HC Deb 29 July 1952 vol 504 cc1251-2
25. Mr. Dodds

asked the President of the Board of Trade, in view of the glut of sugar in Cuba, if he will initiate negotiations for a new trade pact with that country which would enable the extra sugar to be obtained for sterling to be spent in Britain and thus make sugar rationing unnecessary.

The Secretary for Overseas Trade (Mr. H. R. Mackeson)

No, Sir. We are heavily in deficit with Cuba on our balance of trade, and any additional purchases of sugar would increase the deficit whether we were to pay for them in inconvertible sterling or not. We already need a substantial increase in our exports to Cuba to pay for the existing level of our sugar purchases from that country.

Mr. Dodds

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware of the statement made by prominent people in Cuba that they are prepared to sell sugar at less than 2d. per 1b. to this country, the money to be spent in this country, and as rearmament is being cut, cannot some further efforts be made to get extra sugar which would not have the effect of creating hardship in this country?

Mr. Mackeson

Yes, Sir. Both my right hon. Friend and I have seen a representative from Cuba, but the trouble at the moment is that we are importing £48½ million from Cuba and only exporting £.7½ million, and we are determined not to take any steps to prejudice the interest of the British Commonwealth sugar producers.

Mr. Profumo

If the Government cut out altogether the importation of these fantastically expensive sugar substitutes from the Continent the money saved could be used to buy sugar from Cuba, thereby achieving similar results to that in the mind of the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds). Would not that have the approval of the whole House?

Mr. Mackeson

That would not solve our balance of payment situation with Cuba, which is in fact almost part of the dollar area.

Mr. Bottomley

Will not the hon. Gentleman consider seeing the Cuban Government representative and suggest that it might be to our mutual advantage to forgo Havana cigars this year and take more sugar?

Mr. Mackeson

That is a different question. I am only too anxious to do everything we can. As the right hon. Gentleman says, it is our desire to help the Cubans to purchase more things from this country because, unless that is done, it will be difficult for us to maintain our present purchases.