HC Deb 08 March 1971 vol 813 cc3-6
2. Mr. Moate

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he will name the countries from which it is expected that the United Kingdom will import bananas in the next 12 months.

The Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Anthony Grant)

I expect the greater part of our imports to continue to come from Jamaica and the Windward Islands, with small quantities from a number of other suppliers.

Mr. Moate

Will my hon. Friend confirm that it is the Government's policy to provide a long-term and assured market for bananas from both the Windward Islands and Jamaica? Will my hon. Friend also assure the House that any increase in supplies from the overseas associated territories of the Common Market will not be at the expense of Commonwealth growers?

Mr. Grant

I can give my hon. Friend the assurance which we have given to the Windward Islands and Jamaica—namely, that we are aware of the vital importance to them of the banana industry and that we shall seek to protect their interests after our entry into the E.E.C.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the best way to protect the interests of the banana growers in Jamaica and the Windward Islands would be for the British Government to come to an agreement on negotiated quotas of bananas for entry into this country from our traditional suppliers?

Mr. Grant

I do not necessarily agree. But what is of comfort is that only last week an agreement was reached between Fyffes and the Jamaica Banana Board which, I gather, was satisfactory to both parties. I think that it will be best to wait and see how that works out.

15. Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what is the existing tariff on bananas imported from countries in the Commonwealth.

Mr. Anthony Grant

Bananas grown in the Commonwealth enter the United Kingdom duty-free.

Mr. Lewis

Can the Minister say to what extent any possible known terms of entry to the Common Market will assist Commonwealth producers and home consumers, if and when we get in? Will prices go up or will they go down? What advantages will there be?

Mr. Grant

That depends entirely on the course of the negotiations we are at the moment undertaking. We have given quite clear evidence that we understand the special difficulties of the banana producers. If the hon. Gentleman wants to ask any precise question about the negotiations, he should address it to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

16. Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he will give an estimate of the number of tons of bananas that will be imported from Central America in 1971.

Mr. Anthony Grant

I prefer not to venture an estimate. Imports from this area are subject to the overall dollar quota, which is at present 4,000 tons.

Mr. Lewis

I asked a precise question last time, Mr. Speaker, so perhaps I may ask a precise question now. When and if we get into the Common Market on any known terms, will the position be that producers in the Commonwealth and consumers at home will be worse off? Will the Minister answer that specific question?

Mr. Grant

Of course I will, but the answer to the question is that we cannot possibly—

Mr. Lewis


Mr. Grant

As I assume the hon. Gentleman wants an answer, he might have the courtesy to wait until I have finished speaking. The answer is that we cannot be certain until the terms have been negotiated and are known. There is no need for the hon. Member to be critical, because I merely told him that if he wanted details of the negotiations he must ask the appropriate Minister.

17. Mr. Body

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the number of tons of bananas to be imported from the Windward Islands in 1971.

31. Mr. Alfred Morris

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what quantity of bananas are expected to be imported from Jamaica in 1971.

47. Mr. Kilfedder

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many tons of bananas are likely to be imported from Jamaica in 1971.

Mr. Anthony Grant

There are no restrictions on the import of bananas from the Windward Islands and Jamaica, and imports will no doubt repond to market demand.

Mr. Body

There are no restrictions on imports, but is my hon Friend not aware that there is a great lack of confidence being generated in the Windward Islands, where they fear that if we enter the Common Market they will be given some associated status and that that will be considered enough? Is he not aware that they need far more than that if they are to maintain supplies to this country?

Mr. Grant

I can only repeat that we understand very clearly the problems of the Windward Islands and their dependence upon this trade. Only last week Ministers from the Windward Islands came here and had full discussions with members of Her Majesty's Government, when the whole matter was reviewed and we promised to keep it very carefully under review.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Is the Minister aware that a period of nine months for an agreement with Jamaica is much too short? Can he say why for this commodity we cannot have an agreement akin to the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement?

Mr. Grant

When the hon. Gentleman says that the period is too short, the answer is that this was an agreement reached between Fyffes and the Jamaica Banana Board, which we understand was perfectly satisfactory to both sides. There is also provision for renegotiation at the end of that time. We should see how the agreement works out before considering anything further.

Mr. Kilfedder

My hon. Friend said that he was also answering my Question No. 47, but I did not hear him give the number of tons of bananas likely to be imported from Jamaica in 1971. Is my hon. Friend satisfied with the agreement reached between Jamaica and Fyffes? Surely there is no security as a result of an agreement which lasts for only nine months? Can my hon. Friend give an assurance that the Government will try to ensure that preference will be given to Commonwealth countries, such as Jamaica, over non-Commonwealth countries?

Mr. Grant

On the latter point, I cannot go further than I have gone, which is to say that we shall be taking the special position of these countries into consideration in the negotiations which we are undertaking. As to the agreement, I should have thought that the people who had to be satisfied were not the Government but the parties to the agreement, and my information is that they are thoroughly satisfied.

Mr. Whitlock

Since the price paid by the British housewife is anything from ten to twelve times that paid to the producer in Jamaica, will the Minister look at what happens between the point of production and the retail outlet to see what justifies this enormous mark-up?

Mr. Grant

While I do not necessarily accept the hon. Gentleman's figures, we will certainly look into that question very carefully.

Mr. Biffen

Is my hon. Friend aware that he has a record of well-founded scepticism about the Common Market, and will he, therefore, assure us that he will do his utmost to make representations that prove satisfactory to my hon. Friends?

Mr. Grant

I can certainly assure my hon. Friend that we shall take into consideration the interests of those countries, but perhaps I should remind him that everyone is entitled to take different views of subjects over the course of years in the light of experience gained.