HC Deb 13 November 1972 vol 846 cc171-4

10.27 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Peter Emery)

I beg to move. That the Anti-Dumping Duty (No. 2) Order 1972 (S.I., 1972, No. 1371), dated 7th September 1972, a copy of which was laid before this House on 13th September, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved. The order, which was made under the Customs Duties (Dumping and Subsidies) Act, 1969, imposed an anti-dumping duty of £2,250 per machine on machines for wrapping sweets, machines which originated in East Germany, and it operated from 14th September 1972.

The anti-dumping action which we have taken follows a thorough investigation by the Department in response to an anti-dumping application submitted by the sole United Kingdom manufacturer of comparable machines. Our investigation established that the East German machines were dumped by reference to the price paid for imports of similar machines from Italy, after adjustments had been made to allow for differences in performance of the machines imported from these two sources.

The House will realise that the 1969 Act allows us to use this method of assessing dumping in the case of imports from State-trading countries when satisfactory information cannot be obtained about their domestic prices. We were also satisfied, after thorough investigation of the position of the British producers by our professional accountants, that the dumping had caused material injury and threatened to cause further material injury to the British industry.

In the light of these findings and after considering representations from importers and users of these machines, we concluded that it was in the national interest to impose the duty. I therefore invite the House to approve the order.

10.30 p.m.

Mr. Roy Mason (Barnsley)

I am obliged to the Minister for that brief explanation of the order. Perhaps I might ask him two or three questions about it.

The first concerns the method of investigation. Can the hon. Gentleman explain how long it took his Department to complete its investigation? When was the material injury to the company concerned put forward to the Department? Secondly, how many machines were entering the country? This anti-dumping duty of £2,250 per machine should be really effective. We ought also to know what relationship £2,250 bears to the total cost of a machine. The hon. Gentleman might reveal the identity of the sole British manufacturer who has proved to the Department that he has suffered material injury.

On the general question, the Department of Trade and Industry must be more vigilant in observing the numbers and types of products coming into this country from Eastern Europe, where the system of trading is quite different from our own, where there is State monopoly and State control of products, and where there is obvious State subsidy involved. The Minister has rights and powers under the Customs Duties (Dumping and Subsidies) Act, 1969, especially in Section 4 (4).

The hon. Gentleman must be aware that apart from this specific example—it is quite a rare one, since there cannot be many machines involved and since the anti-dumping duty is unusually high—his Department has been asked on many occasions by other manufacturers and firms to use his powers under the Act to stop the dumping of other products. Polish coal has been pouring into Britain since he raised the ban on coal imports. The National Union of Mineworkers and the National Coal Board have protested vigorously and often at the way that subsidised exports are coming to Britain, undermining our own industry and creating havoc in coal sales. Those imports should have been stopped some time ago. The hon. Gentleman's attention has also been drawn to the flood of imports of shoes from Eastern Europe, about which the British Shoe Manufacturers Federation has complained bitterly. In the first three months of this year 2 million pairs of shoes came into Britain, and they are now causing material injury to our own trade.

I mention those two examples, without going too far out of order, to let the Minister know that, apart from these sweet-wrapping machines from East Germany, there are subsidised exports from Eastern Europe coming in on a vast scale, that repeated representations have been made to him, and that it is about time that the Government responded to those representations.

10.34 p.m.

Mr. Emery

Perhaps I might try to answer some of the questions posed by the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason).

The right hon. Gentleman asked me specifically about the time scale. The application was made by Rose Forgrove Limited in February, 1972. I do not believe that there can be any accusation of delay in this matter. Bearing in mind the unusualness of the investigation which had to be carried out, the Department moved with commendable rapidity. In fact, the order was laid in the middle of September. Having been a Minister at the Department, the right hon. Gentleman will know from experience the need for the closest examination of the facts of a case. I am certain that he does not mean to imply that an investigation should not be thorough and complete to ensure that an anti-dumping order is properly adduced and correct in its application.

The right hon. Gentleman asked how we made this assessment. I mentioned earlier that it had been carried out by our professional accountants. They examined the information provided in confidence concerning sales, costs and profits of the company concerned over a 2½-year period. It was clear from this examination that there had been definite damage to the trading potential. It was our view that this damage would continue unless the Department acted.

I reject the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that we need to be more vigilant. My hon. Friend the Minister for Industry and I are only too well aware of some of the suggestions that have been made in regard to Polish coal, but we must always consider the whole industry. There are instances when there is a need to import certain types of coal to benefit British mining by providing a mix of coal for coking or other purposes.

Although I would not say that we never make mistakes, the Department tries to ensure not only that there is an investigation but that constant vigilance is maintained on any allegation or complaint affecting a British producer, particularly when it concerns the dumping of goods coming from a State-run industrial structure operating entirely different methods from our own.

The proof in this case that the Department is alive to its responsibility is that between February and September the objection was lodged, the application granted, we consulted, and we were able to take parliamentary action and deal with the matter rapidly.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Anti-Dumping Duty (No. 2) Order 1972 (S.I., 1972, No. 1371), dated 7th September 1972, a copy of which was laid before this House on 13th September, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.

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