HC Deb 03 July 1991 vol 194 cc312-3
14. Mr. Trimble

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he has made representations recently to any other EC Governments concerning tendering for supplies to the public service of such Governments.

Mr. Redwood

The Government are very keen to see compliance with all European directives by all member states. I have not made any representations recently, but the Department of Trade and Industry has a compliance unit which is very willing to help individuals and companies with compliance problems in any of the 12 member states. If the hon. Gentleman has a specific query, we shall of course take it up for him.

Mr. Trimble

May I draw the Minister's attention to the Irish Republic's Local Authorities (Combined Purchasing) Act 1939 under which the Government of the Irish Republic can insist that all goods supplied to the public service must be manufactured in Ireland and to the notes for tenderers which require the country of origin to be correctly described and even insist that Northern Ireland must not be described as Ireland? Does he agree that that gives suppliers in the Irish Republic an unfair advantage? Would not an appropriate temporary counter measure be to exclude it from tendering for public service contracts in the United Kingdom until it complies?

Mr. Redwood

Such a course of action would not be right and it would be illegal under the directive that sets out the clear obligations of this country and of all the other member states. If the hon. Gentleman believes that there are cases of discrimination in the Republic of Ireland against good offers by companies from other member states he should bring them to the Government's attention and we shall make any necessary representations on behalf of his constituents or of the companies involved.

Mr. Cash

Does my hon. Friend know that British Reinforced Concrete in my constituency was closed down last week because of a massive acquisition of its market share by a German company which also contributed to the closure of and loss of jobs in the Rugby Portland Cement subsidiary? Does he also know that there was a massive £75 million contract available to put security fencing around a Ministry of Defence establishment in Germany and that the Property Services Agency suggested that the British company came to see me because it was quite clear that there was no point in its attempting to get that contract because it had been going to a German company from the beginning? Will he examine that matter, and will the Government please do something to help British industry in that respect?

Mr. Redwood

Of course I will look into that matter for my hon. Friend. If it is a contract governed by either the works or the supplies directive, the German authorities must comply with it. The Council of Ministers recently agreed compliance directives to enforce the works and supplies directives because of the concerns of my hon. Friend and others. The Government are determined that if it is fair that it is opened up here, it is fair that it is opened up there as well. That is why we have a compliance unit and that is why we will willingly take up any case about which hon. Members have good evidence to help us.