I have received a number of representations about imports of pigmeat products from eastern Europe, but nothing about canned meat products in general or specifically about imports from Poland.
Will the Minister investigate a claim made by a tinned meat factory in my constituency that cheap imports of tinned meat from Poland must be heavily subsidised to be as competitive as they are? The company is not afraid of competition, but this is tantamount to unfair competition and needs investigation to protect what remains of the British tinned industry and jobs in my constituency.
The hon. Gentleman was courteous enough to let me know that he has a constituency interest, and my officials have already been in touch with the firm of Parrish and Fenn in his constituency. Some limited Polish imports, which benefit from special generalised system of preferences concessions, are coming into this country at the moment. That has enabled an element of the benefit to be passed back to the Polish producers. That said, however, Polish exports to this country are down severely because the Polish Government are hard up and are no longer paying export subsidies—imports are down 40 per cent. this year compared with last. I shall ask my officials to verify the specific complaints with the company and we shall follow those up.
Will my hon. Friend have regard to the interests of the consumer rather than paying attention to protectionist devices and will he heed the good sense of the British housewife, who can look after herself?
I do not think, however, that the interests of the consumer would be served by a system that permitted the entire United Kingdom market to be taken over by imported products, to the detriment of our own production. That would cause a sharp reduction in consumer choice.