HC Deb 07 July 1959 vol 608 cc1092-4
6. Mr. Royle

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the present situation with regard to the citrus industry in the West Indies and its future prospects, in view of the dollar liberalisation proposals advocated by the United Kingdom Government.

36. Mr. Fisher

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if the West Indian citrus industry negotiations are still continuing; and whether he will make a further statement.

5. Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what official representations have been made to him by the Federation of the West Indies with regard to the future of the citrus industry; what requests have been made; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The talks with the West Indian delegation about their citrus industry are still in progress. I cannot at present add to the reply I gave on 30th June to Questions by my hon. Friend and other hon. Members. A wide field of rather technical matters is being covered in their talks. I shall certainly be ready to make a statement on the outcome as soon as I can.

Mr. Royle

Does the right hon. Gentleman's reply indicate that in the last week there has been no real progress on this matter? May I also ask him whether it is any use thinking in terms of development plans and research programmes unless there is a guaranteed market for the goods, and will he, therefore, use his influence with his right hon. Friends who are so responsible?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

It would certainly be wrong for the hon. Gentleman to read into my Answer that no progress has been made. Progress has been made. I am myself meeting them tomorrow, when I hope very much that some of the difficulties will be ironed out.

Mr. Fisher

While I am aware of my right hon. Friend's personal sympathy in the matter, may I ask him to bear in mind that the negotiations have now been going on for over six weeks? Could he tell us when the last meeting took place, when the next meeting will take place, and whether he sees any hope of a settlement of the negotiations before the summer Recess?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

There have been a number of meetings of subcommittees. I do not think it would be profitable for the eventual outcome we all hope to see if I gave my hon. Friend public information about what is continuing amicably in private. I hope very much that there will be a satisfactory solution. This is not an easy matter. It involves the reconciliation of our duties to the West Indies, their duties to themselves and our international obligations, but I believe it can be resolved satisfactorily and I will make a statement as soon as I can.

17. Mr. Blenkinsop

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what development and research schemes have been set up in the West Indies Federation for the assistance and encouragement of the citrus industry; and to what extent the United Kingdom will offer long-term contracts and an assured market to the industry to ensure that the maximum benefit is obtained from these schemes by the West Indies.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply on 30th June to a question by the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd). No development and research schemes other than the Price Assistance Scheme I then mentioned, have yet been set up specifically and solely for the benefit of the citrus industry. The need for such schemes is being discussed in the present talks with a West Indian delegation. As to long-term contracts there are differences between sugar and citrus products. There is in force a ten-year contract for welfare orange juice negotiated by the Ministry of Food in 1950. Any question about this would be for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware of the real anxiety which exists about the future of this industry, especially because of the prospects for development and research? Is he aware how important is the whole of this industry to the West Indies? Can he give some further assurance?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I agree with what the hon. Gentleman has said, but I have nothing to add to what I said before—that I will make a statement as soon as possible.