HC Deb 16 March 1978 vol 946 cc617-9
7. Mr. Loyden

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much beet was exported from the European Economic Community during 1976–7.

Mr. Bishop

Community exports of sugar beet to third countries in 1975–76 were 11,000 tonnes. The corresponding figure for 1976–77 is not yet available from the Community. Community exports of sugar—predominantly from beet—to third countries in 1976–77 were about 1,600,000 tonnes of white sugar and 65,000 tonnes of raw.

Mr. Loyden

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the concern that is felt in the sugar refining industry in the United Kingdom and is he satisfied that the present arrangements will secure the jobs of workers in that industry? For instance, in the Tate and Lyle set-up, workers are concerned that Tate and Lyle is prepared to advance its plans on reorganisation, with a further loss of jobs. Is this not due to the amount of sugar being imported?

Mr. Bishop

I am aware of the concern of my hon. Friend and the approaches that he has made to my right hon. Friend with others on this matter. I am aware that the Tate and Lyle company has raised this possibility in local negotiations with its work force. The plan for the reorganisation of the industry was agreed, as my hon. Friend knows, after intensive discussions between the Government, the company and the workers The company undertook that provided its long-term supplies of sugar from the ACP countries continued at the current levels, it would not contract capacity or employment in the port refineries—except by agreements with the trade unions—at a greater rate than was envisaged in the plan. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will be following the progress of those discussions with very close interest.

Mr. Marten

What effect have those exports of sugar from the Community had on the world market price? What effect has that had, in turn, on the export earnings of the developing countries which produce sugar?

Mr. Bishop

The relevance of the question put by my hon. Friend is the concern that there should be adequate supplies of sugar in this country for processing. The hon. Member will be aware that Tate and Lyle has secured 150,000 tonnes per annum of French raw sugar. The Lomé Agreement has had its effect. The total Community exports, excluding re-exports, were about 1,600,000 tonnes of white sugar and 65,000 tonnes of raw sugar, as I mentioned.

Mr. John Evans

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the present surplus of EEC beet sugar constitutes a very grave threat to the ACP countries' future exports of cane sugar to this country and thereby a very great threat to the continued employment of cane sugar workers? Will he urge his right hon. Ministers to accept a considerable cutback in beet sugar quotas throughout the Community?

Mr. Bishop

We are aware of the problem stated by my hon. Friend. It is a matter, within the Community, of equating supply and demand, taking into account the job situation. We have assurances about the national situation with regard to Tate and Lyle and Liverpool in particular. We want to make sure that the assurances which have been given will be pursued.

Mr. Hawkins

Does the Minister realise that a large amount of refining is now carried out in British Sugar Corporation factories, particularly, in my constituency, where no sugar at all was previously refined? Will he pay tribute to the extraordinary expansion of the home industry, which has saved imports of sugar into this country, and to the great benefit that this industry is to the countryside?

Mr. Bishop

As I have just said, the problem is one of balancing supply and demand within the Community and outside, and nationally as well. In relation to "Food from Our Own Resources", we have tabled our views about the need for 50 per cent. self-sufficiency by 1980. The White Paper is under review at present and we have to look at the cane sugar side and the beet sugar side in relation to the effect upon the jobs of those concerned.

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