Cotton Spinning and Doubling

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Commerce – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th June 1958.

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Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West 12:00 am, 19th June 1958

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) whether he is aware that male employment in cotton spinning and doubling had fallen by February, 1958, by 22½ per cent. since June, 1951; and what steps he proposes to take to revise this trend;

(2) whether he is aware that female employment in cotton spinning and doubling had fallen by February, 1958, by 21 per cent. since June, 1951; and what steps he proposes to take to reverse this trend.

Photo of Mr David Eccles Mr David Eccles , Chippenham

I am aware of the decline in employment in cotton spinning and doubling in the last seven years. There has been some increase in productivity, but much of the contraction in the industry has been due to its loss of export markets and to the increase in imports, particularly from Asian Commonwealth countries. We are supporting the endeavours of the industry to reach voluntary agreements for the limitation of these imports.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

Yes, Sir, but what is the use of the right hon. Gentleman talking this nonsense when we have been told in the last few years that the workers in, for example, Hong Kong are working 80 hours a week? Is not the situation such that every trade union representative claims that the actual effect of unemployment is much greater than the figures published, that this great industry has been continually declining, that the Government have no policy and have no apparent intention of having a policy, that Conservative Member after Conservative Member at the 1955 Election promised that steps would be taken and said they had a plan, and that a great industry is slowly dying without any attention whatever from Her Majesty's advisers?

Photo of Mr David Eccles Mr David Eccles , Chippenham

I think the hon. Gentleman is exaggerating. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] For example, exports have fallen every year in the last seven years by some 400 million square yards. Those markets are lost, not for anything that the Government can do, but because the competition abroad is too fierce.

Photo of Mr Charles Hale Mr Charles Hale , Oldham West

What about the Congo Basin Treaties?

Photo of Mr David Eccles Mr David Eccles , Chippenham

If the hon. Gentleman wants us to impose limits on Commonwealth goods, which is part of the Motion on the Paper, that is a very serious request.

[That this House is deeply concerned by the continued decline of the British cotton industry brought about by adverse world conditions and the unlimited import of textile goods, many of which are produced by sweated labour; and that this House deplores the spread of unemployment and short time working amongst Lancashire textile operatives and calls upon Her Majesty's Government, as emergency measures, to take steps to limit these imports and by legislative and other action to establish civilised standards of labour in Hong Kong.]

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Battersea North

As it is certainly no exaggeration to say that imports from Hong Kong have had a great deal to do with those troubles, will the right hon. Gentleman at least undertake to consult the Colonial Secretary about improving labour conditions in Hong Kong?

Photo of Mr David Eccles Mr David Eccles , Chippenham

Yes, Sir, I will, but I do not accept that labour conditions are as bad as reported in some papers.