HC Deb 29 November 1979 vol 974 cc1474-5
16. Mr. Cockeram

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is satisfied with the projected A and B quotas for sugar beet for 1980 to 1981 for the United Kingdom.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

No formal proposals have yet been tabled by the Commission. However, reports of what these proposals might be indicate discrimination against the United Kingdom and in such a form they would be unacceptable.

Mr. Cockeram

Does my hon. Friend accept that since the United Kingdom did not contribute to the surpluses—indeed, we did not even use our full A quota—we should not be penalised for the surpluses produced by France and West Germany?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

That is precisely the issue that concerns us. We are especially concerned about the years of production on which it appears the Commission might base its proposals for quotas. They are years when, for weather and other reasons, production in Britain was at a much lower level than average.

Mr. Freud

Will the Minister bear in mind that the projected quota B for Britain is nil? Will he accept that sugar beet farmers will be reluctant to take up their full allocation unless they have a chance of getting at the B quota?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

For the very reason that the hon. Gentleman has advanced, obtaining a fair share of the A quota is vital for our industry.

Mr. Ralph Howell

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the importance of the sugar beet industry to Norfolk and of how much resentment there will be if there is any unfair cutback of acreages in Britain alone?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Yes. Criticisms have been made to the effect that our industry is in some respects less efficient than that of other member States. Those criticisms fail to take account of the fact that when input is related to output, in economic terms we have an efficient sugar beet producing industry.

Mr. Mason

Much will depend upon the advice that the Minister is receiving about world trends leading to a sugar surplus or a deficit. As the British Sugar Corporation suggests, there may be a sugar deficit in due course. Is that the advice that the Minister is receiving?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

We are taking advice from a number of quarters, as did our predecessors. Much of the advice is conflicting, on both sides of the argument. We shall come to a decision on our best consideration of the advice that is given.

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