HC Deb 12 February 1992 vol 203 cc963-4
5. Sir John Farr

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action he has taken in the last six months to protect hosiery and knitwear manufacturers from dumped third-world imports.

Mr. Redwood

The United Kingdom Government will pursue vigorously with the EC authorities any dumping cases brought to our attention. In this industry, none has been brought in the past six months. Last year, under different provisions, a temporary ban was imposed on Chinese underwear imports to stop a temporary surge.

Sir John Farr

Is my hon. Friend aware that up to 500,000 jobs in Britain depend on having a sensible, controlled market, and that discipline and control of third world dumped imports can be brought about only if we have a sensible GATT regime? Will my hon. Friend please encourage my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to press to ensure that we have the protection of a new GATT structure as soon as possible?

Mr. Redwood

My hon. Friend has my full assurance. My right hon. Friends the Secretary of State, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade are dedicated to pursuing sensible GATT solutions to these problems. The Government fully recognise the importance of the industry that my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough, (Sir J. Farr) so ably represents, and we want proper GATT disciplines for fair trading in this as in other sectors. I hope that our partners in the world economy and the European Community will assist our efforts to achieve speedy resolution of the GATT discussions.

Mr. Cryer

How is it that at the British yarn show held recently in Leicester the chairman of Benson Turner, a firm of spinners in my constituency and an efficient and well-organised company, complained that the Department of Trade and Industry shows inertia and indifference when the industry submits complaints about illegal subsidies and dumping? The chairman called on the Department to take action about those complaints because if it did not do so there would be little industry left to take action about.

Mr. Redwood

I can promise that the Department will take vigorous action where there are good cases. I am advised that no cases came to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade in the past six months. The hon. Gentleman should represent his constituents by writing a letter with specific complaints. We shall then take action to follow it through with the EC authorities.

Mr. Andy Stewart

My hon. Friend will be aware that many of my constituents work in the knitwear industry and are grateful for the steps already taken by the Government. Does he agree that they are at greater risk not from imports but from the minimum wage, which would devastate the knitwear industry?

Mr. Redwood

My hon. Friend is right. The proposals of the Labour party, and some of the proposals in the Maastricht social protocol, would be deeply damaging to the industry. We do not want to see those jobs destroyed. The hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) might like to remember that in the polyester yarn sector, which is not covered by the question, there are anti-dumping suits going on, so we are pursuing the cases of which we are aware.

Mr. Kirkwood

Is the Minister aware that it is not true that there have been no notifications of dumping in the past six months? Is he aware of the work that the Scottish Knitwear Council has been doing with departmental officials showing that in 1990 a total of 123,000 knitted garments in cashmere coming from China were dumped over the quota agreed? What action is the Department taking to seek compensation and redress so that the overshipments in 1991 and this year are stopped forthwith?

Mr. Redwood

The question from my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) was specific. It asked about six months in a limited industry, and I gave an accurate answer on that. There have been cases in cashmere relating to an earlier period and we are pursuing those actively with the EC authorities. We have to ask whether there was some failure in the mechanism of the quota arrangements, and whether they can be adjusted or whether there needs to be some compensation. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade is actively pursuing that.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We are making slow progress. In fairness to those whose questions come further down the Order Paper, I propose now to speed up a bit.

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