HC Deb 26 October 1988 vol 139 cc293-4
18. Mr. Riddick

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what is the latest position regarding the French Government's allegedly illegal subsidy to Filature du Hainault to manufacture polypropylene filament yarn.

The Minister for Trade (Mr. Alan Clark)

The EC Commission announced on 27 July that it had approved the French Government's proposed aid to Filature du Hainault and that that aid did not conflict with the objectives of the Community's synthetic fibres discipline. I wrote to my hon. Friend about the Commission's decision on 15 August.

Mr. Riddick

Does my hon. Friend share my dismay and disappointment at the decision? Is this not another case where the French Government have pulled a fast one? Does he not realise that this will result in unfair competition for two firms, F. Drake and Company of Golcar and Drakes Fibres, in my constituency? Will he do everything in his power to ensure that such an illegal subsidy is not allowed in future?

Mr. Clark

As my hon. Friend will recall from the detailed correspondence that we had on this, there were, apparently, technical distinctions between the type of polypropylene yarn being produced by the company at Valenciennes and existing production, where there is over-capacity and where the Commission does not allow aid. However, I have told my hon. Friend that I share his anxiety and doubts about this. It would be easier for me to comment were the Commission's reasons to be made available. Although the decision was announced on 27 July, and although the reasons are encompassed in a document only five pages long—

Mr. Skinner

What is the Minister going to do?

Mr. Clark

If the hon. Gentleman would let me explain, I would welcome his comments. Although the document is only five pages long, it is not yet available for comment because of delays in the Commission's translation section.