asked the Secretary of State for Trade what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government regarding the development of European Economic Community competition policy so as to reduce the number and extent of inter-Community non-tariff barriers to trade.
The Government actively support and encourage work within the Community to eliminate non-tariff barriers to trade. Our aim is the removal of all barriers which adversely affect our exporters. We seize every opportunity to press the Commission, which has primary responsibility for administering the competition rules of the Treaty, to this end.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are many ways in which the export of British products to the Community can be discriminated against? In my constituency alone I can name two products—Tapchangers and Lamp Standards—both of which our EEC partners successfully export to this country. Will my right hon. Friend list products which are successfully imported into this country to discover whether there are any non-tariff barriers to our trading similar to those of our EEC partners?
My hon. Friend will no doubt be pleased to learn that, far from being regarded as—dare I say it—"Wet" in our attitude to unfair competition from abroad, we are regarded by other countries—which sometimes complain of it—as being particularly tough in defence of British industry if it appears to be threatened by unfair competition. My Department is at present vigorously pursuing a number of cases—some of them successfully. If my hon. Friend has specific information which he would like to pass to my Department we will be pleased to receive it and act on it where appropriate.
How does EEC competition policy apply to the common agricultural policy where we are giving £1,000 million to Europe primarily because of the CAP? That means dearer foodstuffs for housewives because we must buy from Europe instead of from elsewhere.
I do not see how that could be represented as a non-tariff barrier.
If the Government have been tough, how does the right hon. Lady explain that the balance of trade in manufactured goods between this country and the EEC has changed from a £300 million balance in our favour in 1970 to a £2½ billion deficit—which is getting much worse—in 1978? Does not the right hon. Lady agree that that points to the disaster of our membership of the Common Market in relation not only to agriculture but to manufacturing industry?
What that points to is that British industry in the main—there will be exceptions—is not sufficiently competitive in relation to our EEC partners. Where there are non-tariff barriers and where there is unfair competition, it is right and proper for the Government to intervene. It is not in the interests of competition, of consumers or of our efforts to strengthen British industry for the Government to intervene where there is fair competition.