The End of an Industry
A petition was organised, and, signed by the workers affected by the Birtwistle closures, taken to Downing Street by local Textile Trade Federation leaders. The Prime Minister replied that immediate attention would be given to the appeal, but before a reply could be received the closure of Audley Hall Mill was decided upon by Eli Heyworth's, a fresh batch of petition forms were sent to the Prime Minister. Sixty more workers lost their jobs when Gordon Mill closed down in December. A pressure group, the Textile Industry Support Campaign, led by Mr. Edmund Gartside of Royton, produced a booklet, "The death of textiles".
One of the things worrying the textile workers and employers was what would happen in 1972, when quotas for textiles imports into Britain were replaced by a tariff. Imports already stood at 53 per cent of home consumption, and the fear was that this figure would be exceeded. As a result of the petition and action by Mr. Gartside's group it was announced that quotas would remain after January, 1972. In October, 1972, new quota restrictions were worked out, polyester-cotton sheets imported from the Far East. 1973 was a better trading year, but the end of the year was affected by an energy crisis. Petroleum, the basis of man-made fibres, was quadrupled in price, and supplies even at these new prices were uncertain.
In January 1975, the number of textile workers in Blackburn was around 6,000. At the end of the month, 2,000 were temporarily laid off, and other mills were working short time. Blackburn Textile Trades Federation drew up a fresh petition to be presented to the Prime Minister, on February 12th. At the same time Mr. Joe King, Joint General Secretary of the Amalgamated Textile Workers Union was accompanying a deputation from Rossendale. Mr. King said the situation was so serious that the industry could collapse completely with a loss of 70,000 jobs. Imports were coming from Brazil, India, Hong Kong, Pakistan, South Korea, and Taiwan.
Blackburn's deputation arrived in London on F ebruary 12th. They wanted a Government inquiry into the industry, and the reasons for the slump; the Government to purchase Lancashire cloth for internal use in Government Departments; and to know what reciprocal trading agreements existed with Taiwan and other countries. However, nothing concrete emerged from all these petitions and meetings. More Blackburn mills closed down during the year. As late as October, 1976, Union leaders were still trying, unsuccessfully, to get the imports restricted to forty per cent of home consumption.
THE COUNTRY'S BREAD NO LONGER HANGS BY LANCASHIRE'S THREAD.