Schedule. — (Constitution, Remuneration, Quorum, Proceedings, Incidental Functions and Winding-up of the Spindles Board.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Cotton Spinning Industry Bill. – in the House of Commons on 31st March 1936.

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Photo of Mr Ralph Assheton Mr Ralph Assheton , Rushcliffe

If I were to be drawn into a discussion of the mistakes that have been made in the cotton industry for the past 100 years, I should delay the House a great deal longer than I intend to do. I should have thought that by now we had had enough experience of restrictionism to be aware that it is not only cruel but ineffective. There is no such thing as demand irrespective of price as long as any price exists there is an unsatisfied demand for the product. It is said that the Bill will co-relate the number of spindles to the present demand, but that means to the demand at the present price, because the word "demand" has not a finite meaning. If it is true to say that the cotton industry of this country is bleeding to death I would ask hon. Members, What, indeed, is being destroyed? If the Bill is not passed and we continue, as we have been going on for some years, with the slow and painful process of allowing the natural laws of supply and demand to operate, then at any rate we do achieve something, because we know that in the last five years 5,000,000 spindles have been eliminated.

If we go on without this Bill will as many spindles be destroyed as are going to be destroyed if the Bill is passed, will there be fewer men and women in employment, will there be a shortage, perhaps of cotton yarn, will the banks, perhaps, be put into such difficulties that there will be a financial crisis? No, none of those things will happen. But if the Bill is passed there will be a destruction of, perhaps, 10,000,000 spindles, some of which are now providing the livelihood of men and women in Lancashire; the inefficient will be given an advantage at the expense of the efficient; newcomers will certainly not be encouraged to come into the industry; and foreign manufacturers will, no doubt, benefit as they have done on previous occasions when our spindleage has, for other reasons, been reduced. If a new industry comes into being it will not come into being in this country, where it will be under a handicap, but in some foreign country where these handicaps are not imposed.

I cannot believe that the examples which we have had in this country and elsewhere of interference in trade are very encouraging. Does our experience of interference in the coal trade give us very great encouragement? Does the experience which President Roosevelt had in America give very much encouragement? He thought he could restrict the cotton crop, and what happened? The quantity of cotton grown in America was reduced and the cotton grown in Brazil was considerably increased. I am not an opponent of every sort of planning. I believe in strategic planning, I believe in aesthetic planning, I believe in individual planning, but I do not believe in industrial planning by the State. In an interesting lecture which he gave last year Sir Josiah Stamp asked himself the question, "Can present motives work a planned society?" and he had reluctantly to admit that over the major part of the field the answer must be "No." I am quite sure that with human nature as it is now the freest possible markets must be the truest expression of the will of democracy, and I believe that restrictionism of any kind is anti-democratic, reactionary and unenlightened. Only in a really free market does the public get what it wants and not what some dictator wants to give it. Every interference in trade reduces the confidence of business men, and to my mind it is a lack of confidence more than anything else which has brought the world to its present unhappy state.