. Gentleman, but I asked him to give the percentage of the levy which is being used for trade fairs. If he does not have the figure, would he obtain it and give it to me later?

Mr. Darling

I do not know how the money is broken down as between the various projects and it must be remembered that other money, in addition to that provided by the levy, is available for certain projects. I do not have the precise figure the hon. Gentleman wants but I will attempt to get it and give it to him.

The hon. Member for Reading then asked if we could find out how much was spent on research into mixtures of textiles, that is, research involving man-made fibres and wool. I am afraid that these figures are not with me. Man-made fibres are being increasingly used in the woollen industry and the Research Association is at present undertaking research involving mixtures of wool and man-made fibres. I cannot give a breakdown of the figures, but if it is possible to obtain them I will let the hon. Gentleman have them.

The hon. Gentleman wanted to know the amount of expenditure on research done by firms in the industry in addition to that carried out by the research association. It is difficult to arrive at precise figures, but the Federation of British Industries conducted an inquiry—an industrial research survey—covering a number of industries in 1960. It appeared that the total expenditure on research by individual firms in the wool and textile industry was about £55,000, but I do not suggest that that was a reliable figure, even for 1960, remembering that the survey represented a small sample.

The hon. Member for Reading then asked about the amount of research done, in addition to that carried out by the research association, at universities, technical colleges, and so on, and the spread of the expenditure. The latest figures I have come from the thirteenth Annual Report of the Wool Textile Research Council and are for the 12 months to September, 1964, but I imagine that the breakdown would be much the same now. In that year the proceeds from the levy available to the Wool Textile Research Council amounted to about £238,000. About £225,000 of that was spent by the research association within the industry.

I will go through the list of additional research because it might interest hon. Members. Leeds University came at the top, with its textile department getting about £13,000. Smaller sums went to other departments, for example, for research on colour, dyeing, chemistry, and so on. The Bradford Institute of Technology also got a large sum, and the Huddersfield College of Technology and Keighley Technical College also received amounts, although I notice that the Galashiels Technical College received nothing that year, but had done in earlier years.

The Glasgow Royal Technical College, Manchester College of Science and Technology, Birmingham University's Chemistry Department and a body called the Trade Effluent Research Association also received amounts. I gather that the latter spent the money on research into trade effluent, which is an important matter in the part of the country which the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Tiley) and I know well and which has more anglers per head of the population than any other part of the country. We want to do our utmost to stop the pollution of our rivers.

The hon. Member for Reading went on to question the views which I had put forward about the Government expecting the industry to contribute more for research and said that he had been led to believe, from what I had said, that this would result in a smaller sum of money coming from the Government. Government aid to the industry is not likely to be reduced. In fact, it may well be raised, although the research association, if the Government's suggestions are carried out, will have to find a greater proportion of the funds it needs from its industrial sources.

I am not able to report precisely the terms of what the grant will be over the next five years. It has not yet been fixed. However, I think that it will be at such a level that while the industry will have to raise more money itself, it will not mean that the Government's contribution will be reduced. As I say, it is more than likely that the grant will be increased. I cannot say more as the terms of the grant have not yet been worked out.

Mr. Peter Emery

This is an important point. The hon. Gentleman will know that I do not wish in any way to misapply what he said. I got the impression initially that the Ministry of Technology's grant of £82,500 was likely to be cut. Can the hon. Gentleman say categorically that that specific grant will not be cut in future?

Mr. Darling

I cannot say categorically that it will not be reduced. This depends on what contribution the industry makes. These increased levies mean that the industry is proposing over the next five years to spend more on research. If that is so, then, whatever may be the terms arranged for the Ministry of Technology's contribution, I would expect that the Government's contribution would be increased. I cannot give a categorical assurance, because this is a matter for the Ministry of Technology. Discussions between the Ministry and the industry about the form which the grant will take in future are involved in this.

The hon. Member for Reading then referred to crofters. The Wool Textile Delegation has indicated that it has arrangements in hand for a comprehensive inquiry into research covering the whole of the industry and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's valuable contribution to the debate will be drawn to the attention of that delegation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley questioned me about the way in which the levy is organised as between productive processes—the consumption of wool and the labour force in the industry. It could be argued, bearing in mind the way my hon. Friend adduced his arguments, that with a declining labour force some new arrangement might be arrived at for the levy. The industry itself has given a good deal of thought to this matter. Both sides of the industry have decided that it is not at present feasible to make any change in the basis of the levy in order to offset both higher costs and the reduction of the labour force.

The industry is, however, continuing to study other possible methods of assessment for the levy, and I think that we have to leave it there for the time being. I have not had a chance to check over either the hon. Gentleman's or my own arithmetic in this respect, but I am sure that the changes that have been made in the amount of the levy that comes from the two different sources will restore the proportion to the 75 per cent. that comes from the labour force and the 25 per cent. from the productive process.

I am very pleased indeed that these two levies have been received in this constructive way, and with a deal of enthusiasm. I am sure that this is the right kind of collective response from the firms in the industry and will help to break down any complacency in the industry that might exist. I am sure that there is a very good future for the woollen industry, whether it will base for all time its main operations on the theory that wool is best, or whether the introduction of mixtures with man-made fibres will change the character of the industry. I do not know what will happen eventually in that respect, but I do know that the industry will go on making the best textiles in the world, and that it is an industry with a very bright future before it.

8.3 p.m.

Mr. Peter Emery

By leave of the House, there is just one point I should like to make following the very helpful and considerate speech of the Minister of State. One thing that has been evident, and it was not dealt with by the hon. Gentleman—I am sure, by an oversight—is that, whether one accepts the views of the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Duffy) or those of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Tiley), there can be no argument at all that much of this industry is made up of small firms. That must be accepted.

I should like to carry a stage further the point I made. The Minister of State pointed out that some Harris Tweed weavers did not feel that they were getting as much benefit from the levy as possible. I believe it to be true that smaller firms perhaps do not always know, perhaps do not always understand, how they can best benefit from the aspects of the levy. It is of the greatest importance that they should, and it is specifically for that reason that I speak a second time.

I must press the point that that is necessary for success in both the export and the home markets, and in fostering advance in the wool industry. I do not intend to debate with my hon. Friend, whether wool is best or not, because I have a number of Friends from Lancashire constituencies as well. It will probably be a future of mixtures of the products of the wool industry and man-made fibres. But the benefits of research into the operation of mixtures are not always open or seen and are not always able to be obtained by the smaller firms. However, it is very important that the smaller firms as well as the major firms should be able, for the benefit of the wool industry, the export trade and the country as a whole, to obtain this form of knowledge.

Mr. Darling

With permission, I should like to answer briefly on that point. It was raised by the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst) and I did not answer it earlier because the hon. Gentle man seems to have disappeared—

Mr. Tiley

My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst) regretted that he had to leave, and asked me personally to apologise. He had a dinner engagement, and was coming back at ten o'clock.

Mr. Darling

I quite understand. I apologise for suggesting that the hon. Member came in and ran out again.

There are many cases were quite small firms within the industry who are doing very well by themselves in their own line of activity must find these levies a fairly heavy burden. I have mentioned three cases and there may be one or two more. But it is important to note that the trade associations in the industry, which have a large number of small firms as members, have agreed to bear these levies. This is something which is worth bearing in mind.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the dissemination of the results of research, and how they could be made available to the small firms. The research association within the industry publishes annual reports, quarterly bulletins, newsletters and publications on particplar subjects and projects, and these are circulated to all members. I understand that recently quite a number of Saturday mornings during the year have been used for—I dislike using the term, but it is in the brief—"teach-ins". In addition, the research association has liaison officers who visit these smaller firms and so carry the information round.

Question put and agreed to

Resolved, That the Wool Textile Industry (Scientific Research Levy) (Amendment No. 2) Order 1966, a draft of which was laid before this House on 2nd February, be approved.

Wool Textile Industry (Export Promotion Levy) (Amendment) Order 1966, [draft laid before the House, 2nd February], approved.—[Mr. Darling.]