HC Deb 17 December 1979 vol 976 cc18-20
22. Mr. Montgomery

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what was the outcome of the survey that the Minister for Consumer Affairs instigated with the National Union of Townswomen's Guilds and the Women's Institutes on origin marking.

26. Mr. Crouch

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what progress his Department has made in its review of the need for cutlery to be marked with its country of origin.

Mrs. Sally Oppenheim

I am considering the interesting results of the origin marking surveys carried out for me by the National Union of Townswomen's Guilds and by the National Consumer Council as part of my review of policy in this area. Cutlery was among the items included in these surveys. I shall make a statement to the House announcing my intentions in due course. The Women's Institutes were not involved in this exercise.

Mr. Montgomery

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if origin marking is undertaken it should be for consumer protection rather than for trade protection?

Mrs. Oppenheim

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Origin marking has attracted a considerable amount of interest and attention in recent years. I considered it desirable to have two independent surveys reflecting a broad range of views to help me in reaching my decision. The main purpose of those surveys was to discover not just whether consumers wanted to see the country of origin displayed on the goods they purchased but whether they needed this information to exercise their choice in an informed manner. I think that both surveys point to that conclusion.

Mr. Crouch

Does my right hon. Friend realise that there are many consumers in this country who want to buy British and would like to see "Made in Sheffield" displayed more prominently on more products available for purchase?

Mrs. Oppenheim

Yes, I am aware of that. I am equally aware, as a result of the surveys that have been carried out, that buy-British is not the only motive that prompts consumers to want origin marking. They sometimes want to know the country of origin in order not to exercise that choice.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Why was the Minister so selective in the people whom she asked to give her information? As she carefully ignored at least three other major women's organisations which complained to her, will she please, when looking at the problem of country of origin marking, ensure that EEC countries must also mark their goods?

Mrs. Oppenheim

I am not aware that any other women's organisations made approaches to me on this matter before I referred it to the National Union of Townswomen's Guilds and the National Consumer Council. In fact, I sought the opinions of more people on this matter than any Government have ever done before, as I considered it an important problem.

Mr. Marlow

As many people think that they are buying British cars, although they are buying cars which look like British cars but are made in foreign manufacturing plants, will my right hon. Friend consider introducing a system under which, if British manufacturers bring in vehicles from their overseas plants, such vehicles are marked with a plate showing the country of origin?

Mrs. Oppenheim

I propose to enter into more detailed discussion than has hitherto been possible on the whole question of origin marking.

Mr. Stoddart

Is it true that suits are being imported from Romania into Germany, where they are then relabeled and imported into this country outside the scope of the import restrictions?

Mrs. Oppenheim

I understand that that is not correct. There is a similar question down for answer on the Order Paper later.

Mr. John Fraser

Has the right hon. Lady considered the problem of cutlery blanks coming in from the Far East, being plated in Sheffield and sold to the British public, creating the impression that they are British-produced? Will she make a definition order under the Trade Descriptions Act to ensure that there are foreign origin markings on this type of item?

Mrs. Oppenheim

I gave particular consideration to that problem. The question of silver plating of cutlery blanks made elsewhere will not be excluded from any further action that I propose to take in this matter.

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