HC Deb 17 December 1979 vol 976 cc11-2
15. Mr. Sims

asked the Secretary of State for Trade in which countries there remain non-tariff barriers which impede the import of Scotch whisky; and what steps he is taking to have these barriers removed.

Mr. Parkinson

There are non-tariff barriers against the import of Scotch whisky in many developing and some developed countries. The implementation of the agreements reached in the multilateral trade negotiations should result in a major reduction in barriers in North America, and proceedings are being undertaken in the European Court against a number of alleged discriminatory practices in EEC countries.

Mr. Sims

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware that the structure of the liquor tax as distinct from the import tariff on whisky and the structure of tax on liquor generally in Japan is such that a relatively small increase in the trade price or a relatively small change in the exchange rate may mean that a commodity such as Scotch whisky falls into a far higher bracket and is penalised? Is my hon. Friend satisfied with the negotiations that have taken place on this matter between the EEC and the Japanese Government, bearing in mind that this problem impinges particularly on Scotch whisky, which is an important part of our export trade to Japan?

Mr. Parkinson

As part of the multilateral trade negotiations the Japanese have agreed to a number of cuts in their tariffs, which will help whisky, but through the EEC we are pressing them to relax further controls, because—I agree with my hon. Friend—the Japanese are discriminating, and will be even after the cuts, against an important British export.

Mr. Dalyell

What would be the Government's advice to a meeting taking place in Glasgow today among the trade unions concerned about the bulk export of Scotch whisky to Japan? Have the Government any thoughts on this matter?

Mr. Parkinson

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the EDC on Scotch whisky considered this matter and came to the conclusion that it would be against the interests of the industry to prohibit the export of bulk whisky, and the Government have taken that advice.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Will the Minister recognise that his Government are extremely lax, as their predecessors were, in defending the interests of the Scotch whisky industry, in view of the contribution to the home Exchequer and the important part which the export of Scotch whisky plays in our balance of payments? Will the hon. Gentleman at least press upon the Canadian Government the need to get their provincial liquor boards to take a fairer attitude to whisky?

Mr. Parkinson

I am pleased to be able to tell the right hon. Gentleman that I did that when I was in Ottawa two weeks ago. I pressed not only on the Federal Government but on representatives of the two provincial Governments whom I saw that their present practices were unfair, and I urged them to implement their commitment under the multilateral trade negotiations.

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