HC Deb 27 July 1933 vol 280 cc2773-6
Mr. THOMAS GOOK (by Private Notice)

asked the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries whether, in view of the desirability of giving growers of sugar beet adequate notice of the intentions of the Government regarding the future of the beet-sugar industry after the expiry of the Beet-Sugar Subsidy Act, 1925, he is now in a, position to make a statement on the matter?


The Government have decided, as a temporary measure, to introduce legislation next Session providing for a subsidy from the Exchequer on sugar and molasses manufactured from home-grown beet between 30th September, 1934, when the present Subsidy Act expires, and 1st October, 1935. In regard to sugar, the subsidy will be at the present rate of 6s. 6d. per cwt. of sugar; in regard to molasses, no subsidy will be payable so long as the world price of raw sugar exceeds 6s. per cwt., but subsidy at a rate equivalent to l½d. per cwt. of sugar will be payable for each Id. by which the price of sugar is less than 6s. per cwt., until the present maximum subsidy on molasses, equivalent to 9d. per cwt. of sugar, is reached. This decision is based on the understanding that the refining and beet-sugar manufacturing interests will co-operate in submitting as soon as possible a marketing scheme under the Agricultural Marketing Acts, and that they will be prepared to co-operate in due course with the growers of sugar-beet in the promotion of a development scheme under which the operations of sugar manufacture, refining and processing may be rationalised in the interests of greater productive efficiency. Meanwhile it is the intention of the Government to take such steps as may be necessary and practicable to support existing producers in their efforts to improve their industry in the public interest. The House will recollect that the Chancellor, in his Budget Speech of 1932, announced the intention of the Government to hold an inquiry into the sugar industry as a whole. A costing investigation has already been undertaken on behalf of the Government, and further expert investigation will be necessary. The Government propose, as soon as possible, to appoint an impartial committee to make recommendations of a long-term character in harmony with the policy expressed in the Agricultural Marketing Acts.


Will the Report of the Committee which is contemplated be available before the House is asked to pass legislation continuing or increasing the subsidy?


It will be available before the House is asked to come to any permanent decision, but not, I think, before the House is asked to pass the temporary arrangement which I indicated in the earlier part of my statement.


Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman give us some idea as to whether, under the new arrangement, the total annual cost of the subsidy to the State will be less than the cost to the State at the moment?


It will be less if the price of sugar reaches anything above 5s. 6d., but not if the price of sugar is below 5s. 6d.


Can we take it that there is nothing in my right hon. and gallant Friend's answer which will preclude the Chancellor of the Exchequer from changing the system from a subsidy, which is thought by so many to be wasteful, to a tariff?


No, Sir; but it is desirable, as my hon. and gallant Friend knows, to indicate the terms upon which the next autumn campaign should be conducted.


Why is it that, as the Chancellor's promise of an inquiry was made in April, 1932, an inquiry could not have been held, and a report presented, before any further steps were asked for from Parliament?


The inquiry has been going on practically ever since. As my right hon. Friend knows, it is a very complicated business, and it is very desirable that we should have these matters fully examined; and we are also desirous of meeting my right hon. Friend's desire for a published report. It is on this account that we are asking Parliament to take temporary steps, as against rushing through permanent measures of which my right hon. Friend would not approve.


If it is admitted that it is necessary for sugar-beet growers to know the position with re- gard to their crop for the future, will the right hon. Gentleman also take steps to ensure that oat growers may know what the Government's intentions are with regard to oats?

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