HC Deb 07 June 1976 vol 912 cc908-10
24. Mr. Shersby

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what progress is being made by his Department in dealing with anti-dumping applications in respect of imported textiles from the Far East and elsewhere.

Mr. Meacher

We have currently five applications in respect of imported textiles. An anti-dumping duty on ladies' rubberised raincoats from Hong Kong was imposed on 21st May. Investigation of polyester fibre from Romania is well advanced and an announcement will be made shortly. Other cases concern men's suits from Eastern Europe and PVC coated fabrics from Hungary. In both of these, investigations are in hand but further information is awaited from the industries concerned. The fifth application relates to Austrian rayon yarn. My Department is in touch with the industry on this.

Mr. Shersby

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, although the House will be glad to know that these applications are in hand, very considerable concern is still being expressed both inside the House and outside about the time that is taken to deal with these applications? Will he say why, for example, it took 11 months and cost £100,000 to deal with the dumping of ladies' raincoats from Hong Kong, and what steps is he taking to speed up the process?

Mr. Meacher

In all of these cases we can take action only if the necessary information is provided by the industry. Although many industries provide information accurately, many do not and extremely detailed information is required to be obtained by the Department. Where, however, there is a danger of damage in the meantime whilst an investigation proceeds, provisional charges to duty can be and are imposed.

Mr. Cryer

Does my hon. Friend agree that the legislation about dumping is very slack? Does he not think that it would help if much tighter legislation were introduced so that there were not all these delays and direct help could be given much more rapidly to industries such as the textile industry, which has been suffering badly from cheap dumped imports?

Mr. Meacher

Where accurate information is provided, early action is taken and in a number of cases anti-dumping action is taken within a few months. Where there is damage in the meantime, provisional charges to duty can be imposed. If my hon. Friend has suggestions about improving the legislation, I hope that he will let me have them.

Mr. Hoyle

Might it not be better to follow the example of countries such as Japan and put the onus in relation to dumping on the importer so that, until he could prove that he was not dumping, his goods would be held up at the docks?

Mr. Meacher

I have already discussed this matter with my hon. Friend and have asked him for specific information about how that scheme operates, because we in the Department do not have any hard information that this is so.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

The Minister said that he relies on the trade to provide the information. Does he not recollect that his right hon. Friend said only a few weeks ago that in future the Government would not adopt a neutral attitude but would themselves provide the information as well as the trade providing it?

Mr. Meacher

In practice, the information is gathered to a large degree by the Department in co-operation with the industry. Because some industries are inexperienced, the Department is highly influential. It is very difficult to obtain information about ex-factory prices in some countries, but advantage is taken of information supplied by posts overseas.

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