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Origin Marking

Volume 986: debated on Monday 16 June 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he intends to legislate to extend origin marking.


asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he intends to legislate to extend origin marking.

I announced on 21 May that I had issued a consultative document on the extension of compulsory country of origin marking of certain groups of consumer goods. The groups selected cover clothing, textiles, footwear, electrical appliances and cutlery. Those are the groups where two consumer surveys have shown that the country of origin marking is needed for genuine consumer reasons. In the light of the responses received from those likely to be affected by this action, who have been asked to comment by 31 July, I intend to prepare draft orders under the Trade Descriptions Act with a view to bringing them before the House this autumn.

May I say that unlike the answer to the last supplementary question which I asked, which was a very inadequate and inaccurate answer, I am very grateful indeed to my right hon. Friend for that excellent answer?

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is right that the British people should be able to buy British and when they go into a clothing shop should know that the item that they buy is British? Does she agree that at present the origin of a particular garment is very much in doubt? Does she further agree that many British retailers, such as C & A and British Home Stores, do no service to this country by, as it were, apparently offering British-made goods when the vast majority of those goods are manufactured abroad?

I am always grateful for my hon. Friend's gratitude. The main purpose of the steps that I have announced is to protect consumers so that consumers in the market place can exercise their choice on the basis of adequate information being given. As my hon. Friend will know, branded goods already have to show the country of origin.

Concerning cutlery and Sheffield in particular, will the Minister consider making sure that the words "Made in Sheffield" are stamped only on that cutlery which is wholly made in Sheffield and not on that which is partly brought in from abroad?

This is one of the aspects of the problem of origin marking which we are discussing during the present consultations.

I recognise that origin marking provides useful information to the consumer. However, does my right hon. Friend also agree that all the origin marking in the world is no substitute for good quality, at the right price, delivered at the right time?

Will the right hon. Lady give to my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. McKay) an assurance that where, for instance, blanks are simply plated in Sheffield, they will be subject to origin marking? Secondly, will the legislation extend to advertisements in colour supplements, which are a very big source of gaining consumer orders? If the origin marking provision does not apply to supplements and advertisements, it may well defeat the object of the exercise.

First, I can give the hon. Gentleman the undertaking that he seeks, which is that the main manufacturing process will determine the country of origin. As I have said, this is the subject of consultation.

Concerning advertisements and mail order catalogues, we recognise that there are some difficulties because these are outside the Trade Descriptions Act. However, if we become convinced that origin marking in advertisements and mail order catalogues is necessary in the consumer interest, we have no doubt that these difficulties will be overcome.