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Volume 496: debated on Thursday 28 February 1952

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asked the Minister of Labour how many cotton mills in Burnley were closed, wholly or partially, in the week ending 9th February; how many weavers registered at the local exchange as wholly or partially unemployed in the same period; and what steps he is taking to restore full employment to the cotton industry.

Fourteen cotton mills out of a total of 66 in Burnley were wholly or partially closed during the week ended 9th February; and on 1lth February, the nearest date on which a count was made, 1,471 weavers were registered as unemployed including 1,418 temporarily stopped. The last part of the Question primarily concerns my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade in consultation with whom I am keeping the position under review.

How does the Minister account for the fact that in September last year, at the Burnley Labour Exchange, there were vacancies in textiles alone for 443 operatives and now there are 1,470 operatives unemployed? What is he doing to stop this decline, which is causing so much anxiety?

As I have indicated, this question affects the textile trade as a whole in which the employment situation began to show a tendency the wrong way in the spring and summer of 1951. The encouragement of that trade, a most desirable object, is a matter primarily within the compass of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade.

Would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the position is much worse than the figures indicate, because so many married women have opted out of the scheme? Further, in his discussions with the President of the Board of Trade, will he remind his right hon. colleague that in many parts of Lancashire there are no alternative industries to which unemployed cotton workers can transfer?

There are at present about 2,400 outstanding vacancies of all types in the area, and there are several thousand additional posts in defence work in prospect. However, I will bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend appreciate that there is understandable anxiety in East Lancashire on this account, and will he represent to his right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply that as many orders as possible should be placed in that area?

I will certainly bear that in mind when I have discussions, as I shall do, with my right hon. Friend.

Can the Minister say definitely that it is not the policy of the Government to create a pool of unemployment in the textile industry?