HC Deb 10 April 1962 vol 657 cc1124-5
28. Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan

asked the President of the Board of Trade what proposals he has by way of reducing tariffs to produce more competition in the man-made fibres industry.

Sir K. Joseph

Tariffs are being progressively reduced within E.F.T.A. If we enter the European Economic Community our tariffs against the other members will be progressively dismantled. Negotiations for the reduction of tariffs are still proceeding in the G.A.T.T. All of these affect man-made fibres to a greater or lesser extent.

The Board of Trade is also always ready to consider applications from representative bodies of users for reductions in the duties on these goods.

Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan

Is my hon. Friend aware that that is not the point, which is that there is a complete monopoly in most of these man-made fibres? Does he think that it is right that man-made fibres should be given this protection, vis-à-vis the natural fibres, most of which receive no protection?

Sir K. Joseph

I can only repeat that whether we go into Europe or not, there is going to be an increasing amount of competition for these goods in the years to come.

Sir C. Osborne

Since I.C.I. has a monopoly in this country of the supply of the basic raw materials for making man-made fibres, and that is the key to the whole position, will my hon. Friend look into the matter again to see that the protection which they now get is either justified or taken away?

Sir K. Joseph

In all these cases to which I referred, we are now negotiating or discussing alterations in the tariff, and I think that my hon. Friend should await the results of these discussions.

Mr. Holt

Will not the hon. Gentleman differentiate between industries which are monopolies and industries which are not? Will he accept as a matter of principle, at least, prima facie, that no industry which is a monopoly should have tariff protection?

Sir K. Joseph

This does not exactly arise from the Question, but we have to face the fact that in this country the law is that a monopoly is objectionable only when it abuses its position. If representative users wish to make a case to my right hon. Friend that there has been an abuse of the position, the machinery is there for him to take some action.