HC Deb 05 November 1956 vol 558 cc1919-20
2. Lieut.-Col. Lipton

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what the estimated annual additional cost of the latest increase in sugar prices will be to British consumers.

11. Mr. Willey

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for what reasons he has increased the price of raw sugar; and what effect he estimates that this will have on retail sugar prices.

1. Mr. Owen

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement concerning the rise in the price of sugar to the refiners; and what estimate he made of the effect on the consumer before making this increase.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. D. Heathcoat Amory)

My Department on 28th October increased the basic price at which it sells raw sugar from 42s. 10½d. to 46s. 10½d. a cwt. in order to cover its costs on sugar during the current financial year. As a result, there was a corresponding increase in the first-hand price of granulated sugar. If the whole of this increase were passed on to the consumer it would amount to about ½d. a lb., but there is keen competition and I expect the price to continue to vary from shop to shop. Since the effect upon the retail price is not known, it is not possible to estimate the additional cost to the consumer.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

As the Government have failed in reducing prices—and in some other respects as well—has not the time come for the right hon. Gentleman to follow the praiseworthy example of his right hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Mr. Nutting) and tender his resignation from the Government?

Mr. Amory

It has been the normal practice of the Government to pass on the cost of sugar to the consumer, that is to say, the average cost of the Commonwealth negotiated sugar and the world price sugar.

Mr. Willey

Why has the right hon. Gentleman jumped the gun? He has just appointed the Sugar Board; why could he not have left this to the consideration of the Sugar Board? Does he not realise that he is open to the suspicion that he is doing this purely to help private enterprise?

Mr. Amory

The reasons arise, as I have explained, in pursuance of our normal policy of covering our costs. As I explained, I think, to the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) at the time the Sugar Bill went through the House, we did not intend to sell our stocks of sugar—and these are purely seasonal stocks which will accumulate, as they always do, in the last three months of the year—to the Sugar Board but, instead, to sell them to the refiners.