HC Deb 15 February 1989 vol 147 cc312-4
16. Mr. Jim Marshall

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many standards set under the development of the internal market are based on British standards; and how many are based on (a) German standards, (b) French standards and (c) those of other European Community countries.

Mr. Maude

The European standards bodies, Cen and Cenelec, adopt wherever appropriate agreed international standards. Very few European standards are based on an existing standard of any one Community country.

Mr. Marshall

Does the Minister accept that there is concern in the United Kingdom that other European countries appear to have more success in influencing EEC standards and that this can have significant consequences for industrial costs? Will he try with greater urgency to ensure that at least one EEC standard is based on a United Kingdom standard?

Mr. Maude

One European standard based on an existing standard is, for example, the commonly used BS 5750 on quality assurance. I am aware that there is concern about this issue and that it is, as the hon. Member says, an issue which matters. Industry in this country has not taken the standard-setting process as seriously as it should, and certainly not as seriously as it has been taken by industry in Germany. But in the last year, since we have been urging industry in this country to do more in this respect—and it lies with industry and not with the Government to do it—the situation has improved greatly. But I join the hon. Gentleman in urging particularly those in manufacturing industry to take this matter extremely seriously and to attach as high priority to it as does industry in Germany.

Mr. Dykes

Now that we have been involved with the EEC for nearly 16 years and are gradually getting used to working constructively with our foreign friends at long last, is the Minister satisfied with the developing regime for origin marks and trade marks in the Community on the basis of being voluntary and not compulsory in each country, but with an agreed EC standard if necessary?

Mr. Maude

A directive and regulations on Community trade marks are being negotiated. Those will have the sort of beneficial effect to which my hon. Friend refers and will, at the same time, reduce costs to business and make life easier for it.

Mr. Gould

What confidence can British industry have in a Government who have themselves failed lamentably to make adequate preparations for 1992? Is the political briefing prepared by the Minister's civil servants in response to the Labour party's analysis of the Giacconi report the best they can do, and why were civil servants involved in that exercise in the first place?

Mr. Maude

The hon. Gentleman has so little of substance to offer that he has to make use of that tawdry little effort. I sympathise with him, because he has no experience of Government and has so few colleagues with such experience, that he will not understand that it is not only proper for civil servants, but that it is their duty, to brief Ministers on any report that comments on Government policy. The document to which I believe he refers mentioned two reports about 1992. One was by the London business school and was rather good. The other was on behalf of the Labour party and was rather bad.

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