Ceramic and Brick Industries

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:46 pm on 15th June 2016.

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Photo of Ruth Smeeth Ruth Smeeth Labour, Stoke-on-Trent North 4:46 pm, 15th June 2016

Indeed. My hon. Friend will undoubtedly highlight that later. I am concerned that under the Government’s policies on these sectors, the benefits will not be felt as keenly as they should or could be. Indeed, if we do not support the industries appropriately, the benefits of any construction boom will be reaped not by our businesses, but by brick factories in north Africa, Turkey and elsewhere, where costs of production are lower and future risks less pronounced.

Despite their importance in the supply chain for house building and construction, and despite the wide range of high-tech applications, I fear that the brick and ceramic industries are being treated as poor relations by the Government. I can only hope that this debate will help to persuade the Government that more can and must be done to support the industry, which sets the benchmark for innovation and for commitment to sustainable manufacturing.

The British Ceramic Confederation’s EARTH campaign is doing valuable work in highlighting some of the major issues affecting the brick and ceramic industries. One such issue concerns China’s ongoing bid for market economy status. I have spoken before in this hall about the threat that MES for China would pose to British industry, and I have also raised the Government’s apparent acquiescence to China’s demands. Nevertheless, the ceramics industry’s concerns on this matter are significant and bear repeating. Granting market economy status to China would leave us with no defence against unfair Chinese dumping practices, and would allow our domestic market to be flooded with inferior goods at prices that are simply not achievable without the state intervention and rock-bottom labour costs that Chinese industries take advantage of—or exploit.

It is well established that China has, to date, met only one of the five criteria required for market economy status. It is also recognised that the impact on the British economy of granting China such a status would be severe, with a potential cost of 3.5 million jobs across the UK—jobs we can ill afford to lose.