HC Deb 31 October 1946 vol 428 cc882-913

8.21 p.m.

Mr. Erroll (Altrincham and Sale)

I beg to move, That the control of the Cotton Industry (Adjustment of Single Yarn Prices) Direction (No. 4) 1946 S.R. & O. 1946, No. 1678), dated 16th October, 1946, a copy which was presented on 23rd October, be annulled. Those of us who have been watching world price movements in cotton during the last few months have fully appreciated that they have risen, and therefore the laying of this new Order on the Table came to us as no surprise; indeed, we have been surprised that it has not come earlier. What is, however, most unsatisfactory to us is the staggering nature of that price rise. The wording of the Order is as follows: The price for American raw cotton (basis middling) is increased to 20.20d. per lb., but the price for that cotton shall continue to be 13.85d. per lb. for the purpose of ascertaining the prescribed price for any controlled American type yarn in relation to a contract of sale made before the 21st day of October, 1946. That means in effect that on 21st October the price rose by about 6d. per lb. As recently as a fortnight ago this staggering increase of price was still not sufficient to bring the price of raw cotton as sold to the spinners up to the general level of world prices. The Government might well have asked, "What are you grumbling about in the Opposition? The price is still below the world price. You ought to be thankful for small mercies in hard times. At least the spinners have been getting cotton at prices substantially below world prices until we put the price up." Even that argument has been altogether changed by events to which I will refer later.

It is significant that this price increase has brought forth relatively few complaints from spinners. That might well be brought forward as an argument against a fractious Opposition in raising the matter at all. We are accused of toiling not nor spinning, and it might be asked what business is it of ours. The men who are turning the cotton into yarn are not complaining. But it is the fact that they are not complaining about this increase that makes me raise the matter so seriously tonight. The reason is that if the Government's control of the price of raw cotton lags behind the general rise in world prices, Lancashire spinners are not going to mind. They do not mind getting cotton cheaper than their competitors. What they will mind—and it has not yet come about—is if there is a similar lag when world prices are falling. Then it will be a very different story.

Lancashire spinners do not mind if the price goes up. For the moment, it does not affect their profits. In any case, such is the gross artificiality of a system which permits such a savage increase in prices overnight by means of Orders, that they are able to pass on the increased price of yarn to the weavers, who can pass it through their orders, to converters, and it can be passed on to the public, with the important exception of Utility cloth, which remains at the same price, a price which has been subsidised for some time past. The subsidy will have to be considerably increased now by an unknown amount. Perhaps when the hon. Gentleman replies he will tell us how much greater the subsidy will be in respect of Utility cloth.

That subsidy is, of course, borne by the Exchequer, and is, therefore, a direct charge on public funds. Consequently, this considerable increase in the price of raw cotton will mean not only the continuance of the artificial position in which the Lancashire spinning industry finds itself, but it will mean yet another charge upon the taxpayer if the price of Utility cloth is not to be raised. There are arguments in favour of keeping the price of Utility cloth stable, but that aspect is not part of my case tonight. But I think that it is right that we, as guardians of the public purse, should realise that this Order does, in effect, increase the drain of money from the Exchequer. Though I do not question the value of maintaining a cheap durable cloth on the market, we should, however, know how much it is costing us at the present time.

The next point I wish to raise in connection with this Order is that it raises the price of a general commodity known as American cotton. In these days of oversimplification we are apt to think that all cotton is very much the same. Nothing could be further from the truth. If I may use a simple illustration, for so many years we have come to think that we in Britain can only make one standard of cheese that we never bother to distinguish between Cheddar, Cheshire and Stilton cheese—it is just cheese. We have simplified the matter— [Interruption] —possibly it might be called mouse trap cheese. In other parts of the world they are getting their cheeses going again, and we are seeing brought into this country some satisfactory and pleasant types of cheese, showing that there are many varieties, though we are compelled to have only one. In the same way, Lancashire cotton spinners are compelled to select a very narrow range of cotton for their spinning process, a far narrower range than they would like to have, and did indeed have, in peace time.

I would, therefore, ask the Secretary for Overseas Trade, who, I believe, is to reply, if he will tell us just what types of cotton he is proposing to sell, because at the moment the spinner is buying a pig in a poke. He has to buy the cotton by description and mark, and not by sampling. If cotton was an entirely uniform commodity, like distilled water or fresh air, that would not matter very much, but it is capable of many variations of types and style. The spinner is not allowed to sample the bales of cotton before he is compelled to purchase them. That probably did not matter very much to the spinner when the price was so low. He said, "I do not mind if it is not quite what I wanted, it is dirt cheap anyway." Now that the price has gone up considerably it will matter rather more. The effect will not be noticeable straight away because the Lancashire mills are sold out for many months to come, but we hope that supply and demand will gradually equalise, and the spinner will become much more particular about what the Government are selling him under this and similar Orders. Of course, by that time he may have got used to taking what he is given, and he may have lost the fine art of spinning the super quality yarn for which Lancashire is world famous.

The Department of the President of the Board of Trade issues a well-known journal, and last September it contained a handsome article about the importance of quality in Lancashire textiles. That article very cleverly skated over the basic feature of quality in Lancashire textiles, namely the quality of the yarn. We had a lot of high sounding stuff about design and dyeing, but we did not have very much about raw cotton and the importance of getting exactly the type of cotton which one needs for the money that one has available. The sort of stuff which the Cotton Control is selling at these high price is not nearly good enough for Lancashire if we are to have Lancashire exports in future successfully competing in the world market.

The true folly of the action of the Government is to be seen in the prices of the past few days, because just at the time when the Government were raising the price of raw cotton by 6d. a pound the American price was falling by 6d. a pound. We are now in the comical position of paying much more for our cotton in this country when the Americans are paying less.

Wing-Commander Shackleton (Preston)

Will the hon. Member tell the House how much more than the world price is the price of cotton to English spinners?

Mr. Erroll

I wanted to get the figures on the "tape" tonight but unfortunately they had not appeared by the time I entered the Chamber. I will give the most recent figures which I have. I understand the British Government were buying American cotton at about 35 cents a pound. Since then the price has dropped. On 28th October it had dropped to about 30.5 cents per pound and I am told that it has now dropped to 28 cents per pound. It has dropped so quickly that it has been hard to keep up with the movements. We could have been enjoying the benefit of this remarkable fall in the price of cotton had we not gone in for this stupid restrictive policy of arbitrarily fixing a high price. The Government are supplying cotton to Lancashire spinners at prices substantially above world prices. I am sure that the Secretary for Overseas Trade will make much play of the fact that he was slow in raising the prices by this Order. He will say that for a long time Lancashire spinners had the benefit of prices substantially below the world prices. I hear hon. Members opposite assent to that. Naturally, I think if it always worked one way that would be an excellent arrangement. I am all for getting something for less than it costs. That is a very healthy Tory system—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—a system followed not only by Tories but by others.

However, the real danger will arise when prices move in the opposite direction. If this is an example of how the Government intend to function in a matter of this kind, we will have a similar tardiness when it comes to a question of reducing the prices. That is where the real danger creeps in.—[AN HON. MEMBER: "Why not bring it up then?"] Unfortunately, we cannot bring it up then, because the time for making a Prayer against an Order of this kind elapses at the end of 40 days, and we do not know what will happen with these slightly British inflated prices, which are already well above today's prices on the American market. We are in honour bound to make this Prayer tonight in order to get this ridiculous Order annulled before Lancashire spinners are compelled to buy any more cotton substantially above the world prices.

It may make sense to hon. Members opposite that the Lancashire spinners should be handicapped in this way, but it does not make sense to us on this side. One may well ask how this situation has come about. It undoubtedly arises from this country's dependence upon American supplies of raw cotton. It is through no fault of ours that we do not grow cotton in this country. The temperature, the weather and other conditions are not suitable for growing cotton.

Mr. Diamond (Manchester, Blackley)

Why not blame the Labour Government for that, too?

Mr. Erroll

I will deal with that later. It is the sort of policy which a Labour Government would follow—to fry to grow cotton in this country—the sort of crazy thing which they would go in for. The point that arises is that this artificial price comes about through our dependence upon the American market. We have to get our supplies from America, and we have been trying, I think, in these Orders, to insulate ourselves from American price fluctuations. That is a nice form of idealism, but we are already seeing that it does not work out in practice. We had a very large rise not long ago of 4d. a pound then the greatest rise there has ever been, and, since then, this new rise of 6d. per lb., which is the record overnight rise that has ever taken place. We now feel that we need not have made a rise at all, because American prices are tumbling down. Why are they tumbling down? It is not because of speculators and gamblers using the commodity markets of the world as a kind of casino for their own profit. It is nothing like that at all. It arises from circumstances very largely of our own making.

It arises, firstly, through our holding off the market something like two million bales of cotton which, without my going into the details of the Liverpool Cotton Market, are something which would act as a counter weight or balance to the fluctuation. This large stock, if it could be thrown into the world market or could be held available to be thrown into the world market, could act as a stabilising influence, and the fact that it is not available narrows the market. The next reason why we are getting these violent fluctuations in the market today which makes the British price so unfairly handicapped, is that the price went up very sharply and the Government acted with unbelievable stupidity in saying what they were going to do. They used to send cables to our buyer in America to buy certain quantities at certain times on the following day. That is the very worst thing one can do in such a market, because everybody puts their prices up. It is through this stupid buying that we have got this artificial price which is the subject of this Prayer.

I would like to quote from a letter which appeared in the "Manchester Guardian," which expresses so very much better than I am able to do the sort of dilemma in which the British Government have placed themselves: As the Cotton Controller is buying considerable quantities 'on call' on Dec. or March New York futures, rather than fixing prices as and when contracts are made, it must be a cause for great anxiety for the civil servant who has to decide when to 'call,' that is, to fix the price on the basis of the ruling prices of futures. Recently, orders were cabled to 'fix' many thousands of bales at certain times on the following day. This meant the buying of thousands of bales of future, by exporters. Under present limited trading conditions this was a fantastic order"— and this was the point— especially when the market had been previously advised. Thereby, the complete lunacy of the Government's present policy is exposed. It is as though a man walked into the New York Cotton Exchange with a Union Jack waistcoat and saying, "I am a British buyer," and then wondering why the price had gone up.

The letter further says: 'Never in the wildest days of the 1920–21 slump or in the American crash in 1929–31 were daily fluctuations so wild. You Gentlemen opposite, who are always saying, "Look what the Tories failed to do after the Battle of Hastings," should look at what you are doing after this war.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Robert Young)


Mr. Erroll

I am sorry. Those who suggest that we Tories failed to do certain things after the Battle of Hastings, or after more recent wars, should look at what they are now doing after the last war, and should realise that they are now permitting far wilder fluctuations in commodity markets than ever took place before. That is what we have to thank Socialism for.

Mr. Frank McLeavy (Bradford, East)

Would the hon. Gentleman tell the House whether the policy which is being pursued by His Majesty's Government in connection with the purchasing of cotton is similar to the policy pursued by the President of the Board of Trade under the Conservative Government of 1941?

Mr. Erroll

Certainly. I am quite prepared to agree that it is a continuation of a wartime policy. But it is not only the fact that it was a wartime policy which makes the difference, but the fact, which was incidental to the war, that we were getting Lend-Lease cotton and, therefore, it did not much matter what the system was. But now that we are having to pay for it with hard earned dollars it is a very different story. [An HON. MEMBER: "Borrowed dollars."] Yes. borrowed dollars.

Mr. McLeavy

Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the policy is wrong now but was not wrong then because we were getting the cotton under Lend-Lease? In other words, the present practice which is being carried out by His Majesty's Government is precisely the same practice as that carried out by a Tory President of the Board of Trade in 1941. Surely, if there is any criticism at all, it is against the policy started by the Tory Government.

Mr. Erroll

I hope, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you will allow the hon. Member for East Bradford (Mr. McLeavy) to make his full speech without interrupting mine. I suggest that conditions are now entirely different, and that it is yet another example of the Government's present method of using wartime controls, applicable to wartime conditions, to foist Socialism on to us in time of peace. As I say, we are witnessing a catastrophic fall in the price of raw cotton in America which has compelled them to close the cotton market several times during the past few days. That is a direct consequence of British action and a direct consequence of our buying at a high price and having to charge a high price to our own spinners.

In his reply, the Parliamentary Secretary may suggest that, if we continue this process long enough, we shall induce a new system in the American Cotton Exchange. I venture to suggest that he should not be so arrogant as to assume that our relatively small purchases in the world market can stabilise the position. We only consume about one-tenth of the world's crop, and it is quite impossible for that small purchase to stabilise world prices. The way we are doing it at present, always buying on the top of the market after it has been going up, is complete folly. Of course, the Government may have some sinister intentions. It may be that they are out to break the American Cotton Exchange as a sort of pay-back for the Americans not supplying foodstuffs to us. There may be a sort of Machiavellian policy behind all this, some grand intrigue to justify bulk trading in cotton at all costs because bulk trading in rubber is proving such a flop. It may be that we shall pay even more for our cotton. Perhaps this is the first of a number of Orders increasing the price still further, while the Government pursue their policy of the Gadarene swine rushing down the slope. Perhaps that simile is not quite apt; I should have said, "rushing up the slope." No doubt, I can rely upon hon. Gentlemen opposite to make the most of that point

Mr. Harrison (Nottingham, East)

Would the hon. Gentleman tell us the American version of why the bottom has fallen out of the cotton market there?

Mr. Erroll

One can only go on relatively brief reports which appear in the British newspapers, and they say that there has been some extraordinary, unregulated buying.

Mr. Harrison


Mr. Erroll

Yes, speculation by the British Government. That is the whole trouble. It is because these purchases take place in bulk in very large quantities, in what is technically called a very narrow market, that we are getting these extraordinary fluctuations in price. Carried out under normal circumstances—and I do not wish to digress into the full details of the functioning of the Liverpool Cotton Exchange—there would be a much broader market; the purchases would be spread over the whole of the peak, or hump, of high prices and would be constantly insured against by the purchase or sale of futures. The whole situation arises out of the folly of the Government at Bretton Woods. I hope the Secretary for Overseas Trade will give us a satisfactory reply, although we feel that it may well be necessary to divide on all these Orders because of the seriousness of the position. The Government are manifestly following entirely the wrong course in the policy which they are pursuing. We are protesting against it, and are seeking, as an immediate practical measure, to annul this Order so as to bring the prices of raw cotton in this country back to something like normal.

8.47 p.m.

Mr. William Shepherd (Bucklow)

I beg to second the Motion.

I do not think even the most enthusiastic supporter of the Government can have been impressed by what has been happening in the sphere of State buying during the past few months. All those unfortunate tendencies which were almost laughed out of court by hon. Members opposite, when they were forecast from these benches only a short time ago, are, in fact, coming to pass. What has been demonstrated more clearly than anything else is that it is impossible to find any artificial substitute for the normal price mechanism. Any Government which seeks to find an artificial substitute merely indulges in a battle which it must ultimately lose. It is possible that the Government can lose battles and make the taxpayers pay, as they were going to make the taxpayers pay for a little battle in State trading which was lost some little time ago.

We on this side of the House are concerned with lightening the burden on the taxpayer, and we look with concern on these examples of maladministration by the Government and their obvious incapacity in all matters relating to business. To many of us it is not surprising that when it comes to trading, hon. Gentlemen opposite do not display the amount of tact and acumen which one might have thought necessary in high places. But this country is paying and will, doubtless, continue to pay for the incapacity of the Government.

We were told that the Liverpool Cotton Exchange should be eliminated, for the very simple reason that it encouraged violent fluctuations of prices. Yet the Government have introduced this Order which represents the wildest fluctuations that ever occurred on any given day, in which the price is increased, not by a penny or a halfpenny, but from is. 2d. to is. 8d. That is a most unwarranted increase in price if the Government are correct, and if the contention of hon. Members opposite is justified, that here we have a means of stabilising prices, because we have this jump, shooting up from 1s. 2d. to 1s. 8d.

We feel that this increase in price will fill the people of Lancashire with a good deal of fear, because if this is the kind of treatment to which they are likely to be subject in the future, then in any entirely different market set-up from that which exists at the present time the future of Lancashire cannot be bright. I suggest that the time has come when all these attempts to institute artificiality in price level ought to be abandoned, and that the normal interplay of forces should take place, with such other safeguards as the Government might well think fit to introduce in the interests of the country. This Order is one which will give no satisfaction to Lancashire, but gives the indication that violent fluctuations are likely to take place in the future.

8.52 p.m.

Wing-Commander Shackleton (Preston)

I did not realise we were to have a completely new Debate on the Liverpool Cotton Exchange. I had hoped that that subject, like the Cotton Exchange, was closed.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. and gallant Member cannot debate the closing of the Cotton Exchange unless he relates it to the Order.

Wing-Commander Shackleton

That is exactly my point, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that we have in fact had an attack on the Government's present system for procuring cotton for our spinners. It did amount to that. However, I will avoid referring to it and will deal with the points made by the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll). I think it was a little unkind of him to accuse the Parliamentary Secretary of being arrogant before he had opened his mouth. But we will leave that point and get on to the question of the fluctuations. It appears that hon. Members opposite are extremely annoyed with the Government for insulating this country from the fluctuation which is afflicting America at the moment. According to the latest report in "The Times"—perhaps hon. Members opposite now no longer read "The Times"—I notice it is there attributed by an American correspondent entirely to speculation by, I think they say, "everybody in the South." They mention that— It has ruined thousands of farmers, ginners, bankers, and cotton merchants, not just speculators.

Mr. Erroll

Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman quote the whole of the context and reveal that that is merely the statement of an individual, and not the considered opinion of "The Times" correspondent?

Mrs. Castle (Blackburn)

It was the same with the "Manchester Guardian."

Wing-Commander Shackleton

Since we have just had one opinion quoted against us from the "Manchester Guardian" I am giving another opinion in reply. It is obvious to anyone who has studied the activities of our Buying Commission that they are not responsible for the increase in price.

Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)

They are irresponsible.

Wing-Commander Shackleton

One of the factors is, of course, the taking off of controls in America, and the terrific wave of speculation which has developed. Another point the hon. Member made was that the price of cotton was such as to handicap cotton spinners. Now, he has stated specifically the spinners have not been complaining on the subject. He got dangerously near the subject of a certain place I must not mention, and dealt with the question of inability to buy by sample, and having to put up with buying by description. I hope the Minister, when he comes to reply, will indicate the plans of the Government to buy by sample. But I cannot understand why, when Lancashire has been insulated by the present policy of this Government from the disastrous sort of thing which is happening in America, which happened in the past in Lancashire, they should then be complaining. He mentioned the fluctuation as being higher than in any one day in the past, but over a longer period in 1920, the fluctuation in American middling cotton was from 27.32d. per pound to 6.38d., which is an extraordinary fluctuation and much more difficult to absorb.

When we had a Debate on another occasion, it was pointed out that we did not then have the benefit of the report of the cotton industry Working Party. We have that now, and it states that though it is quite clear that that industry was able to cover iself against those risks, this opportunity was never fully utilised, nor could all risks, directly or indirectly arising from fluctuation in raw cotton prices be avoided. What has happened is that the Government are carrying out their plans to ensure stable market conditions, and the cotton spinners of Lancashire are operating at a price well below the world market or, at any rate, the American market price. Despite that fact—and I think this is also true—we have shown a profit on these activities, and the taxpayer has not had to pay for that. The Minister will have an opportunity to quote his figures on that if he has some, and I am sure he will be able to give that information. In addition, the present price of cotton, which the hon. and gallant Member said was so very much higher than the American price, is, in fact, now little more than 1d. above the existing American price, and he seems to think that that smoothing out we have achieved is now going to operate adversely, and contrary to the interests of the Lancashire cotton spinners; but I think it is quite possible there may be another rise. I do not know whether then he will come back with another Prayer to ask that the price of cotton should be put up.

But it is quite clear that, at the moment, the Government have successfully avoided the extremes of fluctuation. In fact, the world price of cotton in March was 24 cents per pound; it went to 39; and now it has dropped to about 28, and large numbers of people have been ruined in America, and in the meanwhile the Lancashire cotton industry is going along as smoothly as it possibly can, and certainly undisturbed by these appalling fluctuations, which are causing such a crisis in America. At the moment certain of the Representatives in America have asked that the American cotton market should be closed until some steps can be taken to stabilise the market. It can only be done if the American Government go into the market themselves to iron out these fluctuations. There are many other points which I do not want to deal with in detail.

Mr. E. P. Smith (Ashford)

Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that the American Government should go into the market and should buy cotton when the prices of cotton have fallen to a considerable extent? Is he, therefore, in favour of the Government supporting a bull market?

Wing-Commander Shackleton

I did not say anything of the sort. All I said was that if the Government are going to stabilise the market, they will have to take certain steps, and in the past, in America, as hon. Members know, demands were made to provide a buffer by building up American stocks. This was not entirely successful, because there was a glut at that particular time. Nevertheless, it is clear that this Government's policy has been successful in protecting Lancashire from the sort of fluctuations of which we are seeing such a terrible example at the moment in America.

9.0 p.m.

Mr. E. P. Smith (Ashford)

I only rise to intervene in this Debate because I have spent 25 years of my life in the terminal commodity markets in London, although not in the cotton market, so I only propose to say a few words from the point of view of terminal markets and buying on terminal markets in connection with commodities generally. I think the House will agree that it is obvious that what has been called unregulated buying must disorganise any market, whether it is a terminal or any other market. We have the phenomenal position in this country now of seeing prices for raw cotton going up while the price of cotton in the country of origin is going down. It is a very extraordinary position, and must embarrass not only the producers in the country of origin but also, very seriously, the manufacturers in the country of manufacture. Close buying and close selling are absolutely vital in any market which pretends to normality; and I must confess that in my judgment the absence of the Liverpool Cotton Exchange in this country has led, or will lead, to a position wherein there will not be that same close buying and selling. The hon. and gallant Member for Preston (Wing-Commander Shackleton) has said that he objects to any insulation on the part of this country with regard to cotton prices, but if we are buyers on a falling market and buyers at a price above that market, we are necessarily insulating—I hope I have not misrepresented the hon. and gallant Gentleman—

Wing-Commander Shackleton

The hon. Gentleman is completely misrepresenting me. I will not repeat again the whole of that particular passage in my speech, but I did make clear, I thought, that by Government action we have succeeded in insulating the Lancashire cotton industry from the effect of fluctuations which were produced by speculation. I know that in the past, when Governments were less highly organised and the Labour Party was not in power, there was in fact no other device than the futures market for doing it, but at the present moment it is possible to achieve that protection by Government action.

Mr. Smith

I am much obliged to the hon. and gallant Gentleman. He says that Government action in the past has possibly tended to iron out fluctuations. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I appreciate that that may be so, but now we are in a position where the price of the raw material is falling very heavily and we are not getting the benefit of it. That is the whole point of my hon. Friend's Prayer. We are not getting the benefit of the falling market in the country of origin. That is a point where we simply must make up our minds, that we shall get the benefit of the actual market price in the country of origin, whatever may have happened during the war when insulation was necessary, as I entirely agree, to have control in order to prevent the price running away. Now that the war is over this is surely the moment at which we ought to be able to take advantage of a falling price in the country of production.

9.5 p.m.

Mr. Scott-Elliot (Accrington)

As one who knows a little bit about cotton, I feel that it is desirable to say a word from these benches. At the outset, I should like to explain that this Prayer is directed against a series of Orders that have been made by the Board of Trade, none of which cover the actual price of cotton, but the price of waste cotton for certain specific reasons—

Mr. Erroll

If the hon. Member reads Order 1678, he will see that it deals with the price of raw cotton. It says so in the explanatory memorandum.

Mr. Scott-Elliot

I should not have thought that that point arose, as I was about to explain. The point is that these Orders regulate the price of cloth, of yarn and waste cotton.

Sir W. Darling

Where in the Order is reference to the price of yarn or cloth?

Mr. Scott-Elliot

The hon. Member will realise that we are discussing these Orders taken together.

Sir W. Darling

Am I wrong in supposing, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that we are discussing Order 1678?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

We are discussing all six Orders.

Sir W. Darling

I apologise to the hon. Member.

Mr. Scott-Elliot

It is perfectly clear what these Orders are directed against. The hon. Member for Altrincham (Mr. Erroll), and other hon. Members who have spoken, are making the point that the price has been fixed too high, and the way in which the Government have been buying cotton has produced violent fluctuations in America. The question of fixing prices too high has been dealt with admirably by the hon. and gallant Member for Preston (Wing-Commander Shackleton). I believe that the actual disparity at the moment is something in the nature of 2d. a lb.

Hon. Members opposite do not seem to appreciate that for months and months past the Cotton Control had been selling under world parity. What is going to happen next week? Perhaps there will he a reverse in the speculative process going on in America, and perhaps the price of cotton will go up. With regard to the point put by the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. E. P. Smith), that we must get in step with world prices, if we do that we shall be constantly issuing fresh orders, and hon. Members opposite would have an opportunity constantly to pray against them. Why have these Orders been made? They have been made because there has been a steep advance in the price of American cotton. Why has that steep rise taken place? It has taken place for two reasons. In the first place, it arises out of speculation, and secondly, because controls were taken off the other side of the Atlantic.

Mr. Erroll

Controls have not been taken off finished cotton textiles, and therefore the lack of control does not apply.

Mr. Scott-Elliot

I entirely agree in so far as textiles are concerned. It does however apply to raw cotton. There is a fear of a grave shortage of cotton, as hon. Members opposite probably know. The American cotton crop is unlikely to exceed nine million bales, whereas 12 million or 13 million bales could be taken as an average American crop. In other words, there is a deficiency of 25 per cent. on the normal American crop.

In addition, there is a general shortage of cotton in the world. The hon. Member for Altrincham (Mr. Erroll) made no reference to what is happening in India. There is a shortage of food in India, and land has been put under groundnuts and other crops instead of cotton, with the result that India has put a ban upon the export of all cottons, except certain short staple sorts which would be quite unsuitable for Lancashire. The market is naturally narrow. That is nothing whatever to do with the very careful operations, as I believe them to have been, of the Cotton Control in buying in the American market. It is the operations of the American speculators who, seeing this short crop and seeing that, throughout the world, there is likely to be a shortage of cotton, have jumped in and caused the market to plunge up and down in this manner.

Let me give the House an account of what has happened. Earlier this year, the price in America was about 24 cents a lb. By 14th October the price had gone up to 39.45 cents. Then it began to fall heavily, having been pushed up unduly, with the result that yesterday the price was 2939.30 cents. Nobody knows where it will go next, and it is inadvisable to speculate in that matter. Attention has been drawn to the question of types of cotton not being available. I have drawn attention to the fact that Indian cottons are not available. There are Peruvian and Brazilian cottons, but the Brazilians are using a great deal more of their own cotton for manufacture at the present time. One point which the hon. Member for Altrincham did not realise—I believe I am right in saying this—is that we have a virtual monopoly in buying the fine Sakellarides cottons of the Sudan, which are not available to the rest of the world, very largely by reason of the fact that we have a central buying organisation which is being so admirably conducted.

There is only one other point I want to make. Although the point has not really been brought up by hon. Members opposite, I want to answer it in advance. They have not stressed, as I expected they would do, that Lancashire manufacturers would be at a disadvantage. We could sell over and over again the amount of cotton goods that become available for export. I believe that at the moment we are exporting—I speak subject to correction—about £5 million worth of cotton goods a month. We could sell immeasurably more than that if only the cotton goods were available. The difficulty is not the price, but the supply of labour for the cotton industry. Therefore, even if for a temporary period—it may he for one or two weeks, or even one or two months—we are slightly over parity, having been under parity for the last six months, it will not seriously affect anybody in the country; nor is it likely to affect British exports. In view of what I have said I hope the House will treat this Prayer in the manner in which it deserves to be treated.

9.14 p.m.

Major Haughton (Antrim)

I make no apology for approaching this subject from a strictly business point of view, and from the point of view of one who has served his time in the textile trade and is still deeply concerned with it. I am glad to see on the benches opposite one or two hon. Members, whom I can claim as personal friends, who will concede that point. I have in my hand this bunch of Orders, four of which are in the same sequence and were published on the same date. I cannot understand why they were not brought forward as one Order. It is very complex from a political point of view, and still more complex from a business point of view. I have been struggling all morning with one of these Orders. We are, at present, undoubtedly, in a seller's market, but the day is not very far distant when we shall have to bestir ourselves, so that we offer not only value for money but are able to rely, once again, on British branded goods. Some hon. Members took exception to the point raised about the selection of grades. Many of the branded lines of cotton were based on selection. During the last 18 months, I have tried very hard to get certain types of cloth woven from certain types of yarn which would have gone to produce branded lines, which must be re-established if we are to extend our trade both at home and abroad.

Arguments have been raised tonight about why fluctuation has taken place on the American Cotton Exchange. I have always thought, ever since we have debated this question of State buying and bulk buying, that if the Government had conceded a point, which, I understand, they now concede, and had been prepared like an ordinary business concern to publish a trading account and a balance sheet at the end of each year, we would feel a great deal more confidence. I have always felt that they have hesitated to do that because it has been suggested that, under a system of State bulk buying, there is to be no such thing as loss, or, at any rate, if loss takes place it will not be an individual loss, but would fall on the taxpayer.

I say with sincerity that I appreciate very much the attitude of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, when those of us concerned with these things have gone to him to ask for help in relaxing some of the restrictions, especially restrictions upon style. I was at pains this morning to get into touch with the trade associations concerned with these matters, and I feel that a great deal more could be done. I hope that the Ministers concerned will be prepared to go into these particular matters.

We can debate this subject in detail, but, if we want to get down to brass tacks, we have to ask ourselves what is the position of the spinning mills, the weaving sheds and the making-up factories throughout the country. It is very unsatisfactory. Much to my regret I have had to close down a considerable amount of plant this week for lack of cloth; not for lack of labour. From the trade associations, I learn that in the 12th allocation, the amount of cloth available is about one-tenth of that applied for. Firms which have applied for 10,000 yards of a particular type of cloth under this allocation, are getting 1,000 yards, and, in some cases, only 500 yards. From all these points of view, I feel that these Orders must be prayed against, and I have much pleasure in supporting the Motion so ably put by the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll).

9.19 p.m.

Mr. Rhodes (Ashton-under-Lyne)

I rise to speak in this Debate because I happened to be on the New York Exchange, a week last Monday, when they were recovering from the first shock. I heard that the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) had also been in those parts, and that may be the reason for his sudden access of interest in the subject. I wish to put one question to the hon. Member Seeing that he made the allegation, does he really suggest that the New York merchants rigged the market against the Government buyers from this country?

Mr. Erroll

Of course, I do not make such an allegation. That is the way the market goes. When a buyer goes into the market, it becomes a bullish market, and when a Government buyer goes into the market, it becomes a very bullish market.

Mr. Rhodes

My information was to the contrary: that it made no difference to the prices quoted to our representatives on the spot. It was rather a question of speculation, namely, the enormous transactions of Tom Jordan down in New Orleans. It was well known all over America what he was doing, and it was also known all over New York why the market was going up. The hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. Scott-Elliot) was correct when he made the point about the removal of controls. I have it on excellent authority that one shirt manufacturer in New York has in stock at the present time, ready for issue as soon as possible after the removal of controls, 6,000,000 doz. shirts.

Sir W. Darling

Let us remove the controls, then, and keep our shirts.

Mr. Rhodes

That is having its influence. The hon. Member for Accrington has been talking about absorption in bales. Over there they talk about absorption of square yards. I believe that nine million was the figure before the war; now they say they can absorb 12 million. They are gambling on that. The attitude of the manufacturer over there is to say that we are taking an unfair advantage of the market. That view is very strongly held by many manufacturers whom I have visited in South Carolina. On the question of purchases in the trade, under the second Act of Congress, 2,000 organisations interested in the production of cotton can claim for each one of their members the right to have their grades of cotton classified by Government officials. It is possible at present for many American manufacturers in the South to go direct to the Ginnery to buy, and that is the tendency today in America. I heard that not only in the South, but also from a Memphis broker, who said, "I am seeing my business taken away from me because we are having direct trade between the spinners and the growers." All this fuss is in between the man who does the work on the spot with his hands and the man who does the work in the mill.

Major Haughton

Do I understand the hon. Gentleman to say that the American spinner has the opportunity to go and select his own particular cotton?

Mr. Rhodes

Definitely; and that is another reason why the opinion is widely held that in time, without any question, the control of cotton will take place in America just as it has here—and about time, too. That is what is happening with regard to some growths of cotton there and the attitude of some manufacturers in America. The basic principle underlying all this argument is whether we can afford to let these controls slip.

Mr. Speaker

In any case, whether we can let controls slip or not, they have been decided by Parliament and, therefore, they must remain. That should not be the argument before us now. It is merely a question of a rise in price.

Mr. Rhodes

I got a lot in, Mr. Speaker, and so did hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. They have done very well, but I think we on this side are winning. I was about to conclude by saying this. We may be accused in this country of having queues of people waiting outside shops for materials that they can buy when they go in; in America they are stopping people from going in because they cannot afford to buy. That is what would happen in this country if hon. Gentlemen opposite had their way. It is what they have been fighting for this last 12 months, a pale imitation of a decayed system.

9.28 p.m.

Mr. Nigel Birch (Flint)

I should like to answer in a few moments some of the points made by the hon. Gentlemen opposite. I feel that these sharp alterations in prices particularly illustrate the danger of partial planning—that is to say, endeavouring to plan something with control of only ten per cent. of the factors. Practically every hon. Member opposite who has risen has said, "We are doing well, but it is a bit unsatisfactory at the moment because of American speculation." Of course, the Americans speculate; they always have and always will, and, with respect to the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes), to say that the Americans are moving towards controls is against the facts. They are not going to do it. What we have to do is to survive in a world where the Americans are determined to speculate. We can insulate ourselves if we can make a ring fence round this country. We cannot insulate ourselves if we still aspire to export cotton. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. Scott-Elliot) to say that he could sell abroad a great deal more than he can produce. That is perfectly true at the moment, but what about the time when the six million dozen shirts mentioned by the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne come on to the market. We are in a temporary phase but we shall soon have to sell goods abroad based on the free market price of cotton. That always has been so, and I do not see any reason why it should not be so in the future.

As for the point that it has been advantageous for manufacturers in the past because they have been getting cotton below the world price, that is true, but it illustrates that the system works perfectly well provided that one is on a rising market. What is bound to happen is that the Government will be a permanent, uncovered bull, which is a good thing to be if prices go up steadily every week, but when they go down it is a very punishing thing to be, as no doubt the hon. Member for Accrington knows very well.

The idea of many hon. Members on the Government Benches that ultimate wisdom resides in the Treasury or in the Secretary for Overseas Trade, or in somebody of that kind, is curious. What decides these things is not some impersonal body at all, but some little bald man with rimless pince-nez, sitting in an office. That is the person who decides buying policy. It is a work of genius to forecast what is going to happen to a market. In my experience the balder you are and the larger your rimless pince-nez the more consistently you are wrong. That is precisely what has occurred. There always were fluctuations. We get them just as violently now, but under the old system one could do something to insure oneself against them by forward dealing. Now we are fighting against someone we do not know—the bald man with the pince-nez.

9.32 p.m.

Mr. Marquand (Secretary for Overseas Trade)

I must confess that before the Debate began I had some trepidation. I feared that there might be a repetition of the events of last night, when those who came to pray remained to scoff. I have no complaint at all tonight with the way hon. Members opposite presented their case. Indeed, I was very impressed with the skill in developing his argument, and with the patience and good temper, displayed by the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll). For the moment I was almost beginning to wonder whether I might have to change my mind. But after my hon. Friends on this side of the House had spoken, a different impression prevailed. Indeed, the hon. Member for Bucklow seems to have left the House in order to change his mind. It was he who said that hon. Members on this side of the House knew nothing about trade, but the demonstration we have had tonight of the expert knowledge of my hon. Friends on many aspects of this difficult and complicated subject proves clearly that all knowledge in these matters does not reside on the other side of the House.

It has been said that what Lancashire thinks today England will think tomorrow. Tonight it is clear that the majority of Lancashire opinion represented by my hon. Friends is very much in favour of the Government's policy and of what the Government have done in this instance to carry out their policy. I would refer for a moment to the history of the prices of raw cotton in recent times. The price was fixed in April, 1944, while the war was still on. It was not changed again until 27th May, 1946. At that time, a rise in the price of cotton was effected by the Board of Trade. The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale asked me a Question, or rather he addressed a question to my right hon. Friend, about this price change. I replied and gave him our reasons.

The first reason, I said, was the difficulty about the overall cost of Government purchases of cotton since April, 1944. Then the hon. Member asked: Does the hon. Gentleman realise that while this absolutely fortuitous system of price fixing remains in force, manufacturers ought to be entitled to know that these prices will be maintained for a considerable time? To that I replied: I hope they will be maintained for a considerable time, but we must naturally have regard to the movement of prices else- where. If prices rise steeply elsewhere we may have to follow them in order not to put ourselves into the position of making losses."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd June, 1946; Vol. 423, c. 1598.] That is what I said in this House on 3rd June. The hon. Member asked for an assurance that prices would not rise for a considerable time, and I warned him that, though the Government did not wish to raise prices for a considerable time, if they rose elsewhere we might have to do so. That is precisely what has happened. Since then prices have been rising, and rising steeply, as I suggested they might do. There was an unusually small crop of cotton in the United States of America. I believe I am right in saying that in 1945 and 1946 there have been smaller crops than any since 1921, so that there was a smallness of supply of American cotton coming on the market. In June price controls were lifted in the United States of America. It is irrelevant to discuss which price controls were lifted. The point was that the lifting of the price controls and the consequent rise in prices in many commodities stimulated, in a situation where one had a short supply of cotton, a speculative boom and a very rapid rise cf prices in the American market. So, for the same reasons as I gave to the hon Member for Altrincham last June, through the rise of price against us in the American market, it became clear to us that another rise in our selling price to British spinners had become necessary. On 21st October we announced that rise in price. The interchange between myself and the hon. Member for Altrincham took place on 3rd June about a price change announced on 27th May. On 21st October we announced another price change—five months later. At that time the hon. Member for Altrincham was asking that we should allow a considerable time to elapse before any price change took place. We allowed five months to elapse before a price change took place, yet he comes to this House this evening and says he is very surprised the price change did not take place earlier—

Sir Waldron Smithers (Orpington)

The hon. Gentleman said, "We allowed", but surely he is not omnipotent? Surely it is world prices that allow it? If world prices had changed earlier, he would have had to change earlier.

Mr. Marquand

If the price were not in the control of the Board of Trade there would be no discussion and no Prayer tonight. When I say "we" I mean the Board of Trade which is responsible for the price change in the price charged by the Board of Trade to cotton spinners in this country. The peak price, as hon. Members have already said, in America for spot cotton was reached on 15th October and at that level our price to spinners would have been well below the world level. At the present time it is true that our price is slightly higher than the current American price for spot transactions, but it is not at all clear how prices will move. The hon. Member for Altrincham said he had been unable to get the latest figure. So have I, because the American market does not close until 8 p.m. and I have had no opportunity since I have been listening to the Debate to get the latest figure. The last information before I came into the House was that today the prices have been tending to move slightly upwards. Who can say that the price will continue falling in a situation where there is admittedly, and there has been admittedly for the last two years, the smallest cotton crop in the United States since 1921, and where there is an active sellers' market all over the world for cotton products.

Who would be bold enough on the other side of the House to prophesy that the price will not rise again? Nobody can be certain, but the fundamental factors remain, and it is on the consideration of fundamental factors of that kind, on the real demand and supply for the product, that we have based our decision when we have effected these various price changes. We claim, as my hon. Friends have said, to have insulated ourselves by this means from the sharp fluctuations which have taken place elsewhere in the world. I could quote, were it worth while, but it has already been done by my hon. Friends on this side of the House, from today's newspapers, stories of the panic and dismay that has been caused in the United States of America, the panic and dismay, which, for all their misgivings about our policy, does not really affect hon. Members on the other side of this House tonight.

In the present situation, and the way in which we handle our cotton prices, the spinners are protected. There is a scheme—which I have no time to elaborate tonight and you, Mr. Speaker. might rule me out of Order if I were to attempt to do so—under which spinners receive adequate compensation if, as a result of a price change, they are in danger of making some loss. The spinners—as, indeed, the hon. Member for Altrincham admitted—have no complaint against us, they have voiced no complaint. The home consumers of utility cloth, though the price of the raw material from which their cloth is made has risen, are also protected because of the subsidy arrangements under which the price of that cloth is kept stable. Now it is true that that subsidy will cost the Treasury some money—

Sir W. Smithers

The taxpayer.

Mr. Marquand

The taxpayer. I am informed that it is estimated the Treasury will have to pay some £2 million more by way of subsidy to utility cloth up to the end of the current financial year, that is, March, 1947, under this new arrangement than it would have had to pay had no such Orders been made. However, I would assure the hon. and gallant Member for Antrim (Major Haughton) that, of course, it will be possible for him, when the Board of Trade Estimates are presented, to obtain an account of transactions of this kind, that is to say, of what the Treasury will have to pay out in this way. I shall not say here that the Treasury will necessarily be compensated by the dealings that we shall make in cotton, but it is very obvious to hon. Members that the high probability is that our transactions are not running at a loss. The foreign consumer of our products is not protected by a subsidy or by any kind of compensation arrangement; that is true, but we are operating in a sellers' market at the present time and there is no advantage to us in such a condition, where our cotton products are in tremendous demand, where we have to restrict the export of cotton products all the time because the demand is so great and we need to keep sufficient at home for our home consumers, where we are actually restricting our exports because the market is so avaricious for them—there is no advantage to us in selling cotton to the producers of those exports at less than world prices. Why should we do it?

Our prices at the moment are round about the world level. Who would suggest that, at a time when the world demand is so keen for our products, we should proceed to lower our prices to the producers of those products? But the argument in favour of the kind of policy we pursue is not based heavily upon a desire to draw some temporary advantage out of the sellers market. It is based upon two main factors. The first of them is that we intend, and we need, to maintain in the home market control of prices at which yarn and cloth are sold. We need to control those prices in order to maintain the stability of the cost of living. Business cannot satisfactorily be carried on under a condition of control of the final product, and fluctuating prices for the raw material. That is one reason why we continue this policy at the present time, and the other reason is, of course, the scarcity of foreign exchange, and particularly of dollar exchange. I suggest that it would not be wise, it would not be prudent, it may be disastrous, to permit at the present time the establishment of a system under which speculators in this country were free to buy and sell And conduct arbitrage operations in the city of New York. It would be too difficult to maintain a proper foreign exchange system and husband our very scarce resources in the form of dollars.

The hon. Member for Altrincham, having changed his mind a little about the considerable time that had to elapse before we changed our prices, asks if we shall be tardy in lowering our prices when the time comes. We have certainly no intention of being tardy in lowering our prices. Indeed, the whole argument I have developed suggests that although we will not be guided in our policy by mere temporary fluctuations, we shall certainly adjust the price to the fundamental economic factors determining supply and demand for the product. When the downward tendency comes, it will be far easier for us to lower the price, because we have in the meantime been able to raise it, and thus accumulate some reserves against a rainy day, than if we had not taken this step at the present time. If we had not taken the step, or had delayed too long in taking that step, it might have been difficult when prices began to fall, to lower the price, because we might have been accused by the hon. Member for Altrincham or the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) of making trading losses. We have no desire to make trading losses, and have therefore taken the decision at what we conceived to be a prudent time. I assure those who feel genuinely uneasy about this matter that when the time comes we will have no hesitation in lowering our prices, but we must have regard mainly to our export markets in so doing. When the time comes, when we need to try to extend our export trade, we shall not be unaware of the need to lower our prices for raw cotton.

The hon. Member for Altrincham rather severely criticised the methods of our bulk trading. It was the severest part of his speech. He suggested in a rather extraordinary, and certainly irresponsible passage—[HON. MEMBERS: Oh"]Wait and see. He suggested that our action at the present time was in some sort of way a retaliation for United States action in saying that in future they would prefer us to deal with private traders in our food purchase. We are not conducting our operations in so childish a way. There is no retaliation about this, and no thought of anything of the kind ever entered our minds when we made this decision. He then criticised our methods of buying, and portrayed a mythical buyer in New York with a Union Jack, instead of a waistcoat. We have no buyers in New York. We have been asked over and over again by deputations from the Liverpool Cotton Association, and spinners of Lancashire, to give the merchants some encouragement. If we have made up our minds, they say, to go in for State trading, will we give the merchants a look-in somewhere? We have answered "Yes, very well, the merchants shall continue to be used as our agent in the American and Indian markets."

I am advised that at the present time we buy American cotton by asking the Liverpool merchants to make offers to us on behalf of American shippers. We accept such offers in such quantities as seem suitable to us. We might do better if we bought direct in the United States of America, but without committing in any way any future organisation which may come into being, and to which you, Mr. Speaker, would not permit me to make specific reference, we have committed ourselves, in the immediate present, while the Board of Trade, through its Cotton Control, continues to buy cotton, to saying that it will do so in the United States market and the Indian market through the agency of Liverpool merchants.

Sir W. Smithers

Can the hon. Gentleman tell the House whether the Government, on their account or through their agents, have made use of any futures market, and, if so, where?

Mr. Marquand

No, Sir. The Government are not buying or selling futures at any time. It is, of course, true that when anybody wants to buy cotton in the United States of America from American traders, those traders, in calculating the price at which they are willing to sell, take into account the futures price quoted at that time in the American market. They would be foolish if they did not, and we, in buying, would be foolish if we did not have the common sense to open our newspapers and see what American estimates of future prices was.

Sir W. Smithers

Then why close Liverpool?

Mr. Marquand

I have a good deal of sympathy with the plea of the hon. Member for Altrincham that under a system whereby our price for raw cotton is equivalent, or possibly may, for a fraction of time, be slightly above the price which their competitors have to pay, the spinners of Lancashire should be given abundant opportunities to buy their cotton by sample instead of on designation. I have said before, to deputations which have come from Liverpool to see me or my right hon. and learned Friend, that we want, as quickly as possible, to establish a system under which sampling will be possible. At the same time, we have promised the Liverpool interests, particularly listening to the pleas of some of the Liverpool Members of this House, that Liverpool shall continue to be the centre of operations for the buying and selling of raw cotton, and so we want to establish our provision for the inspection and sampling of cotton in Liverpool.

Liverpool has been heavily bombed during the war, and there is a great scarcity of accommodation. It is for that reason alone that we have not yet been able to open the sampling rooms we hope to open. I am assured that before the end of the year these sampling facilities will be available. I was most careful to ask my advisers about this undertaking. Once at this Box, in the first speech which I had the privilege of making in this House, I gave an undertaking that all the studio space available to the cinema industry would be de-requisitioned by Easter. I did it with a great deal of trepidation, but it turned out to be correct. I want to give as good an assurance tonight. My advisers have been cautious in advising me, but I may safely say that by the end of the year sampling facilities will be available, and available in Liverpool.

I hope that I have, to the satisfaction of hon. Members, answered the points, criticisms, and questions which they have raised tonight. I would like in conclusion, if I may commit a solecism, to tell hon. Members what these Orders really are about and what it is hon. Members opposite are asking the House to do when they ask us to reject them. Direction No. 4, which is one of the Orders that we are discussing, enables a spinner to charge a price for his controlled yarn which takes account of the increased price of raw cotton. If the direction was annulled, it would mean that under the Order controlling yarn prices a spinner could charge for American type yarns only on the basis of the selling price at 27th May. No amendment to any of these Orders now under discussion would alter the selling price of cotton. The selling price of cotton is determined by entirely different methods under other powers given to the Board of Trade and not under these

Orders would not affect the selling price of cotton. All that it would do would be to prevent a spinner charging the higher prices which he has to pay, and thus it would bring the business and industry of Lancashire to a standstill.

I know that it is against the rules of the House to impute motives, but I cannot help wondering in my own mind just what hon. Members opposite were aiming at when they invited us to reject these Orders. Could it possibly have been that they had in mind a general attack on State trading and that certain advice, which was given to them beforehand, made them modify some of the things they intended to say? What other purpose they could have had in mind I cannot really imagine. If the House tonight accepts the Prayers placed before them, the result will be to bring industry in Lancashire to a standstill. Therefore, I invite the House to reject the Prayers.

Question put.

The House proceeded to a Division, and Mr. SPEAKER stated that he thought the "Noes" had it, and, on his decision being challenged, it appeared to him that the Division was unnecessarily claimed, and he accordingly called upon the Members who supported and who challenged his decision successively to rise in their places. Twelve Members who challenged his decision having stood up, Mr. SPEAKER declared that the House should proceed to a Division.

The House divided: Ayes, 64; Noes, 169.

Division No. 291. AYES 10.00 p.m
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. Prescott, Stanley
Aitken, Hon. Max Grimston, R. V. Price-White, Lt.-Col. D
Baldwin, A. E. Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge) Ramsay, Maj. S
Beechman, N. A. Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V. Renton, D.
Bennett, Sir P. Haughton, S. G. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Birch, Nigel Howard, Hon. A. Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland
Bower, N. Keeling, E. H. Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Smith, E. P. (Ashford)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Smithers, Sir W.
Byers, Frank McCallum, Maj. D. Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G. Macdonald, Sir P. (Isle of Wight) Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Marlowe, A. A. H. Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Cooper-Key, E. M. Marsden, Capt. A. Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Maude, J. C. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Darling, Sir W. Y. Mellor, Sir J. Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.
Digby, S. W. Molson, A. H. E. Turton, R. H.
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E Ward, Hon. G. R.
Drayson, G. B. Neven-Spence, Sir B. Wheatley, Colonel M. J.
Drewe, C. Nield, B. (Chester) Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Eden, Rt. Hon. A. Peto, Brig. C. H. M. Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Fox, Sqn.-Ldr. Sir G. Pitman, I. J.
Gage, C Poole, O. B.S. (Oswestry) TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Mr. Erroll and Mr. Sutcliffe.
Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South) Holman, P. Rees-Williams, D. R.
Anderson, A. (Motherwell) House, G. Reeves, J.
Attewell, H. C. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Reid, T. (Swindon)
Austin, H. L. Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme) Rhodes, H
Ayles, W. H. Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.) Richards, R.
Bacon, Miss A. Irving, W. J. Ridealgh, Mrs. M.
Balfour, A. Janner, B. Robens, A.
Barton, C. Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools) Scollan, T.
Bechervaise, A. E Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow) Scott-Elliot, W.
Belcher, J. W. Jones, J. H. (Bolton) Segal, Dr. S.
Benson, G. Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin) Shackleton, Wing-Cdr. E. A. A.
Bing, G. H. C. Jay, D. P. T. Sharp, Lt.-Col. G. M.
Blackburn, A. R. Kenyon, C Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)
Blyton, W. R. Key, C. W. Simmons, C. J
Boardman, H. Lavers, S. Skeffington, A. M.
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Leonard, W. Skeffington-Lodge, T. C
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Leslie, J. R. Skinnard, F. W.
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Levy, B. W. Soskice, Maj. Sir F
Burke, W. A. Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton) Stamford, W
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Lindgren, G. S. Steele, T.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Lipton, Lt.-Col. M Stubbs, A. E.
Champion, A. J. Lyne A W. Swingler S.
Chetwynd, Capt. G. R McAdam, W. Symonds, A. L.
Coldrick, W McAllister, G. Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Collick, P. McGhee, H. G. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Comyns, Dr. L. Mack, J. D. Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.) McKay, J. (Wallsend) Thomas, John R. (Dover)
Corlett, Dr. J. Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.) Thurtle, E.
Corvedale, Viscount McLeavy, F. Tiffany, S.
Davies, Ernest (Enfield) Mallalieu, J. P. W. Tolley, L.
Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.) Marquand, H. A. Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G
Diamond, J. Marshall, F. (Brightside) Turner-Samuels, M.
Dodds, N N. Mathers, G. Ungoed-Thomas, L.
Donovan, T. Mayhew, C. P. Vernon, Maj. W. F.
Driberg, T. E. N. Messer, F. Viant, S. P.
Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich) Mitchison, Maj. G. R. Walkden, E.
Dumpleton, C W. Monslow, W. Walker, G. H.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Morley, F. Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Edwards, John (Blackburn) Moyle, A. Warbey, W. N.
Evans, John (Ogmore) Murray, J. D. Weitzman, D.
Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Neal, H. (Claycross) Wells, W. T (Walsall)
Ewart, R. Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.) West, D. G.
Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford) White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Foot, M. M. Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford) Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Fraser, T. (Hamilton) Noel-Buxton, Lady. Wigg, Col. G. E.
Ganley, Mrs. C. S Oliver, G. H. Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B
Gibson, C. W. Orbach, M. Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Paget, R. T. Willey, O. G (Cleveland)
Goodrich, H. E. Parker, J. Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood) Parkin, B. T. Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley) Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe) Williams, W. F. (Heston)
Hale, Leslie Paton, J. (Norwich) Williamson, T.
Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley) Pearson. A Woodburn, A.
Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R. Proctor, W. T Woods, G S.
Harrison, J Randall, H. E. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) Ranger, J. Captain Michael Stewart and
Herbison, Miss M. Rankin, J. Mr. Popplewell.

Question put, and agreed to.