Ceramic and Brick Industries

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:29 pm on 15th June 2016.

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Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills 4:29 pm, 15th June 2016

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. At the end of the day, I want a level playing field for our industries in the UK so that we can compete. We need to extend the number of companies that the compensation covers. I am pleased to note that Ruth Smeeth is here today. She is chair of the all-party group for ceramics. I am sure she will make reference to and, I hope, welcome the Chancellor’s announcement of the ceramic valley enterprise zone status in her constituency. That is welcome news, and I am sure she will have more to say on that, but we need the right energy and carbon policies to unlock investment at this critical time where we continue to secure the country’s economic recovery.

The Government have set a key target in their construction strategy of a 50% reduction by 2025 in the trade gap between total exports and total imports for construction products and materials. Ceramics and bricks can make a real contribution to that target, but that will happen only if we have a level playing field that enables us to compete.

The ceramics industry does not just face issues within Europe. As a result of dumped imports, between 2006 and 2011 a huge number of direct jobs were lost in the ceramic tableware and kitchenware industry within the EU as Chinese exports tripled. Since the EU anti-dumping measures were introduced in 2011 for tiles and in 2013 for tableware, the industry has stabilised its production, brought manufacturing processes back to the EU and created jobs and investment opportunities, including with clay and other materials suppliers.

The ceramics industry is, I fear, one of the most vulnerable to overcapacity from the Chinese economy. If market economy status is conferred on China by the EU, despite it only meeting one of the five necessary criteria, it will make the maintenance of adequate and meaningful anti-dumping measures, which currently protect tiles and tableware, impossible, the progress the industry has made since 2011 will be lost, and the industry will once again be put at risk. It would also further add to the uncertainty the sector is facing. What assessments have the Government and the Minister made of the impact of market economy status for China on the ceramics industry? Will they continue to listen to the views of the industry? Colleagues in the European Parliament recently rejected MES for China in a plenary vote.

I come from a business background. I believe in manufacturing. Businesses need continuity and stability to invest, innovate and thrive. As a country, we cannot decarbonise by de-industrialising and shifting our carbon emissions to another part of the world. Will the Minister look seriously at this issue? I want our industries to prosper and thrive. The ceramics industry needs competitive energy prices and the rejection of market economy status for China, but above all it needs a level playing field. That is why I am asking the Government to recognise the strategic importance of the ceramics industry and, in particular, bricks, pipes and roof tiles. I am sure that other Members will mention other products, too, and I leave that to them. We need the Government to look at today’s industries to see how they can be best be supported to thrive in tomorrow’s markets.