I am very glad, Ladies and Gentlemen, to have the opportunity of coming to Bradford on this occasion because, apart from anything else, I was so concerned about the fact that wool had reached such an incredibly low price and in many ways it was not worth producing. To me the ultimate horror came when I discovered that they had actually started to produce a new breed of sheep called Easy Care, which you didn’t need to shear. I thought, “Enough is enough.”
I felt it might be worth bringing together, round a table, all the people involved in this sector. Together we looked at whether it might be possible to start a Campaign to remind people of the absolute essential importance of wool - one of Nature’s great gifts. It has so many advantages in terms of sustainability and durability. Being a natural fibre it has natural fire retardant properties, unlike the man made fibres which so often, when in a fire situation, cause untold damage and toxic fumes, often causing terrible burns. So there are huge advantages about wool that have been forgotten, it seemed to me. What I am so thrilled about is that at last people are beginning to realise this.
We have got such an enormous amount of support from the wool marketing board and now from the all over the world, with the Australians and the New Zealanders seeing the point at once. In fact the New Zealand Minister for Agriculture came to see me the other day because he was so pleased about the way in which the Campaign was going. And one of the things which has given me particular encouragement is that the price of wool has already gone up by some 80%, I hope we can maintain this trend. It is so important to have everybody working together in a co-operative way, which I think perhaps has been lacking up until now.
And of course Bradford is absolutely crucial in all this. Bradford is the centre for wool textiles. So I am thrilled to have this opportunity to come and see where it all happens; the scourers and the combers and the weavers and the spinners - all the people who really have made this city great. And on whose success and ingenuity and skill so much has been created, probably this city hall would never have been built had it not been for the essential importance of the textile sector. So what I am hoping is that we can bring some of this back to life again, remind people of its great importance for the future. These things are timeless.
Already I have heard that certain companies have taken on more staff and are having to invest in more machinery – I am going to visit one of the companies later on today. So nothing could give me greater pleasure than to see the broadening of this Campaign. Following this very successful wool week in October, when a certain number of sheep were let loose in Saville Row, next year the Campaign will move into other valuable international markets including Japan, Korea, the United States of America, Italy, Germany, Scandinavia, Spain, New Zealand and Australia. I was so keen to come to Bradford to make this particular announcement as, of course, Bradford is the home of the wool industry and no history of the city of Bradford is complete without understanding its impact on the economy. In recent years I know wool has been of less importance and Bradford has suffered as a result. So, Ladies and Gentlemen, I can only pray that this Campaign for Wool will go some way at least to ensuring that wool is a crucial part of your future and many others in this country.