HC Deb 11 July 1961 vol 644 cc181-3
8. Sir A. Hurd

asked the President of the Board of Trade to what extent it is his policy, in reaching a decision to take action under the Customs Duties (Dumping and Subsidies) Act, 1957, to await formal applications for an antidumping duty by representatives of established industry in the United Kingdom threatened with material injury; and if this consideration was responsible for the delay in dealing with dumped supplies of barley from Russia and France.

Mr. Maudling

Before taking action under the Customs Duties (Dumping and Subsidies) Act, 1957 the Board of Trade must be satisfied that dumped or subsidised imports are causing or threatening material injury to an industry. Evidence of material injury can normally come only from the industry, to whom I must look for some initiative in providing it.

Sir A. Hurd

My right hon. Friend says that evidence must normally come from the industry. Presumably this does not mean exclusively from the industry. While I appreciate very much what he has done to stop the dumping of Russian and French barley, may I ask whether it was necessary to wait for as long as from last October to take action? Cannot we speed up and streamline all this anti-dumping procedure?

Mr. Maudling

I am always ready to consider suggestions for speeding up our procedure, but I think that we must stick to the statutory provisions, which are that there must be evidence of material injury to industry. I think that we can rightly assume that if an industry is suffering injury it will be able to give us evidence of it.

24. Mr. Bullard

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the undue lowering of farm commodity prices as a result of dumping from overseas which results in a higher level of Government expenditure on the farm price guarantees, he will introduce legislation to amend the Customs Duties (Dumping and Subsidies) Act, 1957, so as to remove the burden of the proof of dumping from the home producers of food, since the evidence of dumping is in each case already available in his Department.

Mr. Maudling

No, Sir. Before action can be taken under the Customs Duties (Dumping and Subsidies) Act, 1957, the Board of Trade must establish not only that dumping or subsidisation is taking place but that this is causing or threatening material injury to a domestic industry and that action would be in the national interest. It would not be in accordance with our international obligations to disregard the criterion of actual or threatened material injury to an industry, and it is reasonable that the industry which believes itself subject to such injury, actual or threatened, should be required to take the initiative in applying for action to be taken and establishing a prima facie case. When a prima facie case of dumping or subsidy and injury has been established, the Board is always ready to make the further detailed inquiries that are needed before a case for taking action under the legislation can be made out. But it would be impracticable for the Board of Trade to provide itself as a matter of routine in all possible cases with information that would indicate the existence of dumping or subsidisation.

Mr. Bullard

Would my right hon. Friend agree that it is very difficult indeed for producers to establish their case, particularly in regard to trade with Iron Curtain countries, where State trading is involved in the case of the other party to the transaction? In any case, in regard to review commodities, is it not the Treasury and the taxpayer who suffer from the dumping, and ought not the Government therefore to be very much on the look-out for cases where dumping may be occurring, without going through this rather long and involved procedure of getting information from producers, which they, in their turn, find it very difficult to get without access to my right hon. Friend's Department itself?

Mr. Maudling

On the first point, I agree that it is difficult to get information, particularly in the case of Iron Curtain countries. We are very glad to do what we can as quickly as we can in every case. On the second point, I must make it clear that the Act empowers me to take action only where there is evidence of injury to an industry. The Act was very deliberately drawn at the time and approved by the House, and this is in accordance with our international obligations. I have no power to take action unless there is some evidence of injury to an industry.

Mr. Turton

Is it not clear from the Answers of my right hon. Friend that the time has come to amend the Act of 1957 because it is not effectively stopping dumping?

Mr. Maudling

I doubt that. It is a wider question. At the moment, I can only operate the powers available to me. I believe that the House was right to limit them in the way they were limited in the Act of 1957. We must look at the matter not merely in the interests of our own producers, which are of immense importance, but in the light of our general interest as international traders.