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Paper Products (Overseas Suppliers)

Volume 986: debated on Monday 16 June 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade what recent representations he has received about unfair trading practices employed by overseas suppliers of paper products to the United Kingdom market.

Recent representations that have been made to my Department by the paper industry about unfair trading practices have included allegations of dumping of paper products and of price discrimination in the supply of pulp for paper making. My Department is following up those allegations.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the rapidly worsening situation facing the United Kingdom paper industry? Is he aware of the dubious practices and irresponsible increases of capacity that are now being generated by our Scandinavian and Common Market competitors? Does he believe that we can continue with our free and easy attitude towards imports? Is it not a fact that we are now becoming a soft touch? We should toughen up our attitude towards unfair trading practices.

I wish that my hon. friend would go to Brussels and retail that description of Britain there. It is not the way in which our Common Market partners see us. We fight our corner for British industry. We are aware of unfair practices and we are pursuing the matter. If my hon. Friend provides specific information, we shall take action.

Is it not clear that the Brussels institutions are bound to say that we are not a soft touch? They could not say anything else. They would be daft if they did so. Is it not clear that we must examine the matter more seriously than this Government or any other Government have done for a long time?

I would not wish to defend the hon. Gentleman's Government to him. I know that the hon. Gentleman himself finds that difficult. For our part, we are prepared to stand by our record and show that we take action when we have information on which we can act.