HL Deb 06 December 1979 vol 403 cc864-5

3.17 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have contacted the EEC Commission over the dumping in this country of Christmas cards manufactured in the Soviet Union and whether in their view such dumping is illegal.


My Lords, it is for the greetings card industry to decide whether or not to approach the Commission for remedial action, if it believes that it is suffering injury from dumped Russian-made Christmas cards. Officials of the Department of Trade are ready to give help and advice in the formulation of a case to put to the Commission, but it is for the Commission to investigate allegations of dumping and, if appropriate, to take the necessary action.


My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. I wonder whether he has read EEC Regulation No. 459 of 5th April 1968, which indicates that it is up to a Member State to make representations to the Commission if there is strong evidence that dumping has taken place, if the price of the product exported is lower than that of a similar product in the country of origin? Will he study the evidence about the pricing of New Year cards—not Christmas cards, of course—in the Soviet Union, and come to a conclusion whether in fact dumping has taken place, and whether this is illegal?


My Lords, we shall certainly keep our finger on the pulse in this matter but, as I said in my original reply, it is primarily for the greetings card industry itself to make representations.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the growing Christian kindness of the Russians in sending us such beautiful Christmas cards is in return for the cheap butter that his organisation is sending to them?


My Lords, there is actually a serious implication to this because these cards bearing Christian messages are deeply offensive to some people. They are of course specifically designed for the British market, and indeed most of the cards are based on British designs and are thus comparable both to domestic and other imported cards.


My Lords, do they include the message, "From Russia with love"?


My Lords, do Her Majesty's Government not derive some comfort from reflecting that a similar dumping operation in Russia, unthinkable though it might be, with cards bearing the portraits of Lenin, Stalin and Beria would hardly find a ready market among the consumers of the Soviet?


I am sure my noble friend is right, my Lords; but perhaps it is correct to note that these cards constitute only about 3 per cent, of the British market.