HL Deb 16 December 1948 vol 159 cc1141-4

2.49 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Special Order, as reported from the Special Orders Committee yesterday, be approved. In doing so, I feel that I should apologise to your Lordships for asking you to approve this Order upon the same day as it is laid. As your Lordships know, all the Orders which come in consequence of this Act have to be agreed between the Board of Trade, the employers' and the employees' side of the industry. This Order has proved somewhat difficult to agree, because it is different from the other Orders which have been placed before your Lordships. Agreement was possible only the other day, and in the interests of the industry it is necessary for the Order to come into force—if your Lordships approve—on January 1. This is not a thing that we, on this side of the House, like doing, and, therefore, I offer your Lordships an apology for the hurry. In throwing myself upon your mercy, perhaps I am fortunate in having the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, opposite, who I feel certain will not take me too seriously to task.

This Order is the first to be made under Section 9 of the Industrial Organisation and Development Act, 1947, which authorises the Board of Trade to make an Order imposing a compulsory levy on any industry for which there is no Development Council, in order to finance scientific research undertaken by an approved body for the benefit of the industry. The purpose of this Order—which is non-controversial in the industry—is to provide for the collection of £10,000 a year from the machine lace industry, to finance the new Lace Research Association now in process of formation. The Lace Working Party considered that it would not be advisable to set up any form of permanent tripartite body for the lace industry, which is small and highly sectionalised, but recommended that there should be a compulsory levy to finance scientific and technical research.

Amongst other things, this Working Party expressed the very strong opinion that …many of the present pressing problems of the industry have arisen because of its failure over a long period to investigate systematically and scientifically the textile, engineering and other aspects of the trade. Some advance with these projects was made, and in 1945, after consultation with the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Federation set up a Lace Research Council, and the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research agreed to give the Council a grant-in-aid for three years, to enable research to be undertaken pending the formation of a more permanent organisation sufficiently large to undertake research on an appropriate scale for the industry. This the Order seeks to do.

As is set out in Section 9 of the Industrial Organisation and Development Act, it is required that, before making an Order of this kind, the Board of Trade must consult the trade organisations and trade unions in the industry concerned. This Order has been made at the request of the Federation of Lace and Embroidery Employers' Associations, which represents approximately 97 per cent. of the lace manufacturers, and the text has been agreed with them in detail. It has also the agreement of the Amalgamated Society of Operative Lace Makers and Allied Workers, the Transport and General Workers' Union and the Scottish Lace and Textile Workers' Union, which between them represent the majority of the workers in the industry.

I do not think I need say any more, except perhaps to point out that this is a very small industry. It employs only about 9,000 people, but in spite of that it has contributed substantially to our export trade. In recant months its exports have averaged just over £500,000 a month, and it is felt that by this levy of £10,000—which is the minimum required to set up any effective research establishment—this Research Association will be enabled to encourage the industry to go ahead. If it is found later that there is room for a Development Council, then doubtless representations will be made to my right honourable friend. If it is found that the £10,000 is not sufficient, and the industry thinks it can raise more, then the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research will be only too willing to extend their aid, on a pound for pound basis, up to a specific limit. May I repeat my apology to noble Lords for asking them for their approval of this Order in such a hurried manner? I beg to move.

Moved, That the Special Order, as reported from the Special Orders Committee yesterday, be approved.—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)

2.53 p.m.


My Lords, if I may say so, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has, as usual, clearly described to the House what this Order for which he is asking approval seeks to do. I do not think, however, that it would be right for me to pass over without comment the haste in which we are asked to approve this Order. The noble Lord has slightly disarmed criticism by starting and ending his speech with words of apology. I feel that the noble Lord should not need to apologise to the House, and although he hoped that I would not take him too seriously to task, I trust that he will point out to the Department responsible that this is rushing things in a way which Parliament, when it passed the measure, did not contemplate. It was assumed that enough time would be given to members of this House to study such Orders, and that we should not have to deal with them on the same day that a Report from the Special Orders Committee appeared in our Minutes.

The Report of the Special Orders Committee which appears on these Minutes says: That in their opinion the Order raises important questions of policy and principle; that the Order is not founded on precedent; and that in the opinion of the Committee the Order cannot be passed by the House without special attention, but that no further inquiry is necessary before the House proceeds to a decision on the Resolution to approve the said Order. Despite the nature of that Report, we are asked to deal with it in this short time. I appreciate what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said on this subject, but I would ask him to point out to the Department concerned that in future we shall look for a rather longer time between the placing of an Order of this sort before the Special Orders Committee and its discussion in this House.

Be that as it may—and I have no doubt that the noble Lord will undertake to make that representation—this Order seems to me to be a good one. It is approved by both sides of the industry, which in the days before the war had no kind of research council looking after the multiplicity of improvements that might have been made either in machinery or in anything else in connection with the making of lace. It is true that when the industry was concentrated during the war it set up a kind of general research body, which helped all the members in their research problems. And it is true, as the noble Lord has said, that since 1945 the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research has been helping this industry; but that help will cease at the end of this year. Therefore it is important that we should have this matter placed on a permanent and substantial basis, with the industry contributing to this research, and the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research also continuing to pay—as I understand it will—part of the cost.

In an industry of this sort, unless there is an Order like this there may be a few recalcitrant firms who would not come in; and it is obviously to the benefit of the whole industry that this Order, which has been approved, as the noble Lord says, by 97 per cent. of all the firms engaged in the industry, and by the workers' organisations, should also have the approval of this House. In these circumstances, I think we should be wise, despite the somewhat hasty procedure on this occasion, to give the Order our support to-day, and to express the hope that when we have future Resolutions of this sort more time may be given to consider the proposal in greater detail. In this case, as it happens, I am sure that we have had sufficient time, simply because the Order has been approved by both sides of the industry.


The noble Lord has, with his usual courtesy, met us on this subject. I will undertake to have his remarks brought to the appropriate quarter, and, so far as it is within my power, I will see that the situation does not occur again.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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