Traditional Crafts

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:57 pm on 25th June 2009.

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Photo of Barbara Follett Barbara Follett Minister of State (Culture and Tourism), Regional Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Culture and Tourism), Department for Culture, Media & Sport 5:57 pm, 25th June 2009

First, may I congratulate my hon. Friend Tom Levitt on securing this debate about one of Britain's lesser known but still extremely important craft skills? As some hon. Members may know, no serious gardener, anxious to keep his or her soil in good tilth, would be without a good quality riddle—and, as my hon. Friend has made clear, should they be in need of one, his constituent Michael Turnock is just the man to supply it.

Mr. Turnock and his one-man riddle-making business in Whaley Bridge are well known locally for their high-quality products. His skills have also attracted national interest, and that makes it all the more sad and surprising that, so far, Mr. Turnock has failed to find anyone who wants to take over his business, despite the efforts of Mr. Robin Wood, who has done a great deal to popularise crafts and to make everyone, including the Government, aware of their situation.

However, Mr. Turnock's story is, unfortunately, all too familiar. Mechanisation and new materials have taken over the labour-intensive and time-consuming processes required to make one particular type of tool by hand. In fact, estimates made in 2004 suggested that, along with Mr. Turnock's, only six businesses in England still make that sort of craft product—three horse collar makers, two besom broom producers and one oak spale basket maker. I think that my hon. Friend mentioned another maker, and I shall get that product from him after the debate.

The picture is not much brighter even among better known crafts such as thatching, saddling or timber framing, where the number of people employed totals little more than 1,000. If as Mr. Turnock and others insist, craft products are in high demand, all that is missing are trainees or apprentices willing to take up placements in craft-based firms—

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 9(3)),

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—( Mr. Watts.)

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