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Footwear Industry

Volume 982: debated on Monday 31 March 1980

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5.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will raise at the European Economic Community Trade Council the imposition by the Republic of Ireland of imposed surveillance licensing on the import of footwear from the United Kingdom.

The Republic of Ireland was permitted to maintain surveillance measures during the transitional period of the Treaty of Accession but this authority has now lapsed. My Department is investigating the present position and will take appropriate action. We shall, of course, refer the matter to the EEC Commission if the evidence justifies it.

Will the Minister also give us his estimate of the consequences of this action on the part of the Republic of Ireland for the already battered shoe industry? Will he assure the House that his action will be urgent and swift?

It is very difficult to estimate the effect of the action. I can only say that we have had no complaint of any kind about it from the industry in the last 12 months, and the industry is pretty good at making its views known. However, we shall take speedy action if it is necessary.

Does my hon. Friend appreciate that, whereas the British Government are committed to fair trade, it is by no means certain that all our Common Market partners carry out the letter of the law? Will he pay particular attention to what appears to be happening in Italy? There appears to be a degree of unfair competition with our industry.

If my hon. Friend can come forward with any evidence or facts that would substantiate his remarks, we would be very happy to take them up, to examine them, and to work with the industry in preparing a case to prove that action needs to be taken.