HC Deb 20 January 1977 vol 924 cc624-5
16. Mr. Spearing

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he expects to announce Her Majesty's Government's plans for the port cane sugar refining industry.

Mr. John Silkin

As my hon. Friend knows, I shall be visiting the refinery in his constituency tomorrow. I have been pressing forward discussions with the refiners, the unions representing their workers, and other interested parties, and I hope in the near future to be able to make a full statement.

Mr. Spearing

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer and, in advance, for the visit which he will be paying tomorrow to the refinery in my constituency. Is he aware that the length of time that the Government have taken to reach a decision has caused uncertainty and that this is a very long-delayed exercise consequent upon our joining the Common Market? Has there been co-operation from my right hon. Friend's colleagues on the Council in appreciating the problems that our joining the Common Market has had on employment in the port cane sugar refining industry?

Mr. Silkin

There has been a good appreciation of the situation in this country in the port cane sugar refining industry. The problem that we have to face here is how we can preserve employment in areas like my hon. Friend's constituency which will inevitably be affected, and perhaps would have been affected regardless of our joining the Common Market, by the increasing importance of beet sugar. I hope that the uncertainty which my hon. Friend talked about is much less than it was. Certainly I am determined to do my best to arrive at a conclusion which will safeguard the jobs of as many as possible of my hon. Friend's constituents and all the others concerned.