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Barley

Volume 643: debated on Tuesday 4 July 1961

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31.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he has taken to stop the supplies of dumped barley from France, Russia and West Germany.

68.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is yet able to make a statement on the application of the National Farmers' Union for antidumping measures against the dumping of barley in the United Kingdom market; and if he will give an assurance that effective measures will be taken before this year's home crop is ready for sale.

73.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will now make a statement on the National Farmers' Union's complaint that barley is being dumped in this country.

I have considered as a matter of special urgency the application submitted by the National Farmers' Unions on 19th June for the imposition of duties under the Customs Duties (Dumping and Subsidies) Act, 1957, on barley imported from certain countries. I am satisfied that imports of barley into this country have been dumped or subsidised, that these imports threaten material injury to United Kingdom producers, and that there is a case for action under the Act. I am discussing the matter urgently with the countries concerned and will make a further statement before the end of the week.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for the statement so far as it goes, may I ask him three supplementary questions? Will he kindly name the countries with whom he has been discussing this question? Will he inform the House if a date has been given by which dumping will cease? Thirdly, will he kindly inform the House what would be the proposed amount of tariff on these dumped barleys which are coming in?

The countries named in the application were Russia, France, America, Western Germany and Australia. I will make a statement before the end of the week. I do not think I should anticipate what it will contain.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the latter part of my Question? It is very important that effective measures should be taken before the home crop of autumn barley is ready for sale. Will he also bear in mind that the quantity of barley dumped this year is over 100 per cent. more than last year's total? The cost to the Exchequer is growing very much in the price guarantee as a result of dumping, and urgent action is required.

I am well aware of the need for urgent action. That is why I shall make a further statement this week.

While we are most grateful that the right hon. Gentleman is to make up his mind more quickly and that he is not to take five months this time as he did last time, may I ask has not the damage done to the taxpayer been in millions of pounds? What is to be done to prevent this arising in future?

I am aware of the injury threatened to producers in this country. I have to do the best I can to protect their position without doing damage, which could be and should be avoided, to our general trading interests in the world.

Will my right hon. Friend look at the whole question of antidumping legislation, because time and again action is taken too late to protect the interests of the farmer and, most particularly, those of the taxpayer? If it is a fact that application has to be made by the industry for this procedure to be put into effect, does he not think that there should be some legislation to enable him to take action without application from outsiders in order to protect taxpayers' interests?

The fact is that the legislation enables me to act only when I have evidence of damage to an industry. It is framed in that way because of our international obligations. We should be rather careful not to act too precipitately because of the great interests of our export trade in various parts of the world. I cannot act under the antidumping legislation without evidence of damage to industry.

Does not the President of the Board of Trade think that the country has got itself into a most absurd position in that the cheaper our food imports are the more we have to pay by way of subsidies—money from the taxpayer? Is it not about time that we looked at the whole question of subsidies for agricultural production?

That is a much wider question. The question raised is that of dumping, which is quite a separate matter from cheap competition.