HC Deb 16 February 1981 vol 999 cc10-1
11. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what action he is taking to maximise the effectiveness of the new general agreement on trade subsidies code, especially with regard to loans at belowmarket rates of interest.

Mr. Parkinson

The Government fully support the GATT agreement on subsidies and countervailing duties. My Department is very ready to look into prima facie cases brought forward by United Kingdom industry regarding subsidies from which its competitors are benefiting and to invoke the mechanisms established in the agreement where appropriate.

Mr. Hannam

Is my hon. Friend aware that, although it is difficult to produce prima facie evidence, there is increasing evidence of low-interest Government loans in other countries, especially France? Now that the consensus agreement on export credit subsidies has collapsed, will he press GATT to recall the committee responsible for export subsidies to examine the matter urgently?

Mr. Parkinson

My hon. Friend raises an important matter. I will correct him on one small point of detail. The consensus has not collapsed. The negotiations about changing the basis of the consensus are faltering, but the consensus, as previously agreed, is firmly in place. The Government take the view that a credit race in which the developed countries compete with each other for the right to give away products is in no one's interest. We are pressing hard to get the negotiations under way again.

Mr. Cryer

Is the Minister aware that it is difficult for industry to produce prima facie evidence, for example, of dumping? Is he further aware of the massive demonstration being staged here today of textile, clothing and footwear workers, who are worried sick about the loss of their jobs under this Government? What do the Government intend to do? Will they merely tell the workers to go back North and to join the ever-lengthening dole queues?

Mr. Parkinson

The Minister will answer the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question about the GATT. I repeat what I said, with the added proviso that the Department stands ready to help industry to put together a case if evidence of any kind can be produced to show that there are grounds for further investigation. The Government are prepared to work with industry to assemble a case and to help industry to put it.