HC Deb 17 February 1959 vol 600 cc22-4W
Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT the text of his letter to Lord Rochdale about the reorganisation of the cotton industry and Lord Rochdale's reply.

1959. Sir D. Eccles

Yes. The text of the letters is as follows:

th February,


As you know the Government is most anxious to help the cotton textile industry in its plans for reorganisation, and we feel no time should be lost in concerting action between us.

I believe that we can now look forward to a period of stability in respect of imports of textiles from the Asian Commonwealth countries. The undertaking of the Hong Kong industry to limit its exports operates from the beginning of February and I trust that agreements with the industries of India and Pakistan will be confirmed in the near future.

These arrangements give us the opportunity to tackle with speed the problems of reorganisation and re-equipment which the judgment of the Restrictive Practices Court has made of even greater importance.

You have told me of the progress which has been made already by the special "Development Committee" under your Chairmanship set up by the Cotton Board in December. I am most interested in this valuable start towards a solution. What can the Government do to help? Would there, for example, be any advantage in some initiative from the Government, such as the appointment of a Committee of Enquiry or possibly of an individual with the right status and qualifications to draw up—or to help in drawing up—plans on reorganisation?

My colleagues and I would very much like to know how the Cotton Board is thinking and how soon and by what methods a plan or plans for the industry could be evolved.

In writing in this way I would like to make it clear that I do not overlook the complex structure of the industry and the fact that different problems arise for different sections of it so that one single answer may not be practicable. I realise, too, the need for full discussion between and within the various sections of the industry—and with the Trade Unions. All this will take time but I would again urge speedy action. I would repeat what the Prime Minister said at the Cotton Board Conference at Harrogate—namely, that if the plan or plans produced by the industry involve a measure of direct Government help we shall be prepared to give any such proposals the most careful and sympathetic attention.

My colleagues and I do not share the gloomy views that are current in some quarters about the future of the industry. We recognise that considerable changes may be necessary, but we are confident that the rising purchasing power at home and in overseas markets together with the unrivalled experience and skill available in Lancashire will provide a sound basis for a healthy industry.


The Lord Rochdale, O.B.E.,

The Cotton Board.




th February,


Thank you for your letter of the 4th February about the problems of reorganisation and re-equipment in the cotton industry.

I have now discussed this with my colleagues on the Cotton Board at their meeting today. We fully share the views you express about the importance and urgency of these problems, and I can assure you that we are fully alive to the need for speed and that any proposals which may be worked out should be submitted to the Government at the earliest practicable date.

It was, as you know, for these reasons that the Cotton Board set up its special Development Committee under my chairmanship in December. This is representative of the main sections of both sides of the industry—spinners, weavers, finishers, merchants and the trade unions, and its main purpose is to act as a central steering and co-ordinating body for proposals prepared by the main sections. Its first task on which substantial progress has been made has been to assess the degree of excess capacity in the main sections in the light of an appreciation of likely demand at home and abroad and other relevant factors. With the help of these assessments most of the sections are already engaged in working out their own plans for reorganisation and re-equipment, and I know that they have approached the task with a full realisation of its urgency. I visualise that the next step will be for these proposals to be discussed with the Development Committee as soon as they are ready.

It is difficult to estimate precisely when we shall be in a position to submit proposals for discussion with the Government but we shall not hold up those which are most advanced because others are not yet completed. I understand that some of the sections are well advanced with the work but there are others which are finding difficulty in deciding on the best course of action. I think, however, that I can say confidently that we shall be ready with some proposals sufficiently firm and sufficiently comprehensive to justify discussion with you within the course of the next few weeks.

We much appreciate your offer of assistance and have given careful consideration to the suggestion that the Government might take the initiative by appointing a Committee of Enquiry or a suitable individual to prepare plans of reorganisation. We are convinced that it would be quickest and most effective to continue on the lines I have set out. A new start would inevitably result in some delay, and we see overriding advantages in procedure which places on the different sections of the industry the primary responsibility for the formulation of the proposals for their own future.

If there is any help which we need at any stage we will not, however, fail to take advantage of your offer.

Yours sincerely,


The Rt. Hon. Sir David Eccles, K.C.V.O., M.P.,

President of the Board of Trade,

Horse Guards Avenue,


London, S.W.1.