HC Deb 10 June 1976 vol 912 cc1646-7
2. Mr. Spearing

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will seek a readjustment of the Lomé Agreement to enable ACP sugar producers to reallocate raw sugar quotas among themselves without prejudice to the total quota of 1.3 million tons.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Fred Peart)

The ACP sugar producers themselves agreed with the Community the provisions of the Lomé Convention sugar protocol on reallocation of shortfalls. They also agreed that no change would be made to that protocol for at least five years. I shall support the reallocation of any shortfalls occuring by 30th June this year, within the existing terms of the protocol.

Mr. Spearing

Yes, but does not my right hon. Friend agree that the existing terms of the protocol are not good enough in that the reallocation cannot take place in the current year? As over 400,000 tons of the 1.3 million tons of raw sugar comes from Mauritius, does my right hon. Friend agree that if that island were to suffer a natural disaster our cane refiners would be short of supplies? After the five years that my right hon. Friend has mentioned, does he agree that the matter must be looked at again?

Mr. Peart

I accept that. That is what was agreed by the producers. I am well aware of the need to maintain throughput at our cane refineries. I specifically dealt with Fiji only the other week. It had similar difficulties to those being experienced by Mauritius, but this has always happened, even under the Commonwealth Sugar agreement.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I was at Luxembourg last week when the Lomé States were meeting? Is he aware that they were agreeable to the proposals that were made? They accepted them with some slight reluctance as regards price but were extremely agreeable as regards quantity. It was recognised that the agreement was to their advantage and to ours.

Mr. Peart

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's support. I believe that the Lomé Convention was a good deal for the ACP countries. I think there is recognition of that in the developing world.

Mr. Buchan

Does my right hon. Friend agree that under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement it was possible to get sugar from other Commonwealth sources—for example, Australia? Does he agree that it will not now be possible to get other supplies if the situation goes wrong? Finally, does he agree that the problem is not only that of the ACP producers but of the possible employment situation facing the can refiners in this country?

Mr. Peart

I am aware of the worries and concerns of those who represent constituencies where refining takes place. I have met the trade unions, and I hope to make an announcement very soon. My hon. Friend was a member and supporter of an Administration—

Mr. Spearing

And resigned.

Mr. Peart

Not when Australia was a member of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement.

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