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Cotton Industry

Volume 655: debated on Thursday 15 March 1962

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20.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will consider further action by Her Majesty's Government to ensure that conditions are created under which the re-equipment of the cotton industry under the reorganisation scheme could be carried through to a successful conclusion.

It is still too early to assess the full extent of re-equipment but, as I informed my hon. Friend on 20th February, the limitations on imports of cloth from low-cost sources should encourage firms to take advantage of the financial help available under the Cotton Industry Act, 1959.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that his powers contained in the anti-dumping duties are sufficient to prevent very low cost textiles coming into this country?

23.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what estimates he has made of future effects on the spinning and weaving sections of the cotton textile industry of entry into the Common Market.

It is not possible at this stage to assess the effect on the cotton textile industry of entry into the Common Market. There is no doubt, however, that British entry into the Common Market would give the Lancashire industry opportunities for increasing exports to Europe.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware—I do not suppose for a moment that he is—that in Oldham, which was known before the Tories started passing amending Acts as the most prosperous cotton spinning town in the world, there is complete uncertainty about the situation, and that this uncertainty is having a devastating effect on the industry? It was no good him saying five minutes ago to the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Sir J. Barlow) that he hopes that this will give confidence, that this will give security, and that this will establish prospects, when nobody knows what is going to happen about imports of Commonwealth cloth, or about competition, or about the effect on wages, or about production.

24.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will introduce legislation to provide that some of the unexpended allocated expenditure for the Cotton Industry Reorganisation Act is made available as compensation for workers who were made redundant without qualifying for compensation.

I presume that by "allocated expenditure" the hon. Member has in mind the figure of £30 million but, as my predecessors and I have repeatedly explained, this is simply the best estimate which could be made of likely total Government expenditure under the Cotton Industry Act, 1959. It is not an allocated or voted sum and the question of using an unexpended balance for other purposes does not arise.

If there is one thing that is certain in this world it is that the Prime Minister used the figure of £40 million. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Prime Minister spoke of £40 million during the last election? In view of the necessity for election sweeteners at the moment, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that he has £20 million of that £40 million unexpended, and that a lot of workers in the industry think that they were victims of something approaching a shocking swindle?

My hon. Friend suggests that this might be used for the next Parliamentary election, but it may be that that will be too late.

Is not the right hon Gentleman aware that under the Cotton Industry Act, 1959, the Government put forward in support of that legislation that it would be used for re-equipping the industry with new machinery and wiping out all the inefficient units of production which were an encumbrance to the industry? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House how much of the £30 million has been applied to the process of re-equipment? Will he now admit that the Cotton Industry Act. 1959, was nothing more than an elaborate piece of shop window dressing involving the use of £30 million of taxpayers' money as a bribe to Lancashire which was going through a bad time?

The hon. Gentleman did not vote against the Bill when it was passing through the House, nor did I notice that he was particularly against the proposal in his constituency at the time of the election. As regards re-equipment, we never said that the Government would be responsible for it. We said that we would make re-equipment grants available. So far £1·6 million has been spent on re-equipment, but this is far from being the final figure because applications can still come in. After applications have been made, there is a further periol for the spending of the money.