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Soviet-Manufactured Greeting Cards

Volume 982: debated on Monday 31 March 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade what steps he has taken to stop the dumping of Soviet-manufactured greeting cards; and if he will make a statement.

Responsibility for taking action against dumped or subsidised imports which are causing injury to a Community industry rests with the European Commission. In this particular case" my Department is helping the industry in the preparation of a complaint to put to the Commission for appropriate action.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Does he recognise that there has been a 40 per cent. increase in Christmas cards alone over the last year, that sales are one-third down on those of last year, and that at least one company, Waldorf Cards, has laid off 80 men and is pulling out of the market? How much longer will this industry be expected to subsidise the British military effort—the Russian military effort? [Laughter.]

I shall answer my hon. Friend's question as he meant it, and not as he originally phrased it.

It is a matter for the industry to put its case against dumping to the Commission. The Department of Trade maintains an anti-dumping unit to help the industry. We are working closely with the industry. We recognise the importance of this matter. We shall be taking action as soon as possible.

What would the Minister say to a potential Olympic athlete who inquired as to why we should accept dumped Christmas cards but that he could not go to Moscow?

I would advise him to use his discretion as a consumer not to buy Russian Christmas cards, for a start, but to make his own.

However, the hon. Gentleman knows that if there is unfair competition from these cards, we shall take action against it. The issue was debated very clearly in the House the other day. We do not see anything advantageous for Britain about our athletes taking part in a gigantic propaganda exercise advertising the virtues of Russia.

Is my hon. Friend satisfied with the speed and efficiency with which complaints about dumping are processed in the Community? Will he advise British industries concerned in this matter how best they-can expedite the whole process?

One of the very first things that my right hon. Friend and myself did when we were appointed Ministers was to go to Brussels to meet the anti-dumping unit there and to check on the way in which it works. We have issued a booklet showing how to use the anti-dumping machinery which exists. We have also retained an anti-dumping unit to help those industries which require help.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House will welcome the fact that an anti-dumping unit exists. However, if this unit is in operation, may I ask how many people it employs and what it actually does? Hon. Members on both sides of the House are very discontented about what it does and how fast it does it, because our industries—carpets, clothing and textiles—are being hammered and ruined while this unit does nothing.

I am sorry to have to tell the hon. Gentleman that that simply is not true. The anti-dumping unit processes a substantial number of actions, and the rate at which it acts shows up very well against the rate of performance of his own Government when they were last in power. It is quicker.