HL Deb 09 March 1938 vol 108 cc25-8

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, I may say at once that it is an entirely non-controversial measure, which has already been passed in very similar form in three previous Acts. The present Bill before your Lordships is a continuation of the Cotton Industry Act, 1933, which would otherwise expire on July 17, 1938, and which provided for a levy to be paid by all cotton spinners in respect of the supply of raw cotton, the proceeds of the levy being handed over to the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation. Before I attempt very briefly to describe to your Lordships the object of this Corporation I should perhaps say that this Bill has the strongest support of every section of the cotton industry and that the Board of Trade is entirely friendly to it. I think also that I shall be able to show your Lordships that the three previous Acts to which I have referred have operated very strongly in the interests of the cotton industry.

The Corporation was founded in 1921 for the purpose of encouraging and of developing the cotton resources of the Empire, and of making us less dependent on foreign countries for supplies of raw cotton. The greater part of its funds is derived from a capital grant received in 1921 from the Government of nearly a million pounds, added to this small levy to which I have referred. The levy in the first Act was at the rate of 6d. for every 500 lbs. of cotton, but the Corporation found that by carefully husbanding its resources it was able to carry on with a less amount. So the rate was reduced, first to 3d. and afterwards to 1d. For the past seven years the levy has remained at the rate of 1d. per 500 lbs., and the Bill before your Lordships seeks to continue the levy at this rate for a further period of five years. When first the problem which lay before it was considered the Corporation realised that there would have to be a great deal of scientific work done on breeding cotton crops suitable to the widely differing climatic conditions in Empire countries. It was realised also that a staff would have to be trained to undertake the scientific cultivation of cotton and to combat the pests and diseases which so frequently attack it. For these purposes the Corporation has established a number of experimental stations in cotton growing countries. Here I think I should perhaps make it plain that the Corporation is in no sense a trading concern. It does not buy and sell cotton commercially, but concentrates upon experimental work, with a view to breeding at the experimental stations the most suitable cotton for the different climatic conditions in the Empire.

The results, my Lords, have undoubtedly been very satisfactory. Already the output of cotton in Empire countries—excluding India, which I should perhaps have said has its own Corporation—has risen from 166,000 bales of 400 lbs. each in 1920–21 to over 800,000 bales in 1936–37. Although I do not pretend that the Corporation has been entirely responsible for this very notable increase, it has been no doubt a very important factor in bringing about this result. It is interesting to note that 80 per cent. of this output comes from two countries only—Uganda and the Sudan—each of which produced over 300,000 bales last season. When we remember that fifteen years ago Uganda's production was less than 100,000 bales and that of the Sudan only 28,000 bales, we can see what a tremendous contribution scientific cultivation has made to the increased prosperity of these two countries alone. And I need not stress the great danger of this country being too dependent on raw cotton from other countries. It is the belief of those who support this Bill that by broadening the basis of supplies Lancashire will be to a great extent far less at the mercy of wild fluctuations in price or quality or quantity. The idea behind this 1d. levy is that the Lancashire cotton trade shall be protected from such dependence upon any one country or the caprices of the growers in any one country or any internal difficulties which may dislocate production. What this Bill will in fact do is to give a statutory right to a voluntary agreement, and I ask your Lordships to give it a safe conduct through this House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.(The Earl of Birkenhead.)


My Lords, I rise to say on behalf of His Majesty's Government that we cordially support this measure. My noble friend has told your Lordships of the excellent work of the Corporation in promoting and extending the growth of cotton in the Empire. The work of this Corporation is deserving of support, not only for the advantage it brings to this country by increasing the security of our supplies of raw cotton, but also because of the material help given to the agricultural prosperity of the Empire. The fact that it is the wish of all sections of the cotton industry that the provisions of the present Acts should be continued is sufficient indication of the large measure of confidence which they have in the work of the Corporation. I am therefore authorised to say that His Majesty's Government have no hesitation in giving their complete support to the measure. They hope it will have an easy passage through your Lordships' House and shortly become law.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.