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Clothes Ration (March—August, 1948)

Volume 446: debated on Tuesday 27 January 1948

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The following Question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Mrs. GANLEY:

94. To ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he can now announce the size of the clothes ration for the six months beginning 1st March next.

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I will answer this Question.

My Department announced when the present ration was fixed that a 10 per cent. increase in the output of textiles would assure the maintenance of the ration for the March—August period. I am glad to be able to say that the textile industries have generally reached this half-way stage in their effort to expand production. The ration will, therefore, be 24 for the six months beginning 1st March next. I must, however, warn the House and the public that very much greater expansion in textile output is needed to reach even the export targets announced in September last for the end of 1948. We are relying on the textile industries, especially cotton, to achieve a great increase by the end of this year in their dollar earnings, especially in Canada, and we are raising the export target for this purpose. If it comes to a choice for the next ration period between dollars and the home ration, I must say that we shall have to reduce the ration rather than lose dollar earnings. In short, a very great increase—much greater than is now in sight—in production is needed in a very short time indeed. The greater the increase achieved, the less will be the inroads into supplies for the home market.

Will the President of the Board of Trade make it abundantly clear to the country that it is no good increasing exports unless those exports can be sent abroad at world competitive prices?

The question of prices, of course, is obviously a very important one, and we are running into difficulties in certain markets, but I am satisfied we can certainly sell all the textiles we can produce, particularly cotton, in Canada.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider letting the merchants of the country, particularly in the City of London, perform some of the functions which hitherto they performed so usefully?

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the increase of labour coming into the Lancashire spinning mills is sufficient to give him the extra production for which he is asking?

We want to see the labour coming into the mills very greatly increased, but I am confident that with the labour there now we could get a substantially increased production above what we are getting today.