HL Deb 04 May 1959 vol 216 cc1-3

2.35 p.m.


My Lords, in rising to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper, may I say that I have no financial interest in the cotton industry in this country?

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in connection with the announced proposals by which the Exchequer will contribute to machinery expenditure for the cotton industry reorganisation scheme, they will, by reason of the example of North America, which has successfully demonstrated that to obtain full advantage of multi-shift operation machinery should be placed only in new single-storey atmosphere-controlled buildings, now consider inclusion in the proposals of finance for such buildings on a scale at least comparable to proposed contribution contemplated for the steel industry.]


My Lords, the Government fully recognise the importance of extended shift working in the cotton industry to ensure that where-ever new equipment is introduced it is used to its fullest economic advantage, and they believe this is accepted on both sides of the industry. The measures of financial assistance from the Exchequer of which I informed the House on April 23 represent a generous contribution towards the cost of eliminating surplus capacity in the cotton industry and of its re-equipment and modernisation. The Government do not feel justified in extending the grants for re-equipment and modernisation to buildings.


My Lords, arising out of that reply, and as it would seem that it is the intention of the Government to make the fullest use of multi-shift operation, I would ask the noble Earl whether the statement that assistance cannot be given for buildings does not seem to contradict his original statement. It will be clear that the best use cannot be made of the money expended on new equipment unless that equipment is put into modern buildings. Also, may I ask the noble Earl when we may expect a further statement or a White Paper on the Government proposals as to the amount of machinery it is contemplated would be appropriate for the industry?


My Lords, in reply to the first part of the noble Lord's supplementary, I would say that the industry did not ask for assistance to be given for buildings. I think that if we were to give it for one type of building, we should have to give it for all types. What has been agreed is that assistance should be given for new machinery. In reply to the second part of the noble Lord's question, I would say that the President of the Board of Trade stated a few days ago that it is hoped to issue a White Paper before Whitsun, or at least in time for your Lordships to study it during the Whitsun Recess.


My Lords, may I ask the Minister to bear in mind that there is a long tradition in Lancashire against double-shift working, based largely on the fact that many of the operatives are women, and particularly married women. Whereas it must be accepted that the introduction of new machinery and its effective economic use will depend on double-shift working, I would ask the Government, in any statements they issue, to exercise the greatest tact and to make clear that there will be at all stages the closest consultation with the trade unions on how double-shift working should be introduced.


My Lords, all these points will be borne in mind. My right honourable friend is particularly anxious at every step to have full consultation with the trade unions.

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