Textile Council (Dissolution)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th December 1971.

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Photo of Mr James Lamond Mr James Lamond , Oldham East 12:00 am, 14th December 1971

I wish to associate myself with the sentiments expressed by the Under-Secretary about the Textile Council and also join in the welcome given to the new body.

I would like to emphasise a little more strongly the part played by the trade union movement in the reorganisation of which we have heard. While it is a popular pastime today to suggest that trade unions have dragged their heels and not been co-operative in assisting in reorganising industry, this could not be said of the trade unions in the textile industry, particularly cotton, because, although they were aware of the serious consequences for the decline in their membership, they have nevertheless co-operated in every way in shift-working and the introduction of new and much more expensive machinery, which has meant fewer workers.

The movement has played its part in trying to save what was at one time the most important industry in Lancashire. Although the percentage of employees in Lancashire who are involved in textiles now is a mere—and I use that word advisedly—6·5 per cent. and therefore we should not over-emphasise the industry as being the only one in Lancashire, it is still of tremendous importance and is probably the biggest single employer of workers in the area. I share the view expressed to me by an important textile union official the other day that we want to see as much diversity as possible in the area and not try to retain textiles simply because they are textiles. We want work there of a diversified kind, so that people are able to withstand an onslaught on any industry.

I know that the Minister does not think that the problems of the industry have been solved but the demise of the Textile Council should not suggest to anyone outside the House that there are no longer problems. The welcome announcement about the decision to run quotas and tariffs together for some time is one which will assist the industry but it will only give a breathing space. The decline will continue, perhaps not in such a headlong fashion as in the last few months, but the danger is still there.

I would like to draw attention to another point I made recently in an Adjournment debate about marking the countries of origin of imports to this country. Two Private Members' Bills are listed, one of which is to be introduced by the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Normanton). This Bill is narrower than the Bill which I hope to introduce, but mine is much further down the list. The hon. Member for Cheadle concerns himself with the false markings of goods. If one studies the answers which have been given—