Textile Industry

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Commerce – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th November 1948.

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Photo of Mr Edward Fleming Mr Edward Fleming , Manchester, Withington 12:00 am, 25th November 1948

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that Japanese printed cloths, samples of which have been submitted to him by the hon. Member for Withington, are being freely offered for sale in British West Africa at lower prices than those obtaining there for the staple printed cloths exported from Manchester; and what steps he proposes to take to deal with this situation.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Ormskirk

I have been informed that in some cases Japanese cloths are being offered in British West Africa at lower prices than those of comparable United Kingdom goods. I am having inquiry made as to the reason for this difference.

Photo of Mr Edward Fleming Mr Edward Fleming , Manchester, Withington

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I hold in my hand samples of the actual goods sent into British West Africa and that they are such as no reputable Lancashire firm would produce, they are so shoddy? Will he not take steps to prevent this importation before the invasion of the Japanese begins?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Ormskirk

The matter of Japanese competition in its short-term and long-term aspects is under close review. I can only say further that if the quality of the goods does not rise above the kind of thing to which the hon. and learned Member has referred there is not much danger in the invasion.

Photo of Sir Arthur Harvey Sir Arthur Harvey , Macclesfield

Is the Minister aware that the same kind of thing is taking place in Australia, where Japanese goods are also being sent?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Ormskirk

I get a number of complaints from hon. Members. If I get any further complaints I shall go into them and take them up with the authorities in Tokyo.

Photo of Sir Walter Fletcher Sir Walter Fletcher , Bury

What is the Minister going to do beyond consideration? Will he use what power he has to stop a repetition of the Japanese dumping which did so much harm to Lancashire before the war?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Ormskirk

This is a matter on which we are in very close touch with the cotton industry, and we shall shortly be in correspondence with other industries.

Photo of Mr Sidney Shephard Mr Sidney Shephard , Newark

asked the President of the Board of Trade which sections of the textile and clothing industries are still controlled by the cost-plus system.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Ormskirk

With the hon. Member's permission, I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of those sections of the textile and clothing industries whose prices are still controlled by the method generally known as cost-plus.

Photo of Mr Sidney Shephard Mr Sidney Shephard , Newark

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that the cost-plus system encourages waste and penalises efficiency, and will he take some steps to get rid of it?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Ormskirk

Yes, Sir. I have always felt that way about it. We are getting rid of it in one section after another as quickly as possible.

Following is the list:

1. The prices of pram rugs and of the following items of utility clothing (other than knitted goods) are still controlled by cost plus in conjunction with ceiling prices:

  • Women's outerwear.
  • Women's underwear and nightwear (other than woven rayon).
  • Infants' and girls' outerwear, underwear and nightwear.
  • Men's and boys' shirts, underwear and nightwear.
  • Corsets.
  • Overalls.
  • Oilskins.
  • Merchant Navy clothing.
  • Nurses' uniforms.
  • Gloves (in part).
  • *Footwear (in part).
*Footwear manufacturers may choose between two methods of control, one of which is the system generally known as cost plus, but whichever system they adopt applies to their total production for the home market, whether utility or non-utility.

2. The following items are governed by cost plus only:

  • Woollen yarn (in part).
  • Woollen and worsted cloth.

3. Many items of non-utility clothing are subject to a Standstill Order with the proviso that the maximum price for goods not similar to goods which were sold in the basic period shall be the manufacturers' costs of product and sale plus the appropriate net profit.

Photo of Mr Frederick Erroll Mr Frederick Erroll , Altrincham and Sale

asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to ensure that, as a result of the new Japanese Trade Agreement, the Lancashire textile industry is not subjected to unfair competition in overseas markets.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Ormskirk

If unfair competition from Japanese textiles were to develop in overseas markets, I would consider what steps were appropriate, but I do not accept the suggestion that the new Japanese trade arrangements will necessarily result in such competition.

Photo of Mr Frederick Erroll Mr Frederick Erroll , Altrincham and Sale

As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Withington (Squadron-Leader Fleming) has already shown the nature of this Japanese competition even before the conclusion of this agreement, may I ask whether we can place any reliance upon the Minister's bland assurances?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Ormskirk

I have already said that I shall be very glad to investigate any individual case of unfair trading methods, whether in terms of quality or of price.

Photo of Mr Meredith Titterington Mr Meredith Titterington , Bradford South

Will my right hon. Friend keep in touch with the Yorkshire textile industry, especially the woollen and worsted sections, in view of the recent Press statement made by the Bradford manufacturers that they have received pieces and patterns from overseas markets which support the case put by the hon. and gallant Member for Withington (Squadron-Leader Fleming)?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Ormskirk

I have said that I shall be glad to look into any individual case.

Photo of Mr Edward Fleming Mr Edward Fleming , Manchester, Withington

Is the Minister also aware that the manufacturers in Manchester want him to take steps to prevent this competition?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Ormskirk

We are in very close discussion with the Cotton Board about the matter.

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

Is not the Minister aware that, as nobody has enough clothing, the situation will only be altered if there is a complete reform of the monetary systems of the world?