Stoke-on-Trent MP Tristram Hunt demands action over bogus ceramic backstamps
MPs have been asked to support a crack down on foreign-produced pottery using the 'Made in Staffordshire' backstamp.
Stoke-on-Trent Central MP Tristram Hunt raised the issue of 'bogus backstamps' and its effect on the domestic ceramic industry in Parliament last night.
He said some companies are claiming their products are 'Made in Britain', even though the pottery is manufactured abroad and only finished in this country.
Mr Hunt believes this practice is diluting the value of the backstamp, and potentially eroding Stoke-on-Trent's reputation as a ceramics centre.
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EU rules already prohibit misleading country of origin labelling such as this.
But Mr Hunt wants authorities in the UK to take a tougher line against companies which flout the law.
He said: "The issue is that ceramics are being made abroad and then brought to the UK to be finished, and then given a 'Made in England' or 'Made in Staffordshire' backstamp.
"There is nothing wrong with items being imported to be finished off, as that is how many businesses operate and that's fine. But the rules state clearly that ceramics are made where the blank is fired, whether that is China or Staffordshire, so that is what the stamp should say.
"I think it damages the Stoke-on-Trent brand when products claim to be from here when they're made abroad.
"Some companies are passing off their products in order to benefit from the reputation the people of the Potteries have built up over hundreds of years. We are now seeing a revival of the pottery industry, but bogus backstamps could damage it.
"I want to see the Office of Fair Trading and the trading standards agencies take action on this practice."
Mr Hunt's calls for a crackdown have been backed by the UK pottery industry.
Dr Laura Cohen, chief executive of the Stoke-on-Trent-based British Ceramic Confederation, said: "Our Tableware and Giftware Association supports all efforts to ensure the proper and legal use of origin marking and to prevent misleading or illegal origin marking claims."
Matthew Dimbleby, who runs Trentham-based Dimbleby Ceramics, agrees that action needs to be taken against misleading labelling.
He said: "There are two issues here – transparency within the industry, and giving customers an informed choice.
"A company which manufacturers abroad would be able to sell a mug for £8.50, whereas our mugs retail for around £15.
"A customer may believe they're getting the same product for less, but that isn't the case.
"I think the authorities have been turning a blind eye to this so far because they don't want to rock the boat."