HC Deb 15 March 1976 vol 907 cc913-5
4. Mr. Sims

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what progress his Department has made in the consideration of the antidumping applications made by the paper industry in respect of imports from Eastern Europe, Spain, Portugal, Brazil and Switzerland.

18. Mr. Kilroy-Silk

asked the Secretary of State for Trade when he expects to complete his consideration of the British Paper and Board Industry Federation's application for anti-dumping action against imports of paper from Eastern Europe, Spain, Brazil and Switzerland.

Mr. Deakins

We are awaiting further information from the industry. As soon

by the measures already taken by the present Government in assisting the industry—and, above all, through the increased efforts of all those employed in the industry.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

How many of the 452,000 imported cars were from Common Market countries, and has the trade balance in cars from Europe improved or worsened since we joined the EEC?

Mr. Shore

Many more cars are from EEC countries than from Japan. The balance of our EEC trade in completed cars has declined quite dramatically since we joined the EEC. It is a very disturbing trend.

Mr. Alexander Wilson

Will the Secretary of State accept the strictures placed on British Leyland's deplorable after-sales service? Why cannot the company give a two-year guarantee on new motor cars?

Mr. Shore

I am sure that British Leyland is conscious of the deficiencies in certain aspects of its manufacture and sales service, but I have every reason to believe that the new management will give most urgent consideration to all these problems.

Following are the figures:

as this is received, we shall give it immediate consideration.

Mr. Sims

I am grateful for that reply. Is the Minister aware that, often, five weeks elapse between the arrival of cargoes in this country and customs returns being available? Will he accept that more rapid action is necessary to establish that dumping has taken place? Without such action, is there not bound to be increased unemployment in British paper mills?

Mr. Deakins

Presumably the hon. Gentleman has a constituency interest in this subject, and the figures relate to possible imports in 1976 rather than actual imports in 1974 and 1975, when there was a very small market penetration indeed. We have to await evidence of firm orders because under the GATT code we are prohibited from taking action on grounds merely of allegation, conjecture or remote possibility.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Is the Minister aware that these imports have almost destroyed British industry and have led to a total of 20,000 redundancies in the last six years? Will he accept that there is a case for imposing quotas in attempting to stimulate far more use of our own resources, and will he consider providing loans to British industry for capital re-equipment?

Mr. Deakins

The latter point made by my hon. Friend is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry. As for the first part of his supplementary question, I remind him that the anti-dumping application relates to three particular categories of paper—printing, writing and duplicating, and packaging. Imports of those papers in 1975 were a very low percentage of total imports in the market, and on the basis of the 1975 figures there is no case showing material injury. Nevertheless, we shall await evidence of firm orders for 1976. I assure the industry and the House that we are ready to take action if necessary.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Does the Minister recognise that not only have 20,000 jobs been lost but a good many mills have closed? Although I appreciate that this must be a matter of evidence and proof, based on specific allegations, does not the Minister agree that the paper-making industry is in a vulnerable position and that, because it deals with relatively small volumes of material, dumping could be of significant importance?

Mr. Deakins

The paper and board industry generally is a substantial export earner. We should not want to see it damaged by dumped or subsidised imports. We are aware of the industry's concern and we have had considerable correspondence in respect of it. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade met the manufacturers' representatives of the trade federation and also the unions concerned—SOGAT and the Transport and General Workers Union—on 27th January.