HC Deb 24 January 1983 vol 35 cc648-9
7. Mr. Canavan

asked the Minister for Trade what recent representations he has received about the import of counterfeit products from Taiwan; and what further action he intends taking.

Mr. Peter Rees

In the past six months we have received only one direct representation about imports to the United Kingdom of counterfeit products from Taiwan. We urge British companies to secure protection for their products by registering their patents, trademarks and designs in Taiwan. Although like most Governments we do not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, the authorities there are fully aware of our concern. Stricter measures were announced in Taiwan in August 1981 to govern trademark offences. Recently much stiffer penalties for convicted offenders have also been announced in Taiwan. In addition, my Department will soon be setting up an anti-counterfeiting unit to strengthen its handling of such problems.

Mr. Canavan

When will the Minister take effective action to deal with complaints from Smith and Wellstood, which recently won a victory in Holland in its efforts to stop the sale of cheap Taiwanese imitations of its solid fuel heating stoves, only to find that the counterfeit stoves could still be sold in other countries such as Belgium? In view of the jobs involved in Bonnybridge in my constituency, will the Minister tell the Taiwanese authorities that if this malpractice does not stop he will impose a trade boycott on Taiwan?

Mr. Rees

As I said, we do not maintain diplomatic representation in Taiwan, but if the hon. Gentleman feels that any particular details in the Smith and Wellstood case—which is well known to my Department—need further consideration, I should be delighted to receive him and representatives of the company.

Mr. Stanbrook

Has my hon. and learned Friend seen the report in The Times on Saturday of the confiscation in Nigeria of millions of pirated books, including many English titles, allegedly from Taiwan? Is it not the case that this is causing loss to the British book publishing industry of about £40 million to £50 million a year? If so, will my hon. and learned Friend inquire into this and do something about it?

Mr. Rees

It is because of the concern that both I and my hon. Friend the Minister for Consumer Affairs feel about this that we are setting up the anti-counterfeiting unit.

Mr. Cryer

Is the Minister satisfied that the measures taken both in Taiwan and by his Department will stamp out, for example, the type of counterfeiting that a group of Members of Parliament found, when worsted cloth was being labelled "Made in Huddersfield"? Will the hon. and learned Gentleman endeavour to do something to stamp that out?

Mr. Rees

The House will recognise that it is not easy for us to stamp out counterfeiting of this type in foreign countries. However, our aim is certainly that it should not penetrate to the United Kingdom market.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

While I accept that counterfeiting can be a serious problem, may I point out that lack of knowledge is also a serious problem? In view of his reply to question 6, will my hon. and learned Friend continue pressing his colleagues in the European Community to establish a uniform system of origin marking, with proper policing, so that this gives some security to the producers of textiles, and also gives consumers a knowledge of what they are supposed to be buying?

Mr. Rees

My hon. Friend will appreciate that origin marking can be used as a means of preventing the free circulation of goods inside the European Community. Subject to that reservation, we are in favour of introducing such a system into the United Kingdom.

Mr. Archer

Is this not just the type of instance where international regulation of trade should be at its best? With regard to what the hon. and learned Gentleman said a few moments ago about free trade, is not the present free trade system based on the assumption that all Governments alike should renounce responsibility for their respective economies and leave them to the free market forces? Is not that precisely what has brought about the present world recession, about which the Government are always talking?

Mr. Rees

I am afraid that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has not applied himself long enough or deeply enough to this problem. If he had he would realise that free trade is not incompatible, for example, with our own trade mark and copyright legislation.