HC Deb 24 July 1952 vol 504 cc901-20

10.5 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. Henry Strauss)

I beg to move, That the Draft Wool Textile Industry (Scientific Research Levy) (Amendment) Order, 1952, a copy of which was laid before this House on 14th July, be approved. This Order amends in one particular the 1950 Order which provided for a levy under Section 9 of the Industrial Organisation and Development Act, 1947, to furnish funds for the Wool Textile Research Council. The original Order was approved by this House on 24th October, 1950, after a speech of admirable brevity by my predecessor, the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes). He was supported by some of my hon. Friends and the House was of one mind in approving that Order. I think I shall be doing what the House desires if I use the same brevity.

The levy is collected by the Board of Trade and paid to the Wool Textile Research Council. That Council is composed of representatives of the Wool Industry Research Association, Leeds University, the Association of Principals of Technical Institutions and organisations representing employers and employed in the industry, and the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research sends an observer to its meetings.

The Wool Textile Research Council in turn reimburses the expenses incurred by the various bodies, in particular the Wool Industry Research Association, the universities and technical colleges. The present Order simply increases the levy. It has been asked for by both sides of the industry, by the Wool Textile Delegation and by the National Association of Unions in the Textile Trade. The reason is the increased cost of the excellent research work that is being carried out.

As required by the Act, the Board of Trade have consulted other representative organisations. Apart from those who asked for this Order, 14 were consulted and there was only one dissentient. That was the Federation of British Carpet Manufacturers, but I would remind the House that the only members of the car- pet manufacturing industry who are required to pay the levy are those who spin the yarn which they use. The remainder of the processes are expressly excluded from the definition of the wool textile industry in the Order and, as a result, carpet manufacturers are not liable to pay in respect of operatives employed in subsequent processes.

A great part of the money goes to the Wool Industries Research Association, which also receives a grant from the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, who regard an expanding programme of work as essential. The levy as first introduced was estimated to produce between £100,000 and £120,000 a year. It in fact produced £114,000 in the first year. In the first six months of this year about £48,000 has been collected and, if the amended rate had been in operation, the figure would have been about £70,000. I think that places the House in possession of the essential information.

10.10 p.m.

Mr. H. Rhodes (Ashton-under-Lyne)

There are a few comments I wish to make on this Order. I am of opinion that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade will be very thankful that the Labour Government passed the Industrial Organisation Development Act when they did in 1947, because otherwise they would be unable to get the funds to support the research going on in the wool industry today.

The Research Association is in great difficulty, and I think a new formula will have to be found before very long to meet the needs of collection. At the moment it is on the basis of the raw material used and the number of employees engaged in the trade. The real reason for the Parliamentary Secretary coming to the House tonight is because of the difficulties that the wool industry is experiencing at the present time. It is not using as much raw material, and its revenue has fallen because of that decrease. There are not as many people employed in the industry as formerly, and so they are also losing revenue on that account.

I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that some thinking should be done about whether a new method can be evolved to produce a steady income, irrespective of whether times are lean or prosperous. It seems ridiculous that an industry which, according to the figures I have in my possession, showed net profits during the year 1949–50 amounting to £20 million, cannot subscribe more than £75,000 in a year towards its own research. When we consider that £75,000 against the amount of profits of £20 million, it represents only .375 per cent. It is really not good enough, and what I should like to see is something done to stabilise the position so that in either lean times or good there is a steady income.

I wish to ask the Parliamentary Secretary why it is that he has assessed the new increase on operatives? Why not on the raw material as well? I hope he will be able to tell us that. In the Working Party's recommendations it was suggested that 75 per cent. of the moneys raised and put to the use of research through the Wool Textile Research Council should go to the Research Association. I am not sure whether the figures which the Parliamentary Secretary has given will cover the exigencies of the position.

For instance, 75 per cent. of the £100,000 would not put them in the position of being able to get a grant from the D.S.I.R. this year. As I understand it, for the first two years, 1951 to 1953, the industry must voluntarily subscribe something like £80,000 before it is able to get the £30,000 grant from the D.S.I.R. If it subscribes more than £80,000, for every £100 raised it gets £100 from the D.S.I.R. to a maximum of £60,000; which means a minimum of £30,000 and a maximm of £60,000. After 1953, to 1956, it rises to £100,000.

Therefore, if the same formula is applied that the Wool Research Association gets something in the region of 75 per cent. of the gross revenue of the Research Council, it would mean that instead of approximately £114,000, which the Parliamentary Secretary has suggested would be raised under the scheme, something in the region of £133,000 would be needed to give the Wool Research Association £100,000.

It is necessary for the Research Association to have this money. I hope that some means will be found so that a regu- lar income can be provided for research in this industry. The Association are doing a first-class job, and I wish them well. I have no objections other than those which I have mentioned.

10.15 p.m.

Mr. Edward Shackleton (Preston, South)

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes), I welcome the faithful way in which the Government are carrying out the provisions of the Industrial Organisation and Development Act, which they opposed so bitterly when the Labour Government introduced it. It is satisfactory to find that they see the need for this degree of organisation in industry. I do not wish to go too wide of the subject, which I know is narrow, but a number of points arise on this amending Order which are of great importance. The Parliamentary Secretary should "come clean" and tell the House why exactly it is necessary to increase the rate of levy on the wool textile industry.

He has given certain figures about the amount of money which has been received and which was anticipated in connection with this levy. He told us that the original figure hoped for was something in the neighbourhood of £100,000 and £120,000. I am specially interested in in these figures, and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will help me. The matter is difficult. I should like to know whether these figures are correct.

I understand that last year £114,000 was obtained through the 2d. levy. This year, in the first six months, the total is only £48,000, which would pre-suppose that the levy would yield on the same basis, if unemployment does not increase, no more than £96,000. Surely we should have some explanation in the House for the fall in the amount of the levy. The hon. and learned Gentleman has not given any explanation.

The former Parliamentary Secretary stated straightforwardly that it is obviously due to the decline in trade in the wool textile industry. It is due to the fact that less wool is consumed. Because this levy is, to some extent, based on the amount of wool consumed, the amount which comes in under it is reduced. It is also based on the numbers employed in the textile industry.

Here we come once again to the consequences of the policies of this Government. As a result of their failure to deal with the growing unemployment in the textile industry, we are confronted here in a small way by a short-fall of funds which are essential for the development of this vital industry. This is a misfortune which is besetting the whole of the textile industry.

The matter is further complicated because of the decision of the Government not to increase at a suitable rate the funds made available to the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. It is a bit thick for the Parliamentary Secretary to come to the House and to tell us that the money is not enough and that therefore the levy must be increased. I should like to hear what the figures are on which this calculation is based. What are the employment figures accepted in the industry? What are the figures for the consumption of wool? We should like to know the Government's estimates of the prospects of the industry.

It may well be that if we are to hope to recover our position in the world and to improve employment in the textile industry a great deal more money ought to be spent on research to give us the technological advances which will be necessary to enable us to compete in the highly competitive world market. I do not think we ought to leave this subject until we have had a much fuller explanation. This is something which affects very deeply the lives of large numbers of people in Yorkshire, and yet we have had, from the opening speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, no real reference to the cause of the decline of these funds. I hope the debate will be carried on until we have had a satisfactory explanation.

Mr. David J. Pryde (Midlothian and Peebles)

I only wish to ask the Parliamentary Secretary two questions, because it is too late to develop anything else. Will he explain to the House how the Scottish section of the industry stands in regard to this Order? Secondly, is it true that the centre of the organisation in the wool industry of this country is based upon Bradford; and, if it is true, whether the Scottish section has only one representative on that organisation for all the interests in Scotland?

10.22 p.m.

Mr. I. Mikardo (Reading, South)

I cannot, of course, speak on the Scottish aspects of this question with the authority of my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Mr. Pryde), nor have I the authority of my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackle-ton) for speaking on the subject of research generally, because he has made a very deep study of it. Certainly, neither I nor, I think, any other Member of the House, can speak with the authority of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes), who began as a weaver and is now a manufacturer of fine cloth, and has been through all the gamut of the practical problems in the industry.

However, if I may say so with due modesty, I have had experience in all the four main branches of the textile industry—cotton, synthetic fibres, jute and wool—as a consultant, and I have been able to compare the different practices in research and in the development of technique in these different sectors of the textile industry, which, though they have many differences between them, have, especially in the field of research and development, very many similarities as well. I am sorry to say that, of those four runners in the race, wool cannot be placed higher than in the third place, so far as its expenditure on and the care and efficacy of its work in research are concerned.

We shall, of course, support this Order because the effect of it is to make more money available for research in an industry which, goodness knows, needs much more research than it has ever had in the past, and much more even than it is likely to get under the provisions of the Order we are now discussing. Everybody in the House, and almost everybody in the country, has in the last few years come round to understanding, as few people have understood for very many years, that we need a much greater expenditure on research, and a much greater devotion of skill, manpower, thought and imagination to research, if we are to improve, let alone maintain, the efficiency of British industry and its power to compete in world markets.

Every one, or almost every one, is now seized of that fact, largely because of the educative effect of measures taken in this direction by the Labour Government between 1945 and 1951, and not least by the inspiration of my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison). We on this side are delighted to see the most welcome, if a little belated, conversion of hon. Gentlemen opposite to the understanding of the fact that we need a greater application of research to our industry.

While welcoming this Order, and speaking in support of it, and, if need be, voting in support of it, though I hope that will not be necessary, I would, nevertheless, like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary one or two questions and put one or two points to him, and I am sure that the House will gladly give him leave to speak again.

On paper, this Order looks as though it is making a very sharp increase in expenditure in research in the wool textile industry from 2d. per unit to 3.4 pence per unit. On paper that looks like a 70 per cent. increase. In fact, it is not, because, as we all know to our cost—and my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South, referred to this—one of the reasons for that increase is the fact that unhappily this year the number of employment units—and unfortunately that is what they are called in this legislation; and the Parliamentary Secretary, who is a stickler for good English, must feel a knife turn in his soul every time he uses the term; it is a pity he is not listening—

Mr. H. Strauss

I resent hon. Members opposite saying that I am not listening when I am making a note of the points they have raised in the hope of being helpful in reply. The fact that I am taking a note of the speech does not mean that I am not listening.

Mr. Mikardo

I immediately and sincerely apologise to the hon. and learned Gentleman. It looked as though he were busying himself with other matters.

Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)


Mr. Mikardo

We know that his great talents allow him to do two things at once, although there are not many of us who, when we do two things at once, are capable of doing either of them really well. If I did him an injustice, I immediately apologise.

What I was saying before I was led astray—and perhaps that was my own fault—was that one of the reasons for the increased rate of the levy per employment unit was unhappily that the number of employment units in the industry would be smaller this year. If the Parliamentary Secretary wants to blame anybody for that he might look across the square in the direction of the Treasury. That is one of the reasons for the increase in the rate of levy per employment unit, and the increase in the amount of money raised will not be anything like so great as is suggested by the 70 per cent. increase in the rate of levy per employment unit. The increase is not, indeed, as sharp as appears on the surface.

One of the questions which I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary is this. Under the new Order, and with the new amount which will be spent by the industry, how does the expenditure on research of the British woollen industry compare with the expenditure on research by woollen industries in other countries with whose product our woollen textile industry has to compete? I want to put to the Parliamentary Secretary what is my impression of the answer to that question—and I do not for one second pretend that it is authoritative, but I put to him my impression in the hope, indeed in the expectation, that to whatever extent I am wrong, he will correct me.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne said, this sum will represent an expenditure on research of about three-eighths of 1 per cent. of what has been roughly calculated to be the last full year's profits of the industry. I have an idea—not merely an impression, because it is based on some study—that in the United States of America the wool textile industry, which is younger than ours, much less skilled than ours and with nothing like the design or the craft or the work traditions of our industry, spends on research something approaching 1 per cent., not of its profits but of its turnover. There is a very wide gap between 1 per cent. of turnover and three-eighths of 1 per cent. of profits.

Of course, this situation is not confined to wool. I should quickly run myself out of order and be reproved by you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if I quoted any other examples, but perhaps you will allow me to say in half a sentence that the disproportion which I have quoted for wool is paralleled by a large number of other major industries in the country. There again the expenditure on research in other countries is a much greater proportion of turnover, or of profit, or of numbers of people employed, or of yardage, or of lbs. weight of wool spun, or whatever calculation you like, than in this country. I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether I am not right in saying that, even under this new Order the amount of money the British wool textile industry will be spending on research per whatever you like—per worker, per yard, per loom, what you will—will still be very very much less than is spent by those countries with whose products our woollen manufacturers have to compete.

There are two other points that I wish to put to the Parliamentary Secretary about the money which will be raised under this Order, and they both concern the allocation of this money, one as between the different institutions that will receive it and the other as between the different types of research work to which it will be devoted.

The Parliamentary Secretary said that amongst the institutions which will be assisted under this scheme are the establishments of the Wool Research Association, the universities and technical colleges, and he said the great part—I think those were his words—of the money goes to the establishments of the Wool Research Association. I think I am accurate in saying that the overwhelmingly greater part goes to the establishments of the Wool Research Association, and only a much smaller part to the universities and the technical colleges.

Of course, there is a certain pressure, an incentive, to get adequate finance for the Wool Research Association's establishments because, I think I am right in saying, it is not until they get £80,000 a year of their own that they qualify for the £30,000 a year D.S.I.R. grant. The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research is quite right in insisting that its own monetary help to industrial research shall be conditional upon each industry helping itself, and it is quite right to give the industry an incentive properly to give resources to its own research establishments before the D.S.I.R. come along and, so to speak, tops the thing up with an additional grant.

Unfortunately, there is one bad effect arising out of this situation. The fact that there is rather an arbitrary figure which the Wool Research Association has got to reach for its establishments before it qualifies for the D.S.I.R. grant means that the allocation of the money between, on the one hand, the Association's establishments and, on the other hand, the universities and technical colleges is not made on an assessment of which of these institutions can usefully use that money, is not made on an assessment of the forward research programmes of the institutions and an assessment of what money those programmes will require, but it is made frightfully arbitrary by saying, "We have got to give this to the Wool Research Association whether they are in a position to use it well or not so that we get the D.S.I.R. money, and after that the University of Leeds and the technical colleges of the West Riding and elsewhere can have what is left over, after we have given the Research Association enough money to qualify for the D.S.I.R. grant, whether it needs that much money, or wants it or not."

That really is a very great pity because, although I pay very great tribute to the research establishments of the Wool Research Association, which are doing very good work, I do not think anybody with first-hand experience of the work—and I am sure I carry with me in this my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne, who knows a very great deal about it—will dispute that the most forward looking and the most imaginative research work in the industry is not done in the Research Association establishments but in industry. The most useful work in the industry, the most practical immediate work in the industry, the base work of application of research to working methods—that is done most of all in the technical colleges.

I am afraid that what the Wool Research Association does is to fall between two stools. It is neither fundamental, long term, basic, general research; nor is it research on immediate application of known knowledge, the known corpus of knowledge, to the actual work in the factory. Both those two things are very necessary, but as the immediate, short term problem in industry the second is more necessary than the first.

We have almost got to the stage in wool—with the hundreds of years this country has been a great producer of fine woollen cloths—when what we want in the industry is not to get more knowledge by research, but to find out ways of applying more widely the knowledge we have got. That is work being done preeminently in the technical colleges, and the real, fundamental research into the things which condition what the industry will be likely to be doing in 10 or 15 years' time is being done at the universities, and what the Wool Research Association is doing for the most part is some nebulous thing in between those two things.

It is spending too much of its time and money on the unprogrammed, non schematic finding of the answers to ad hoc questions put up to it by manufacturers who are members of the Research Association. The Research Association cannot refuse to give assistance in this direction and to attempt to answer questions that are put un to it by people who are actually subscribers to its funds, and if some manufacturer who finds a snag in his finishing process, or that one of his machines starts to finish a bit squiffy one week and to turn out finishing work that is not standard, and the finishing shop foreman cannot find the answer to it, there is a great temptation to ring up the Research Association and say, "What's wrong with this machine? It is turning out stuff with spots the size of a halfpenny along the selvedge." The Association immediately devotes its mind to it, and to answering such requests for help from its subscribers. I am not saying at all that this is not useful. It is very useful; it has considerable practical effect; but it really does not supply the answer to what are the fundamental problems of the woollen industry.

Therefore, I invite the Parliamentary Secretary to consider the allocation of the money under this Order—and I know that, as a former worker in this House for the universities, and one with knowledge of education and research, I shall strike a chord in him when I invite him to consider the way he is to allocate it under this Order, and how it is going to be spent—whether, in his judgment, starting from a blank sheet of paper, the allocation of this money as between the universities and technical colleges, on the one hand, and the research establishments on the other, is the best way to enable the industry to make the best progress and to enable us to get the best out of it.

The second point I ant to make—and I apologise for talking so long—about allocation I have already touched on, and that is the allocation as between different types of work. We all realise, of course, that the maintenance of quality in the products of this industry is at least as important for the welfare of the industry as it is in the case of any other industry, but, of course, there are other factors which need to be considered as well as the purely qualitative factors—to an increasing extent when the products of our wool mills are meeting price competition in overseas markets; and we have, therefore, got to get, not so much better quality for the same money, so to speak, but the same quality at a lower price.

Therefore, we have to consider operative savings. We cannot do much unilaterally about the price of raw material, and the fundamental difference between the woollen textiles, on the one hand, and other textiles like jute, cotton or synthetic fibres, on the other. In wool a much higher proportion of the cost of the end product consists of raw material costs than it does in the case of any other textile. Therefore, wool is much more than any textile industry at the mercy of the wool fluctuations of world markets, over which at best we have only marginal control.

We have got to help ourselves where it lies within our power to do so, and that is in the field of labour costs. In that field undoubtedly the place where most saving is to be made is in weaving. In the past we have, I believe, concentrated too much on the design and operation of the machine, that is to say, the loom, and far too little to a study of whether we are using the right raw materials in each case for the cloth we want to produce.

One reason why the woollen textile industries are much less efficient than the metal industries, speaking generally, is that in the metal industries raw materials are bought to specification. A manufacturer says, "I want a one inch steel bar of a certain kind," and he figures how much compression strength and hardness that is wanted, the material is specified on that basis. Then it is tested in the store to see if it has those characteristics, and the manufacturer does not pay for it if it has not the characteristics which he ordered. If it has, he can put it in his shop knowing it is going to behave in the way he planned. He knows the degree of skill that is going to be required to handle that article, because he knows the material—if I may use a factory phrase—will not get up on its hind legs and behave awkwardly.

It is much more difficult to do that with a natural raw material or vegetable material, like wool or cotton, than it is with a mineral material like steel, but within certain limits it is possible to certify materials. A manufacturer knows that if a given cloth is to be woven on a loom which is exerting a given tension, he wants a yarn of this much strength and certainly no less because it will break and mending the breaks will cost money, and certainly no more, because if it is too high a quality he is paying more for the raw materials than that particular cloth happens to need.

I believe that here there is an enormous field of research for the research establishments. In a very humble way I have been doing a little myself, and I have tried to apply to this standardisation and specification of yarn some of the statistical techniques of quality control that are used in industries like engineering and the manufacture of electric lamps. This is a large-scale job, and I should like to think that something like one-third of the money we are here asked for in this Order was going to be devoted over the next year or two to study along those lines, because I am quite satisfied that if the Parliamentary Secretary asks he will find that many people agree that it is in this direction that the next significant advance will have to be made in increasing efficiency in the operation of weaving woollen cloth.

That is the sort of thing that is scarcely being done at all. Either there are people doing large-scale, long-term fundamental research, or those concerned on how para- sites in a sheep's back will affect one's fifth process in finishing for dyeing a year later. That is all very pretty, and interesting in an academic way, but it is not of immediate concern. Or, there are people answering ad hoc questions on matters popping up in one factory, or on one particular machine, which are not duplicated anywhere else for a long time, if at all.

We need a better programme of woollen industry research through the Wool Research Association's establishments, but I believe that it lies particularly in the universities; to a lesser extent in the technical colleges, where we shall find a capacity for doing a programme of that sort in the shape of a really schematic piece of research in wool textiles.

I know that the Parliamentary Secretary would be dealing with autonomous bodies, jealous of their own independence, and jealous of what he might suggest but he is a persuasive, as well as an honourable Gentleman, and if he devoted his mind to these matters he could, without interfering with the plans of anybody, persuade these authorities to have a look at this matter. I beg of him to make a first-hand study of the subject and see if he does not, as a result, reach something like the conclusions which, in all humility, I have endeavoured to put before him.

10.47 p.m.

Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)

I am sure the House is grateful for the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo), with which I agree, and to which I would add that the matter becomes the concern of Oldham. With unemployment existing there in the one textile industry, and while the only alternative industry within practical reach has large-scale unemployment, one point on which I find myself in some agreement with him is when he says that this Order is born in tragedy and less money is being spent on research than before. The widespread unemployment means that there is less revenue for research in times of increasing difficulties.

Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)

The revenue is not based on employment or unemployment, but on the units in the industry.

Mr. Hale

The levy has been increased because of the unemployment, as I understand it; the levy per person has been increased to give the same revenue. But we are glad to hear the view of the hon. Member, although I must point out to him that the figures seem to be different from last year.

It is a major disaster that, in the north of England, where prosperity has been built largely on textiles, but which has also endured long periods of unemployment, that there should be an affliction spreading over both industries concurrently, with the sufferings of each added to by the lack of alternatives. After all, this is of immediate concern to Oldham; for, from its main street, one can see the beginning of the area represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman); although perhaps the Colne Valley area is a little nearer; and it is the home of the woollen industry.

My hon. Friend the Member for Reading, South made the point that the cost of the raw material in the woollen textile industry is relatively the highest of any industry in comparison with final production costs. That is the major disaster of both textile industries, for in both the cost of the raw material is abnormally high compared with the price of the finished product. Therefore, when we look at the history of the last five or six years, it is surprising that every time we have talked about bilateral treaties or the planning of purchases to get a stable price, we have had sneers from hon. Members opposite, who have managed to introduce widespread unemployment in the industry within the course of a few months.

It is a great tragedy that the restriction of credit policy of the Chancellor has helped to aggravate this serious question in both industries at the same time. That, couplied with the change of economic policy, has brought tragic results to Lancashire and Yorkshire and is causing widespread difficulties.

As I understand the Order, this levy is purely for scientific research and does not cover market research. But market research is fundamental, especially in view of the abolition of the British Export Trade Research Organisation, which was trying to do something—perhaps not as much as was hoped—in that connection. The Cotton Board has done a great deal for the cotton textile industry, but so far as I know there is now no one looking after this vitally important subject of research in the woollen industry.

That becomes vital when we read that textile organisers in Lancashire and Yorkshire are now, in desperation, advising workers to seek employment in some other industry. It is a great tragedy, but none who has seen what has happened over the last few months can fail to see that such advice can be given honestly and seriously. The first duty of the Board of Trade at this time is to look into the question of market research.

My hon. Friend gave figures that surprised me. He suggested that in U.S.A. something like 1 per cent. of turnover is being invested in general research; in this country it is, I believe, three-eighths of 1 per cent. of the profits. Certainly none can question that we are very far behind competing countries in this respect, and indeed far behind countries that can compete on relatively favourable terms because they have the raw materials more readily available and more control over purchasing price. These are very grave matters to which the Parliamentary Secretary, I hope, will give attention tonight.

The grave question that confronts Lancashire and Yorkshire today is. Are these people to stay at their work and hope conditions will change for the better, when most people are prophesying they will change for the worse; or are they to start that miserable trek from north to south, looking for work, which occurred in years gone by?

When the magnitude of the problem is considered, it is amazing that tonight we should be discussing so small a palliative as a modest variation of the amount to be invested in purely scientific research in the wool industry. Since we are within a few days of the termination of the Sittings of this House—and I am sorry we are rising for August, September, and part of October at a time when many people out of work feel we ought to be studying their problems and trying to find remedies for the disastrous situation—I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will take the opportunity of telling us something of what the Government's plans are for the woollen and cotton textile indus- tries, what is their policy, and what are their expectation. Let him at least give some advice to those people who are waiting for it.

My hon. Friend has fairly said that very much work in pure scientific research, both in wool and cotton, is being done at the universities. The Woollen Research Organisation, which gets, after all, only a modest grant out of this levy, is pursuing a more limited field of research. The question of market research is perhaps the most important of all. I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to say whether anyone is conducting widespread market research on behalf of the industry; whether there is anyone trying to anticipate the needs of the world today and, indeed, trying, I hope—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hopkin Morris)

The hon. Member has touched upon this before. I cannot see how it arises on this Order, though the question of scientific research does.

Mr. Hale

It arises in this way. We are being asked to pass an Order which provides for a levy for woollen industry research. I am asking the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us how that money will be apportioned; how much will be spent on scientific research; how much on market research; how much on export research; how much on the production of raw materials, and so on. Clearly such a levy can cover every aspect of the trade. I express a slight apprehension that it does not cover every aspect, and that we ought to know how much is being allocated to each.

There is a final point. The Orders made on this matter by the previous Government were mandatory. They provided penalties for breach and penalties for people who did not co-operate to the full. So far as I am aware, no proceedings have ever been taken by this Government or the last in respect of a breach of any of these Orders. I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to say what is the amount of co-operation that he is getting; how many times investigations have taken place, whether by his Department or by the Director of Public Prosecutions, into breaches; and how many times proceedings have been taken.

It would help the House to say whether the industry is co-operating fully in this provision of research and whether the levies are being paid without difficulty. It would also assist if we knew whether the hon. and learned Gentleman was getting from the industry that co-operation which, in its present state, is absolutely vital if we are to maintain any hope of prosperity.

10.57 p.m.

Mr. H. Strauss

I wish to say a few words in courtesy to the hon. Gentlemen who have spoken. My predecessor in office, who welcomed this Order, suggested that there might be a case for revising the whole basis. I do not think that it would be in order to discuss that now, but what he said will be noted. I promise that that will be considered.

The hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton) asked for details of the figures. The figures he quoted were right, as far as they went. For the last half year, the figure is the amount which has so far been collected. I have no doubt that that represents the bulk.

While I am on the question of figures, I might mention a point made by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale). He was under a slight misapprehension when he said that as a result of this Order less money would be spent on research than before. More money for research is contemplated as a result of this Order though, of course, if the basis of computation had remained exactly the same, an even greater improvement might have been effected by the alteration of the rate.

The hon. Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Mr. Pryde) asked about Scotland. Scotland is within the Order. The Order applies to Great Britain, and the representative body on the Council is the National Association of Scottish Woollen Manufacturers. The hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo), to whose interesting speech I listened carefully, asked me various questions with only some of which I can deal. He attacked me for the expression "employment unit", being apparently under the impression that what that meant was an employee. But, of course, it does not mean that. The hon. Gentleman will find the definition in sub-paragraph 3 of article 4 of the original Order, and when he studies that he will see that there is good reason for the use of that expression.

The hon. Member also asked me if I could give a comparison of the amounts spent in research in other countries. I cannot give that comparison tonight, but I can tell him that the £100,000 that the Research Association gets to attract a grant from the Department of Industrial and Scientific Research, together with that grant, is calculated by these bodies to suffice for the excellent programme they have in mind. He made suggestions about the allocation between institutions and between forms of research, but as he will understand the determination of that matter is not for the Board of Trade, but for the organisation to whom the money is handed over. There are a great variety of researches being made, from the breeding of sheep to machinery, but they are all scientific research.

Another matter on which I was asked a direct question was why the revision made in this amending Order was wholly on the employment unit and not on the other part of the calculation. I think it was the hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston, South who asked the question, but the answer is simple. It was the request of both sides of the industry, the employers and the trade unions. I think that has answered the main questions, and I hope that the House will now give approval to an Order which has been proposed, and is desired, by both sides of this industry, and to which my predecessor in office—the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne—who has great knowledge of this industry, has given his approval.

Mr. Hale

The hon. and learned Gentleman did not reply to my question whether there is any market research going on.

Mr. Pryde

I wonder if the hon. and learned Gentleman would answer the second part of my question, which was to inquire whether it was true that the Scottish section of this industry had only one representative on the Wool Board.

Mr. Strauss

I gave the name of the Scottish representative on the Council.

Mr. Shackleton

Would the hon. and learned Gentleman clarify one point about the employment unit? He will recall that there was an interruption by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir William Darling), who said that this had nothing to do with the numbers employed in the industry, but the Parliamentary Secretary has still not answered the question whether the decline in money is caused by a decline in employment and a consequent decline in the amount of wool used.

Mr. Strauss

If the hon. Gentleman will examine the principal Order he will find that the amount of the levy depends on two things, the employment unit and the materials. No doubt there has been some decline in each, explained by the decline in trade. To give one set of figures, that part of the levy which came last year from what I might call the employment unit was £70,000, and that from the supply and consumption of fibre was £44,000. The amount so far collected in the first six months of this year is £31,000, under the heading of employment unit, and £17,000 under the heading of supply and consumption of fibre.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved: That the Draft Wool Textile Industry (Scientific Research Levy) (Amendment) Order, 1952, a copy of which was laid before this House on 14th July, be approved.