asked the President of the Board of Trade the estimated total cost of new machinery in respect of the cotton re-equipment schemes, and the cost and grant, separately, of machinery installed at the latest available date; and if he will estimate the extent of new machinery, to be installed before the time limit expires.
Up to 1st May, 1963, a total of £5 million was paid as re-equipment grant, being 25 per cent. of total eligible expenditure by the industry of £20 million. This included expenditure on the installation of new machinery and the modernisation of existing machinery. I regret that it is not possible to make the other estimates requested by the hon. Member.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that those figures fall substantially below the expectations of the Government when the scheme was started? Is it not true that the figures indicate conclusively the complete lack of confidence in Lancashire arising from the Government's policy of allowing an overflow of imports? Is it not about time that the Government looked again at the situation and at least arrested some of the haemorrhage and the damage which is being done to the industry?
I do not think the hon. Gentleman is entitled to draw the conclusions that he has done from these figures. Grants under the Act are not eligible for payment until a firm has completed its work, paid its bills and has satisfied the Cotton Board that the necessary conditions have been complied with. To say that the £5 million is a long way behind the forecast does not give a fair picture. The original total estimate given was £30 million, including the closure element. Scrapping took £11£8 million of that, and it remains to be seen whether the final figure comes up to the original estimate. Imports are another matter. If the hon. Gentleman would like to put down a question, I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will try to answer it.
Is not the hon. Gentleman misleading the House? Is it not the case that in July last it was anticipated that over £100 million of orders would be firmly placed but that in the ten months that have elapsed only about £30 million has been invested? So is he not being too optimistic in his expectancy for the next two months? Does not this situation prove lack of confidence in Government policy?
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the President of the Spinners' and Doublers' Association has referred to a number of mills which have had equipment grants but have now gone out of business due to lack of orders? Is he further aware that under the scrapping scheme adventurers came back into the industry with public money? The second phase of this scheme shows the lack of confidence in the industry. Will the hon. Gentleman do something constructive about it?