HC Deb 13 March 1978 vol 946 cc3-4
2. Mr. Fry

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what representations he has received from shoe importers or others to relax current controls of imports of footwear; and if he will make a statement.

The Under-Secretary of State for Trade (Mr. Michael Meacher)

I have received some written representations from importers and I met representatives of the British Importers Confederation. The Government are satisfied that the action taken to restrain imports was necessary to safeguard the United Kingdom industry from disruption.

Mr. Fry

I thank the Minister for his reply. Will he confirm that the British footwear industry plays a very important part, not only in exporting but also in import substitution, and therefore fully deserves to be protected against dumping and unfair competition? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes. In fact, its labour relations record is so good that it certainly needs protection more than other industries, such as the motor industry, in which labour relations are bad.

Mr. Meacher

I confirm the importance of the footwear industry and the jobs in it and the determination of the Government to ensure fair trading practices and to protect the footwear industry—and, indeed, any other industries—from dumping or unfair practices.

Mr. John Garrett

My hon. Friend will be aware that the recent report of the footwear study group, on which Conservative as well as Labour Members of Parliament served, proposed that there should be planning agreements between the Government and large retail footwear distributors who import many of their needs. In view of all-party support for planning agreements, in this case aimed at protecting footwear industry jobs, will my hon. Friend promise some action in the near future?

Mr. Meacher

Along with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry, we in the Department are anxious to extend the coverage of planning agreements. With that in mind, we have recently had discussions with various distributors. I hope that as a result there will be closer collaboration between manufacturers and retailers in this industry.

Mr. Michael Morris

Is the Minister aware that there is an improved trade balance on footwear and that the industry recognises the role played by the Government in taking action against dumping? But, recognising that the industry is putting its own house in order, do the Government think that the time has come when the British Overseas Trade Board must be a little more generous in its attitude towards footwear exports and assistance to footwear exporters?

Mr. Meacher

I am not sure to what the hon. Gentleman is referring. The BOTB gives full assistance to footwear exporters. If he is referring to the fact that there are high tariffs in certain developing countries, he can be assured that we are making the strongest representations that we can through the Commission in the multilateral trade negotiations to get unfairly high tariffs reduced and better reciprocation.

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