Mr. H. Wilson:
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware of the continuing decline in exports of cotton piece goods from this country; and what steps he proposes to take to bring about an improvement.
Yes, Sir. To the ex-tent that the remedy lies within the sphere of Government action, we shall use all our efforts to secure equitable treatment for cotton piece goods in overseas markets.
Is the Minister aware of the statement published in the "Manchester Guardian "recently that the quantity of cotton piece goods exported last year from this country was the lowest since 1947, a year when we had barely recovered from the war? Does not this mean that cotton piece goods exports now are lower than they have even been in peace-time since the American Civil War? When are the Government proposing to do something about Lancashire's cotton?
Does not my hon. and learned Friend agree that this matter must be looked at in a new light, in view of the fact that in many mills man-made fibres are now being used and are being exported by manufacturers who in the past made only cotton fabrics?
I quite agree that the matter must be looked at from all aspects but, if the suggestion is that Her Majesty's Government do nothing, it is unjustified. We take these matters thoroughly into consideration in negotiating all inter-Government trade agreements. We put the entire resources of the Government's export services, including those of the Trade Commissioner and Commercial Diplomatic Services overseas, at the disposal of the industry. We co-operate with the Cotton Board in publicity overseas and help in sending trade missions into importing countries.
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the best thing he could do to increase piece goods exports would be to deal with the question of Purchase Tax on Lancashire cotton cloth? Is he now telling the House that as a result of looking at these things in a new light we have now no cotton piece exports in addition to having no guns, no aircraft, and no figures?