HC Deb 01 May 1940 vol 360 cc702-3
36. Mr. R. Morgan

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the Government has yet been able to formulate its policy with regard to the sugar industry of the West Indian islands, especially with regard to the recommendations of the Royal Commission; and when he will be able to announce it?

Mr. M. MacDonald

As the answer is rather long, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the Official Report:

Following is the answer:

The Royal Commission recommended on the one hand a variation in the system by which a supplementary preference is granted on a limited quantity of certificated sugar, and on the other an increase in the basic export quotas in the West Indian Colonies by about 120,000 tons per annum. As the Commissioners themselves suggested, war-time conditions have modified the situation, especially in relation to the special certificated preference, which before the war they contemplated should be used as a device to adjust the market price for sugar to what they thought the producer should receive. One fundamental change since the outbreak of war has been the bulk purchase of all Colonial sugar by the Ministry of Food at a fixed price, and His Majesty's Government have reached the conclusion that the recommendations of the Commission on the system of certificated preference are not suitable for adoption during the war. On the other hand they recognise also that it is not appropriate in present conditions to adhere literally to the scheme announced in Parliament by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 7th March, 1938, by which the value of the certificated preference was to be reduced by 25 per cent. for every rise of 6d. in the bulk price of sugar above a pivotal figure of 6s. 6d. They accordingly propose that, even if the price fixed by the Ministry of Food for bulk purchases of Colonial sugar exceeds 6s. 6d. by 6d. or more, the extra preference of 3s. per cwt. shall continue to be given on a quota of 360,000 tons for the duration of the war.

As regards an increase of the quantity of Colonial exports, the recommendations of the Royal Commission were received too late for any action to be taken as regards the West Indian crops to be reaped in 1941, which were planted in 1939; but it happens that His Majesty's Government had advised all the sugar producing Colonies, including those in the West Indies, as long ago as July, 1939, to work towards the production of 20 per cent. in excess of their basic quotas under the International Sugar Agreement for the 1941 crop. This works out at approximately the same increase for the West Indian Colonies as a whole as that recommended by the Royal Commission. The position of the 1942 crop, to be planted this year, is now under review, in the light of the estimated requirements of this country in 1942 and of shipping facilities likely to be available. Should it be decided that any further increase is desirable the recommendations of the Royal Commission as to the allocation of increased quotas within the West Indian group will be taken into account. I cannot, however, say more at present than that the Colonies will be advised what action to take well before the commencement of the planting season.

At the end of the war, the whole question will have to be considered in the light of the conditions then prevailing.