HC Deb 29 January 1979 vol 961 cc1020-2
17. Mr. Wyn Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he has presented to the EEC Commission any substantiated allegations of dumping in relation to domestic appliances.

Mr. Meacher

My Department has passed to the EEC Commission allegations that certain domestic appliances are being dumped. As yet none of these has been substantiated.

Mr. Roberts

Is the Minister aware of the deep concern among domestic washing machine manufacturers, particularly Hoover and GEC Schreiber, in my constituency about their difficulties in proving dumping because of the hidden subsidies given by the Italian Government? Is he further aware that one of the major importers of these machines is the nationalised Electricity Council? Does he think that that is right?

Mr. Meacher

We are aware of the difficulties to which the hon. Gentleman refers. In July 1976, we passed to the EEC Commission an anti-dumping application on behalf of the relevant trade association, but the Commission—perhaps for the reasons that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned—did not find dumping proved. I hope that it will be some reassurance to the hon. Gentleman if I say that the Government have told the industry that they are now prepared to explore other avenues, given that that one is closed. The question of electricity board purchases is another matter that we are now taking fully into account.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Will my hon. Friend deal with this matter urgently? Workers in my constituency and other Welsh constituencies who are producing washing machines, including automatic machines, are convinced that the price determined for these imports is based on some support action being taken for the home industries which is not taken in this country.

Mr. Meacher

I am sympathetic to what my hon. Friend says. The problem is that since 1977 anti-dumping powers have gone to Brussels; the British Government do not have them any longer. That is why I have said—this is all that I can say, given the powers that we have—that we are determined to pursue this matter through other avenues.

Mr. Marten

What other avenues?

Mr. Meacher

In the interests of the industry and of achieving some success in this matter, I would prefer not to say.

Mr. James Lamond

Now that responsibility for investigating dumping allegations has passed to the EEC Commission, is my hon. Friend satisfied that a better job is being done than his Department used to do?

Mr. Meacher

That would be difficult, but I think that the Commission has undertaken a number of cases since it took over powers from us. Of course, its performance has been affected by the fact that at least one member of its staff came from the Department of Trade.

Mr. Ridley

Will the Minister say what are these other devices, bearing in mind that his Government are supposed to believe in open government? If they are to threaten importers, at least we should be told with what other devices they will threaten them.

Mr. Meacher

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is so concerned to press this. He must realise that we are in difficulties because of the distribution of powers in this matter, but there are other ways in which this can be pursued. It is not in the interests of the industry itself—either of those who run the businesses or of the workers—for one to be too explicit about this. If the hon. Gentleman is asking a sincere, and not a political, question, he should accept that.

Mr. Madden

Is my hon. Friend satisfied with the Commission's facilities for investigating dumping complaints? What backlog is there in the number of complaints awaiting investigation?

Mr. Meacher

I cannot say the size of the backlog in anti-dumping cases in Brussels. It would probably be helpful if the number of staff in the anti-dumping division there were increased. Certainly they have been heavily engaged, particularly over steel questions, but on the other hand they have responded promptly, within the limits of their manpower, to requests from Britain.

Mr. Jay

Does my hon. Friend regard the transfer of these powers to Brussels as one of the benefits of EEC membership?

Mr. Meacher

It is one of the general consequences.

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