HC Deb 15 June 1938 vol 337 cc201-3
20. Mr. Morgan

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why, for the first four months of this year, the imports of sugar from the British West Indian Colonies are approximately one-third of the amount imported during the same period of 1937, whilst the imports of sugar from San Domingo have increased to approximately three times the amount at which they stood for the latter four months; and whether all possible steps are being taken to safeguard the position of British colonial sugar production within the scope of the present International Sugar Agreement?

21. Major Procter

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that during the first four months of the present year the imports of sugar into Great Britain from the British West Indian Colonies amounted to only 590,043 cwt. as against 1,535,404 cwt. for the same period last year, whilst the imports of sugar from Cuba have risen, over the same periods, from 1,912,473 cwt. to 2,372,255 cwt.; to what extent this development is due to the operation of the International Sugar Agreement; and whether he is taking any action in the matter on behalf of the British West Indian Colonies?

Mr. M. MacDonald

It is the fact that during the first four months of this year less sugar was imported from the British West Indies and more sugar from cer[...]ain foreign countries than during the corresponding period last year. Such fluctuations over short periods are a normal feature of the sugar market and do not indicate that the full Colonial quota for the year will not be filled. The position of the whole Colonial Empire is fully safeguarded under the International Sugar Agreement.

Mr. Morgan

Is it part of the long-term policy, to make the British Empire self-supporting in the matter of the production of sugar?

Mr. MacDonald

On that question, I cannot add anything to what I said in the course of the Debate yesterday.

Mr. Shinwell

Is it not the case that the West Indian sugar trade is operating under a preference, and, if so, how does the right hon. Gentleman account for the reduction as compared with supplies from non-Empire sources? Does it not indicate the failure of the preference?

Mr. MacDonald

No, it simply indicates that perfectly normal fluctuations are taking place. As I have said, in a full year, the full West Indian quota will come to this country.

Mr. Shinwell

Do the figures in the question not relate to a full year?

Mr. MacDonald

They relate to a period of two months in the year.

58. Major Procter

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what would be the estimated cost to the Exchequer of removing the limitation imposed in Section i of the Finance Act, 1934, under which the quantity of sugar in respect of which special certifications may be issued in any financial year must not exceed 360,000 tons; and whether, in view of the difficult situation of the sugar industry in the British West Indies, he will consider the removal of this limitation?

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Captain Euan Wallace)

As regards the first part of the question, I assume that my hon. Friend has in mind a discretionary power to increase above 360,000 tons in any financial year the quantity of certificated imports of Colonial sugar chargeable with duty at the reduced preferential rate, and not the automatic extension of that rate to all imports of Colonial sugar. The cost to the Exchequer would depend upon how far the power to grant certificates was actually used. If all imports of Colonial sugar were certified for the special preferential rebate the Exchequer would stand to lose up to £3,0oo,000 a year over and above the present cost of the preference on sugar. As regards the second part of the question, I would draw my hon. Friend's attention to the statement made in yesterday's Debate by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies.