HC Deb 16 November 1971 vol 826 cc200-2
10. Mr. Farr

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to expand home sugar beet production in the next three years.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answers which I gave on 19th October to Questions from my hon. Friends the Members for King's Lynn (Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler) and Shrewsbury (Sir J. Langford-Holt).—[Vol. 823, c. 532–3; Vol. 823, c. 82.]

Mr. Farr

Can my hon. Friend assure us that, in any case, we shall have the necessary handling capacity to meet expanded production from the existing acreage in the years ahead?

Mr. Stodart

Yes, Sir. The British Sugar Corporation has a £30 million expansion programme in hand for the factories which exist at present.

Mr. Moyle

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, since the negotiations in Brussels, Her Majesty's Government's first priority in this connection must be to maintain the supply of Commonwealth sugar to this country? Should not the Government lend their influence to a policy of restraint in this country and in Europe in the consumption of beet sugar?

Mr. Stodart

Until the end of 1974, we are taking the whole of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement quotas. Thereafter, we have a firm assurance from the E.E.C. of a secure and continuing market for the Commonwealth sugar quota countries.

11. Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans he has for promoting the construction of new sugar beet factories in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Prior

None, Sir. The provision of beet processing capacity is essentially a commercial function; but the British Sugar Corporation assure me they could provide substantially increased capacity by the time it is likely to be required.

Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask whether he is prepared to give a firm estimate of the annual increase in domestic sugar beet acreage likely after 1974?

Mr. Prior

No, Sir. I cannot give such an assurance at this stage. If I may put it rather colloquially, after 1974 I think that there will be all to play for.

Mr. Eadie

Since the right hon. Gentleman was thanked for his reply about factories, will not he consider keeping in production some of the factories already in being? There is one in Fife, for example, where people badly need jobs.

Mr. Prior

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's concern. It is one that is shared by many hon. Members on both sides of the House. However, primarily this is a matter for my right hon. Friend.

Mr. MacArthur

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the deep concern in Scotland about the apparent lack of progress in the negotiations between the private enterprise consortium and the British Sugar Corporation in this matter? Will he please give some further reassurance about acreage questions which are of such concern?

Mr. Prior

When my hon. Friend and I last answered Questions, my hon. Friend made it clear that acreage was not the main problem. The main problem is agreement between two independent companies—the consortium and the British Sugar Corporation—on a price for the factory. That is the point that the negotiations have reached at this stage.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

What did the right hon. Gentleman mean when he said that after 1974 there would be "all to play for"? Does not that contradict his hon. Friend's reply to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Moyle) about the future of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement? Will the right hon. Gentleman be more precise?

Mr. Prior

After 1974, the Australian quota is phased out, which means that there will be an additional 335,000 tons available for distribution. That is the quantity to which referred as being "all to play for".

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