HC Deb 16 November 1983 vol 48 cc839-40
9. Sir David Price

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions he has had with his fellow Ministers in the European Community about joint action to curb dumping and other trading malpractices by various Oriental countries.

Mr. Channon

There are procedures in the Community for protecting its industries from injury by dumped or subsidised imports, whether from the Orient or elsewhere. If my hon. Friend has a specific point, I should be glad to investigate it. The anti-dumping unit in my Department is pleased to help in any case that arises.

Sir David Price

Is my right hon. Friend aware that South Korea takes part in what I would call dumping practices in respect of steel and shipbuilding when it undercuts even the Japanese below cost? Is he further aware that it would be much better if protective and defensive action against the predatory habits of the Koreans were taken on a European basis rather than on a United Kingdom basis alone?

Mr. Channon

I understand my hon. Friend's concern. The GAIT provisions have not so far been invoked in relation to shipbuilding, but I should be grateful if my hon. Friend would give me details of exactly what he has in mind in relation to shipbuilding and it jury to United Kingdom shipbuilders, and I shall be ready to look into the matter in relation to the GATT provisions.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Surely after all this time there is no need for the Minister to keep asking for individual examples. Is he aware that when I visit firms in my constituency—be they in clothing or woollen textiles—they are all full of the story of dumping from the Orient, as the right hon. Gentleman puts it, and from eastern Europe?

Mr. Channon

There are, of course, cases of dumping, as the right hon. Gentleman says. They are investigated and the anti-dumping unit in the Department is only too anxious to assist people, and has frequently done so, to prepare their cases for the Community. Where there is a good case, remedies can be taken. If the right hon. Gentleman has a specific case we shall look into it straight away. [Interruption.] There is no point in Opposition Members laughing about it. Every case must be carefully prepared, and we are only too anxious to help.

Mr. Stanbrook

Are not the numbers of those employed in the anti-dumping unit of the Commission pathetically inadequate to deal with this business? Does not the anti-dumping unit at my right hon. Friend's Department, which has no powers in the matter, employ more people than the Commission, which is supposed to serve 10 countries?

Mr. Channon

My hon. Friend is right to say that it would be helpful if there were more people in the antidumping unit in the Community, but that is not within my power; it is a decision for the Community. It is important that British industry should get the best help it can from my Department in dealing with cases of dumping, where they arise. That I am determined to achieve, and that is what is happening now.

Mr. Ashdown

Is the Minister aware that the current tariff on computers and computer components operates in favour of dumping in that completed computers imported into this country are charged at 15 per cent. whereas components for United Kingdom assembly are charged at only 5 per cent.? Is he further aware that an NEDC draft report recently recommended that the position be amended? Will he take the matter up with his colleagues in Brussels so as to reconstruct the tariff system to operate in favour of United Kingdom manufacturers?

Mr. Channon

I know the point that the hon. Gentleman has in mind. He has a question on that very point later, and perhaps he will await the answer to that.

Mr. Ewing

Will the Minister stop hiding behind a request for specific cases when there have been countless cases on which the Community took no action? If the Community refuses to protect our steel and shipbuilding industries, as indicated by the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Sir D. Price), will the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that the Government will have the courage to act on their behalf and protect them from these practices?

Mr. Channon

I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that the steel industry is not protected already. While I do not think that I have received a specific case from him, I assure him that I am continually receiving cases. We pursue them, frequently with satisfactory results. There is no point in having generalised accusations. We need specific action on specific cases, and those we are only too anxious to take up.