HC Deb 27 October 1980 vol 991 cc11-3
10. Mr. Marlow

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what action he will take to strengthen the trading position of the footwear industry.

Mr. Nott

The Government are assisting the British Footwear Manufacturers Federation in preparation for their next round of negotiations with South Korea and Taiwan. They are working with the federation on possible anti-dumping cases against East European footwear. New representations have been made to the Canadians and Australians about their quotas on footwear. Discussions are taking place in the Community about possible areas of compensation from these countries. Brazilian exports of footwear have fallen dramatically from 1.2 million pairs in the first quarter of this year to ½ million pairs in the second. Following our representations the Brazilians have reduced their export tax on raw hides to 18 per cent. from 36 per cent. and finished leathers to 5 per cent. from 18 per cent.

Mr. Marlow

I am pleased to hear what my right hon. Friend says. Is he aware that workers in the footwear and clothing industries have started a campaign to buy each other's products and that this is going well? Can my right hon. Friend help to expand and extend that campaign throughout British industry by, for example, encouraging British farm-workers to buy British cars and British car workers to buy British apples? Could he assist in that by telling people that Fiestas are made in Spain and Granadas in Germany, because many people do not know?

Mr. Nott

I agree that the footwear EDC in particular is doing an extremely valuable job in bringing the retailers and producers closer together. That should happen in as many industries as possible. My hon. Friend has advertised the position of the Fiesta. He is free to do that on repeated occasions.

The link between retailer and producer is desirable and I want to encourage it wherever I can. Of course I prefer people to buy British rather than foreign goods, if they are competitive. I encourage it.

Mr. Trippier

Is it not unfair trading within the EEC that the Italian shoe industry should encourage a cottage industry? Is my right hon. Friend aware that Italian housewives are encouraged to make up shoes at a cost in our currency of 50p a shoe, or £1 a pair? Is he aware that many of those women contract a fatal disease from the glue used in the making up process and are not subject to the provisions of any Health and Safety at Work etc. Act as we are? Is that not unfair trading? Can my right hon. Friend do something about it?

Mr. Nott

As my hon. Friend knows, repeated representations have been made to the Commission about certain aspects of the Italian shoemaking activity. Concern has been expressed along the lines that he mentioned. It is a significant complaint. However, the real reason why Italian shoes are so successful is that their design is excellent and consumers actually want to buy them. That is the heart of the matter. It is one of the principal reasons why the Italian industry is so successful.

Mr. John Smith

Does not the Secretary of State think that when asking people to buy British it might prove more helpful if he took every opportunity to praise British products rather than ostentatiously praising foreign products, as he has done twice during Question Time?

Mr. Nod

I spend my whole life praising British products. The more competitive that British products are with overseas products, the happier I shall be. I believe that one of the best things that has happened in a long time is the successful launch of the Mini Metro. I hope that it proves very successful.