HC Deb 17 February 1981 vol 999 cc204-49

[Relevant European Community document: No. 10009/80.]

Mr. Speaker

I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

8.15 pm
Mr. Roy Mason (Barnsley)

I beg to move That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take steps to preserve cane sugar refinery capacity in the United Kingdom; to press for cuts in the beet quotas of other Common Market countries; to safeguard jobs among sugar workers in the United Kingdom, and to assure the African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries that the commitment on the Sugar Protocol stands firm. We are very concerned about the pending closure of the Tate and Lyle refinery at Liverpool. We are concerned about the surplus production of sugar within the European Economic Community. We are concerned about the selfish image of a rich industrialised Community threatening the economies in the Third world and constantly placing thousands of our old Commonwealth colleagues' jobs in danger. We are also concerned about the image of Britain under a Tory Government who, among the many African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, are allowing the view to prevail that they may well renege on the sugar protocol of the Lomé convention.

The Community document before us is relevant to the debate. The sugar quotas for the Common Market countries are to be fixed for the next five years. The total Community A and B quotas are to be reduced from 11.6 million tonnes to 11.2 million tonnes. This is a minuscule reduction compared with the demand for cuts by the Opposition of the other Common Market sugar producers and also requested by the ACP countries and, indeed, by the Commission itself. Even then, it does not mean that there will be a reduction in sugar production. Producers can still produce more than their quota allocation of A and B quotas through C quotas and sell it if they wish on the world market without a Common Market refund; or, as is proposed in the regulation, it can be stored and qualify for storage refunds. The United Kingdom's combined A and B quotas have been cut from 1,326,000 tonnes to 1,092,000 tonnes. In particular, the B quota has been cut from 286,000 tonnes to 52,000 tonnes. Again, they can still produce as much as they wish on the C quotas. Nevertheless, the cut in B quotas represents an unfair cut in British quotas compared with France, Germany and Denmark.

We oppose the proposed sugar quotas. If agreed by the Council of Ministers, they will mean a further five years of surplus sugar production. Initially, the quotas were fixed in 1974. That was a time of temporary shortage. Between 1975 and 1979 it has cost us over £1,000 million to support a sugar mountain and subsidised exports. For too long, surplus production has been excessively high. In addition, exports have been too high. Until last year there was a sugar mountain, and sugar was being dumped at subsidised rates on the world market.

In 1979–80 sugar production in the Common Market was a record 12.3 million tonnes, although consumption was stagnant at 9.5 million tonnes. That represents a surplus of nearly 4 million tonnes. In that year, Common Market prices were nearly four times world price levels. The dumping of the surplus on the world market cost European taxpayers £356 million.

For some years, we have consistently produced a surplus. Of course, one must recognise that occasionally—as the result of rare combined circumstances—there may be a shortage. In one year in seven a shortage may occur. Last year was such a year. The Cuban crop was largely destroyed as a result of rust disease. There was a drought in India that harmed the sugar crop. Therefore, the Soviets were in the world market, prices rose and the Common Market recouped some money instead of losing it. However, that does not detract from the force of one of our main charges, namely, that in most years the EEC has dumped, and will—if new quotas are agreed—continue to dump sugar at subsidised rates on the world market.

As a result, the EEC is destroying market opportunities for African, Caribbean and Pacific countries as well as for the developing countries. Trade outlets are closed to them and they cannot compete. Their economies are constantly placed in jeopardy. Mauritius, Jamaica, St. Kitts, Fiji and the whole of the Caribbean block depend on the deal agreed when we entered the EEC, which is enshrined in the sugar protocol of the Lome convention. It guaranteed that 1.3 million tonnes of cane sugar could enter the Common Market. That means mainly the United Kingdom. That is one of the main reasons why Parliament resolved that the United Kingdom should enter the EEC.

If the assurances on New Zealand lamb and butter and on ACP sugar had not been firmly agreed I doubt whether the House would have agreed to enter the Community. The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) negotiated on behalf of the Government. At the time he made a clear statement. He said that there would be— a secure and continuing market in the enlarged Community on fair terms for the quantities of sugar covered by the Commonwealth sugar agreement in respect of all its existing developing countries. He underlined that undertaking and stated: If quotas for beet sugar production were increased in such a way that imports from Commonwealth countries were threatened, it would be a breach of undertakings by the Community". That Government guarantee is of crucial importance to all the ACP countries, to their economies and to the livelihood of many poor workers in the cane sugar industries of the old Commonwealth.

When my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) was Minister for Agriculture, he gave an assurance to a deputation of ACP country Ministers on 15 March 1979. He said that he would preserve the traditional outlets in the United Kingdom market for ACP sugar. In reply to similar representations, the present Minister of Agriculture said on 28 June 1979 that he could confirm that the Government's policy was unchanged in that regard. In particular, he said that he endorsed the statement made to the ACP Ministers on 15 March 1979. That commitment to the ACP countries was strongly underlined when, in 1973, a former Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Joseph Godber said: first, that the undertakings constituted a moral commitment by the enlarged Community. Second, that it would be the firm policy of the British Government to ensure that the proposal of the Community would be implemented in accordance with the agreed Commonwealth interpretation of it. The United Kingdom stands by all those assurances without reservation and will continue to do so. To me, that is the firmest commitment by the Government. However, the ACP countries now feel that the Government will renege on those specific guarantees. Representatives of the ACP countries met the Minister in June 1980. They stated that the United Kingdom demand for sugar had fallen, that the British Sugar Corporation was then facing a second successive record beet crop, the United Kingdom surplus was becoming larger and that the ACP countries were not responsible for any surplus; their quotas and their supplies remained fixed. But in the meantime, beet output was increasing in the other Common Market countries. The Minister undertook to have further consultations should a situation arise in the United Kingdom market that would be harmful to the interests of the ACP countries. They now believe that the warnings and the fears that were expressed to the British Government were not heeded. With the pending closure of the Liverpool refinery they believe that another major bridge is to be destroyed.

The sugar cane refineries in Britain are the bridges by which the cane sugar of the ACP countries can gain access to the United Kingdom. One by one, they are being pulled down and we are now reaching the stage where ACP cane sugar will have to be diverted from the United Kingdom. The Hammersmith refinery has been closed, with the loss of 294 jobs and 130,000 tonnes of refining capacity. Sankey refinery was closed, with the loss of 352 jobs and 160,000 tonnes of refining capacity. The refining capacity at Liverpool has been reduced, and the plant at Warker, Greenock was closed with a loss of a further 110 jobs and a further 110,000 tonnes of refining capacity.

Already, without the complete closure of Liverpool, 1,790 jobs have been lost in the United Kingdom and a refining capacity of 650,000 tonnes has been lost to the ACP countries. That is not solely because of the policies of the present Government. It has been spread over a number of years. One by one the bridges are being pulled down, thousands of jobs are being lost and refining capacity within the United Kingdom is being denied to the ACP countries. To them, the closure of the refinery at Liverpool is the last straw. We have now reached the stage where ACP cane that is normally destined for the United Kingdom will have to be diverted elsewhere within the EEC.

Mr. Robert Parry (Liverpool, Scotland Exchange)

With regard to the closure of refineries and the loss of jobs, is my right hon. Friend aware that 734 jobs have been lost in Liverpool, and 252 in Sankey on Merseyside? If the Tate and Lyle refinery closes, 1,570 jobs will be lost, and in total Merseyside will have lost 2,556 jobs?

Mr. Mason

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. One of the reasons for the debate is to enable us to highlight the fact that Merseyside has been suffering terribly because of the closures to which he referred, the half closure of the Liverpool refinery, and the pending closure of it. From the point of view of the ACP countries, the closure of the Liverpool refinery is extremely serious. They recognise that the outlet that has been guaranteed to them from the Commonwealth sugar agreement days will be denied.

Within the Common Market the quotas are still too high. In Denmark, Germany and France, production continues to increase. The percentage increases in the B quotas are 7.8 per cent. in Denmark, 11.7 per cent. in Germany and 9.1 per cent. in France. The percentage increases of B quotas on A quotas in Denmark, Germany and France average 30 per cent. So their quotas are still too high and they are continuing to increase. If this continues, more grain refineries within the United Kingdom will be in danger of closing.

If larger volumes of beet sugar are produced within the Common Market—and especially by the three countries that I have mentioned—the economic viability of the Tate and Lyle cane refineries will be endangered, more links or bridges with the ACP countries will go, and our commitments to them will be dishonoured. Therefore, the Minister must press for a greater cut in some of the expanding beet producers within the EEC. A cut in EEC quotas could save Liverpool. The beet producers elsewhere in the EEC are the surplus producers of sugar in Europe, not the ACP countries.

The Government must recognise the impact of this on our domestic industry. The Liverpool refinery is likely to close, with a loss of 1,500 jobs, and with a repercussive affect, causing another 1,500 jobs to be lost in the retail and other sectors. This is already a depressed area, with 51,000 unemployed. The closure could make Liverpool a disaster area.

We believe that this is avoidable. Let us look first at the figures of sugar demand and supply in the United Kingdom, especially in the light of our Commonwealth commitments. The consumption of sugar in the United Kingdom is about 2.3 million tonnes. Production from sugar beet at home is 1.5 million tonnes. Common Market imports from other Community countries is between 150,000 and 200,000 tonnes. The ACP countries send us, on average, just over 1.1 million tonnes per year. So we have about 150,000 tonnes surplus to our requirements.

One of the dangers that I suggested of the diversion to Europe now of ACP sugar that ought to have been going to Liverpool is that some will go to France. What a country in Europe to take cane sugar from ACP countries! We divert sugar to French cane refineries, which they can turn off at a tap at any time when there are agricultural price level discussions or fishery talks with Ministers. That will be another stick with which the French can beat us.

Within the United Kingdom, sugar beet production has risen from 900,000 tonnes at the time of our entry into the Common Market to 115 million tonnes, an increase of about 20 per cent.—albeit, I admit, encouraged by the White Paper "Food from Our Own Resources". But in recent times consumption has fallen, and the British Sugar Corporation will not now reach its estimated target, hence the beet factory closures that have recently been announced.

But we fairly consistently have a European beet surplus, and it is right that the Minister should help to protect BSC's investment and jobs. This means that he must fight for greater cuts in the French, Danish and German quotas, where the European surplus is really being created.

Up to two years ago, 350,000 tonnes of Common Market sugar was allowed to come into the United Kingdom, until my right hon. Friend the member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) prevailed upon United Kingdom importers and users to cut back those imports. The figure was cut roughly to a ceiling of 200,000 tonnes, but last year 178,000 tonnes of sugar came into the United Kingdom from the rest of the EEC. It is known as an insurance by the users in the United Kingdom, but it is some insurance when up to 3,000 jobs in Liverpool can be placed at risk, and 750 jobs in beet refineries in this country, because the users, as a measure of insurance, want to allow 178,000 tonnes of sugar to come from the rest of the Community into the United Kingdom. Every imported tonne of beet squeezes out the ACP cane.

Thirdly, recognising that the Common Market countries are expanding their beet production and threatening economies and jobs in ACP countries and the jobs of British workers in beet and cane refineries, the right hon. Gentleman must if necessary be prepared to veto the sugar quota proposals in the agricultural price review.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

I represent a constituency which has probably the largest sugar beet plant in Britain or in Europe. Is the right hon. Gentleman in favour of a higher quota for sugar beet production in Britain or a lower one? In other words, does he want more beet sugar from our own resources or less?

Mr. Mason

In a perfect world we would try to strike a balance between beet and cane—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question".] The port refinery trade unions—the Transport and General Workers Union and the General and Municipal Workers Union—would both like to work towards that aim and—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question".]—so would we. I know that the Minister will go for a higher quota for beet producers in Britain. That is mainly because he is upset on their behalf because the French, the Danes and the Germans are to be offered a large quota.

I do not want Britain to be guilty in exactly the same way as the French, the Germans and the Danes. Therefore, I advise the right hon. Gentleman when he goes into the negotiations not to raise the beet quota for Britain too high. We must try to strike the right balance.

A reduction in the quotas of beet producers in Europe, or a ban on the entry of the 200,000 tonnes of sugar imports from the rest of the Common Market, could help to save Liverpool. Tate and Lyle's surplus capacity is 300,000 tonnes. It could live with a surplus capacity of 100,000 tonnes. It is possible to save Liverpool within the range that I am talking about.

If the Minister is concerned about the growing levels of unemployment in Britain, the concern of the ACP countries and the commitment to them on our entry to the Common Market, I suggest that he should take action on one or more fronts. I repeat that refining capacity in Britain is on a dangerous decline. That applies to Hammersmith, Sankey, Greenock and Liverpool. There has been the loss of jobs and a total of 750,000 tonnes of refining capacity has gone. This trend is the death knell of the ACP countries and the Lome convention. It will shatter our world and our bond in the old Commonwealth. It signals a total disregard of the concept of Britain helping the Third world and projects a shameful image for Britain and the Common Market throughout the world.

The High Commissioner for Guyana, Cedric Grant, speaking on behalf of the ACP Ministers, recently said: The situation, as I am sure you realise, has serious implications for the future of the imports of our cane sugar into the United Kingdom and seriously threatens the validity of the undertakings given to us at the time of Britain joining the EEC. We hope that our deep concern about this matter will be recognised. We say to the Government that there must be greater cuts in Common Market beet production. We must save our beet and cane refineries and the jobs that are involved. We must stop the destruction of the cane refinery bridges by which ACP cane sugar enters Britain and the Common Market. The British cane refineries are their salvation. Above all, we must stop building sugar surpluses in Britain which are unloaded on to the world market at subsidised prices, thereby threatening the development of economies of the Third world.

The Common Market, with the connivance of Britain, is pursuing a selfish sugar policy towards the rest of the world. We must improve the image of the community. Britain must give a lead by honouring its commitments. If we can cut back the Common Market surplus sugar production, and if we can stop invading the world markets with our subsidised surplus production, we can gain our respect and honour and apply for membership of the international sugar agreement. Thereafter we can plan a positive role in the orderly production, exporting and marketing of sugar in the world and, I hope, bring about some order and sanity in the international marketing of this commodity.

8.40 pm
The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Peter Walker)

I beg to move, to leave out from 'That' to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: 'this House notes with regret that both Tate and Lyle Limited and the British Sugar Corporation have had to announce closures following the contraction of the United Kingdom market for sugar; supports the Government's intention of negotiating a quota for sugar beet production in the United Kingdom which represents a fair balance between the interests of cane and beet sugar producers and of pressing for a reduction in total Community sugar quotas; and confirms that recent developments in no way call into question the obligation towards developing country sugar producers which were accepted by the Community under the Lome Convention and which it wholeheartedly supports.' I have listened to the speech of the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) with immense interest. I also read the motion in his name and those of his right hon. Friends upon the subject. His main point of advocacy was that the Government should strenuously try to reduce the sugar quotas of other European countries. He spoke of the possibility, in the coming price negotiations, of vetoing those proposals, if necessary. I must remind him that the quotas of which he complains so bitterly were those agreed to by the Labour Government—quotas that continue to be in operation.

If I veto any suggestions of changed quotas, as the right hon. Gentleman suggests, the quotas to which his Government agreed will continue to be in operation. Therefore, all that I should do would be to allow the continuation of quotas that are 450,000 tonnes greater than the current proposals of the Commission. Therefore, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider carefully the nature of the proposals that he has made, because they would not achieve his expressed objective.

The right hon. Gentleman must recognise that the Labour Government agreed to the quotas that are currently in force. We are discussing Commission proposals that will place an additional levy on those producing sugar in the Community—2½ per cent. flat levy on the A quota and a 40 per cent. levy on the B quota—and proposals that advocate the reduction of the current sugar beet quotas—those agreed to by the Labour Government—by 3.8 per cent., or a total of 450,000 tonnes.

The right hon. Gentleman rightly points out that those proposals include a suggested reduction in our quotas of 17 × per cent. below the quota that the Labour Government obtained, and claimed credit for obtaining, when they were responsible for the negotiations.

I shall deal clearly with the point about the ACP commitment. I am sorry that in his remarks the right hon. Gentleman may have aroused among the countries concerned fears that are totally without justification. I am glad to say that in the past week my hon. Friend the Minister of State, at a meeting overseas, has conferred with a number of the leaders concerned. I am glad also—I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will be pleased to hear the news, as will all who support the ACP agreement—that after the announcement of the intended closure of the Liverpool refinery, Tate and Lyle offered a contract meeting its full commitment to all the countries concerned for the next five years.

Therefore, the Commonwealth countries concerned know that the British Government have reaffirmed their total allegiance to the convention. The European Commission has done the same—this is a European commitment and not only a British one—and the main refiningcompany concerned has offered a further five years of contracts to all the Commonwealth producing countries.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Edge Hill)

Has the Minister seen the wording of the contracts? Can that wording be made available to hon. Members who, quite rightly, are now suspicious because of the allegations made earlier be the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason)? Does the right hon. Gentleman feel that a five-year contract is in the spirit of the Lome convention? Is he content, every five years, to go through this "Will we or won't we" saga?

Mr. Walker

That is the way that it has always been done. Understandably, the convention is a commitment—irrespective of refining or anything else—to buy 1.3 million tonnes of sugar from ACP countries at the price being paid for beet in Europe. That commitment is irrespective of the refining capacity. Refining firms, whoever they may be—Tate and Lyle is the most dominant—must agree commercial contracts with growers. In the past, they have always been five-year contracts. Current contracts will be renewed next year. Because of potential fears about the closing of the Liverpool refinery, Tate and Lyle made an offer to all the countries concerned to take the full contracts for the coming five years.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

Will the Minister say whether the Governments of ACP countries have issued a statement saying that they are happy with what has happened? They issued a statement on 22 January pointing out that the closure of the Tate and Lyle refinery in Liverpool would be disastrous. Have they now said that that closure does not matter?

Mr. Walker

I do not expect statements from the those Governments saying that they are blissfully happy because they have received contracts for the next five years. The British Government and the European Commission have confirmed that the commitments of Britain and Europe under the Lome convention remain in total. I am sure that the offer made last week to renew their contracts in total has removed their anxieties that the closure of the Liverpool refinery could mean an end to the contracts.

Mr. Parry

Was not the spirit of the Lomé convention that 1.3 million tonnes of sugar would be imported, refined and consumed in the United Kingdom? Will that still happen?

Mr. Walker

At the request of the countries concerned, the Lomé convention made a European commitment. As the hon. Gentleman knows, for a number of years some of the Lomé ACP countries have chosen to have refining carried out on the Continent rather than in Britain. During past years Tate and Lyle has refined 1.16 million tonnes of sugar under the Lomé agreement. It has completed contracts for a larger amount, and it has offered to take contracts for the coming five years. I am pleased to confirm the position of the ACP countries' contracts for the coming five years and also the reaffirmation by the Community and the Commission that the Lomé convention will be strictly adhered to.

It is important for the House to recognise certain points when deciding what the right hon. Member for Barnsley referred to as the balance in the market between beet and cane. He said that the previous Labour Government's White Paper "Food From Our Own Resources" provided for a beet production of 1.3 million tonnes. They were shareholders in the British Sugar Corporation. As the responsible ministry, they pursued the agricultural policies concerned. They said both to our agricultural industry and to the British Sugar Corporation that that was their objective. It remained their objective until they left office.

The right hon. Gentleman did not mention the 1979 White Paper, published only a couple of weeks before the general election, in which it was made perfectly clear that the Government intended and wanted sugar beet production in Britain to continue to rise. The first brake put upon that attitude was made by myself. When I took office the Commission had put forward proposals for sugar quotas. I examined the obviously declining consumption of sugar and decided that if the Labour Government's objective of 1.3 million tonnes of beet remained the objective of this Government there would be considerable potential damage to the cane refining industry.

Therefore, it was my decision to reduce the quota from the 1.326 million tonnes that the Labour Government obtained, and to reduce their declared objective of 1.3 million tonnes of beet production to 1.15 million tonnes. In doing so, I was lobbied by trade unionists from both the cane and the beet refining sectors. The trade unionists from the cane refining sector expressed anxiety that the position might result in difficulties in their industry, but I think that I am correct in saying that they were relieved that I had reduced the figure by that 200,000 tonnes. The sugar beet trade unionists—the same trade unions, but obviously representing different members—complained strongly about my announcement and stated that in their judgment their industry had been successful, deserved support, and had been positively encouraged by the Government to invest and to create the capacity that existed.

At the behest of the Government, and with the Government as a substantial shareholder, the British Sugar Corporation invested £150 million in capital investment to reach the targets set for it by the Labour Government. As a result of reducing that quota and of adhering to that over virtually the whole of the past two years, under pressure from both sides, we have the sad circumstances of this debate. Tate and Lyle has announced the closure of the Liverpool refinery and the British Sugar Corporation has announced the closure of four of its factories, with a resulting 750 permanent staff unemployed as well as 500 staff who were employed during the sugar beet campaign.

It therefore cannot be said that the Government decided to give preference to beet sugar as opposed to cane. It can, however, be said that for a substantial period I have made it clear to both the cane refining industry and the beet refining industry that the balance of 1.15 million tonnes for beet compared with 1.16 million tonnes for cane refined last year is one that in the current circumstances, I considered it correct to make.

Certain trade union leaders came to see me yesterday on this subject. They stated that Tate and Lyle's suggestion that the solution lay in reducing the sugar beet quota for Britain to 936,000 tonnes—which would probably result in a further four sugar beet factories being closed, with all the redundancies that that would involve—was not a solution which they favoured. They did not favour saving unemployment in one locality by creating it in another.

Mr. James A. Dunn (Liverpool, Kirkdale)

The Minister will also recall that when he received a deputation of hon. Members from Merseyside the same point was put to him, with the added suggestion that he might consider encouraging an export market for beet sugar.

Mr. Walker

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to deal with the idea that one could solve the problem by other European countries reducing their sugar industries. As the right hon. Member for Barnsley knows, it is clearly unlikely that countries that have had substantial quotas, agreed to by the Labour Government, and have built up industries and employed people in them, will happily and readily close those businesses and create unemployment. However, from a negotiating point of view, so long as one does not introduce new proposals with lower quotas—which is and has consistently been the proposal of the United Kingdom Government—the existing quotas continue to be in operation.

I should like to discuss the two forms of closure. First, there is the difficulty with regard to Tate and Lyle, in Liverpool. A number of hon. Members will know that I have received a delegation of hon. Members and a delegation representing all strains of political and commercial thought in Liverpool, who pointed out the grave situation that exists in Liverpool and the substantial further increase in unemployment that such a closure will create. I recognise that, and the Government also recognise the problems of Liverpool.

Tonight is not the occasion to list the substantial number of measures that the Government have decided to take—either of specific application to Liverpool or general application to Liverpool—to endeavour to assist with its problems. However, in taking its basic decision Tate and Lyle stated that it could refine virtually the whole of its current throughput by closing the Liverpool refinery. It stated that it was making a substantial loss on the Liverpool refinery with its present throughput, and that there were disadvantages in the Liverpool refinery, in terms of its geographical location vis-a-vis the docks and the additional costs involved.

When Tate and Lyle first intimated, in December, that it was considering this closure, I immediately asked the company to enter talks with the Department of Industry to see whether it could make any changes in its Liverpool refinery, or whether there were any possibility of changing the types of activities that it was pursuing at Liverpool in respect of which Government grants under the Industry Act could become available and might affect its decision. Such talks were held.

I gather that one alternative suggestion was the possibility of a modernised refinery near to the port. The difficulty was that with a modern refinery, which was more suited to the capacity available, there would still be the loss of the majority of jobs. Despite the range of aids on offer and available the company decided that it would close the Liverpool refinery and that no alternative refining capacity could be made available in Liverpool.

Only two suggestions have been made to help solve the problem. One has been a direct reduction in quotas for the sugar beet industry, which I do not believe is a correct solution. It would be a particularly dishonourable solution, especially when the previous Government positively stimulated, encouraged and urged the capacity to be increased, the investment to be put in, and the men to be taken on.

The right hon. Member for Barnsley used the word "renege" when he spoke about the ACP. There is no intention of doing that. However, I have had to renege upon the Labour Government's firm commitment and objective of a 1.3 million-tonne beet production in this country. As a result of that, a number of factories have already decided to close.

I am under equal pressure from the British Sugar Corporation. For the last two years I have stated that there is no way in which I would support or approve of its going up to its original targets. Early in December I met groups representing the trade unions from the cane refining side of the industry. They urged me to confirm in writing that if there were no agreement on quotas this year and if I used the veto on the Commission's current proposals, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, the existing quotas would continue in force.

The existing quotas for the British Sugar Corporation would be about 1.3 million tons. At the beginning of December, before there was any talk of a decision to close the Tate and Lyle refinery at Liverpool, I told the cane refining men that I would put it in writing—and did—that the Government would never support any quota for beet production above the 1.15 million tons that we had announced. We informed the British Sugar Corporation that that was our firm opinion and that we were not going to change it. Therefore, I say to the House that I very much regret that in both cane and beet refining there are closures, redundancies and unemployment. The Government have succeeded in getting the balance between the two to a degree that is of much more advantage to the cane refiners than was the case with the policy that I inherited when I came into office.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

Could my right hon. Friend tell us what Tate and Lyle now estimate their capacity of cane to be, realistically? Is it about 1 million or 1.1 million tonnes? Have they given him a figure?

Mr. Walker

They said 1.1 million.

Therefore, the position is that we have endeavoured to see, by the decision that I took shortly after coming into office—reversing the policy that I inherited—that refining in this country is sufficient to make sure that the ACP obligations are kept, to make sure of the continuance of a substantial cane industry in this country and to make sure that the British Sugar Corporation, although treated harshly by a reduction of 200,000 tonnes in its quotas, had good notice that that was going to happen.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

My right hon. Friend talked about redundancies and closures—very unpleasant things. Can he tell the House and the country why we are contemplating these closures and redundancies, be they in cane or in beet, at a time when we are still importing nearly 200,000 tonnes from the Community? After all, when we joined the Community we were not importing anything like that. Would it be fair to say that during the time that we have been in the Community, excepting the period of his stewardship, we have been outflanked?

Mr. Walker

No, that is untrue. When we joined the Community, in terms of cane, we decided and agreed upon the Lome convention of 1.3 million tonnes. The Community has adhered totally to that, and that has been refined. What is more, I would say to my hon. Friend that for most of the years that this has been in existence it has been of considerable financial benefit to the ACP countries concerned because they have been provided with a price connected with the European price, which has been well above the world price for most of those years. That has been the position in terms of obligations to the cane sugar industry.

The purchase by a number of British food producers of sugar from sources apart from the British Sugar Corporation and Tate and Lyle was a commercial decision. The right hon. Member for Barnsley said that that came down from 350,000 tonnes to less than 200,000 tonnes, but it is a commercial decision, which they have freely taken, not because they were outflanked on price—the price is consistent throughout the Community—but because they decided that they required other sources of supply.

We have a situation, therefore, in which, as a result of this agreement, the cane producers of the Commonwealth have benefited in most years. This is the first year for some years when the world price is higher than the European price. Therefore, whilst our consumers in this country are benefiting from that, the ACP countries are not. But for four of the five years they have benefited on a substantial scale.

As I said, I regret the difficulty of the situation in an area where sugar consumption is reducing. It has created problems for both sides of the industry, but I say to the House that we have honoured and will continue to honour the Lome agreement, and that we have decided objectively what is fair and reasonable for both sides of the industry.

9.5 pm

Dame Judith Hart (Lanark)

I am astonished that no Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister is sitting on the Government Front Bench, ready to participate in the debate, as the motion before the House explicitly refers to the Lomé convention. As the Minister knows, I was very much involved in the Lomé convention. I can understand to some extent why no Minister from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is present. During the all-night negotiation of Lomé in Brussels we rested for our final agreement upon my right hon. Friend Lord Peart, the Minister's predecessor, reaching a conclusion with his colleagues in the EEC on the sugar protocol. It was only at about 6 am that we put the two together and were able to establish Lomé with the sugar protocol. Although the two issues are separate they are deeply conjoined, certainly in the view of the ACP countries.

I appreciate the difficulty of achieving a balance between beet sugar refining capacity and the jobs involved here, and cane sugar refining capacity and the jobs involved here. I am glad to have the assurance from the Minister—indeed I have had it from his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs—that the Lomé commitment stands. That is good, and I accept all that the right hon. Gentleman said about that.

I come now to the smaller print—the EEC agricultural policies, our engagement in those, the refining capacity for cane sugar in the United Kingdom, and how far our commitment to refine cane sugar which is intrinsically within the Lomé convention will be met after the closure of the Tate and Lyle factory.

On the subject of the relative production of beet and cane sugar, the right hon. Gentleman is right to refer back to the decisions taken by the previous Government and the policies they were pursuing. I remind him that we are now in an extremely deep depression—I do not put the whole responsibility for that, although many would, upon the Government—and that has an affect upon the consumption of sugar here and in the rest of the world, particularly in the developing countries. Once developing countries begin to get off the ground one of the first commodities they want is sugar. Only in a few instances do those countries have refining capacity and when they do they are very proud of it.

The fall in demand for sugar which has taken place during the last few years is a further reflection of world recession, particularly of recession in the developing countries themselves. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman should involve himself in the discussions about the British Government's response to the Brandt Commission's report, because it affects sugar.

I come back to what I was saying about beet and cane sugar. This should change the attitude towards the relative degree of production of beet and cane, and the EEC commitments to its own beet sugar producers. I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's support for the reduction of a beet sugar quota here. I speak as one of the comparatively few Labour Members who has a considerable farming constituency. My constituents do not grow beet sugar, but I know that anyone who grows beet sugar in Norfolk or wherever could equally grow grain. Grain is useful to world food supplies. Beet sugar is something that can be replaced by cane sugar production in the developing countries.

Mr. Paul Hawkins (Norfolk, South-West)

When the right hon. Lady talks about replacing grain by sugar, does she not realise that sugar beet is a break crop in the growing of cereals? One must have a break crop, particularly a crop such as this, that is not only profitable but that breaks the cereal succession, which, if it is carried on too long, leads to diseases.

Dame Judith Hart

I accept that. It goes without saying. But to grow beet sugar or some other crop as a break crop is a different matter from the beet sugar quota agreed within the EEC. It is possible to arrive at a sensible policy for agriculture here which integrates with world food policy.

We know that EEC subsidies are paid to various groups of farmers to switch production from one crop to another. My constituency happens to have the major share, such as it is, of the glasshouse industry in Scotland. It is only two or three years since the EEC offered subsidies to glasshouse producers to pull down their glasshouses so that the Italians, the French and those in the southern part of Europe could grow tomatoes.

If there is a CAP that offers subsidy to switch crops, why is there not a subsidy for beet sugar? Why can we not have an integrated CAP policy—though I despair of any sense or logic in the CAP—which links world food policy with the needs of our own refining capacity, whereby less beet is grown in Europe as a whole and, if need be, Norfolk farmers are subsidised to introduce different break crops and grains? Increased grain production would increase world food supplies.

I welcome what the right hon. Gentleman said about the change of emphasis on beet sugar production in the light of the changes that have taken place during the past few years. However, I wish he would go further. I wish that we could have a reasonably organised CAP. I accept what the right hon. Gentleman said about the Tate and Lyle factory in Liverpool. In a letter to me last week the Foreign Secretary stated: Tate and Lyle have said that they are prepared to continue to buy the same amount of ACP raw sugar as hitherto, and that they will try to find a market elsewhere in the Community for the amount they will not be able to refine themselves in the UK following the closure of the Liverpool refinery". I believe it is that to which the right hon. Gentleman refers when he talks about the assurances given to the ACP sugar producers.

Mr. Peter Walker

May I bring the right hon. Lady further up to date? Tate and Lyle has now offered specific contracts either to take the total as it previously was and to be the party responsible for totally fulfilling the contracts or, if the other countries concerned prefer to place the contracts for the balance of what they will be refining themselves with other European refiners, to allow them to do so. The company has given ACP producers a categoric position for the next five years.

Dame Judith Hart

The letter was dated 9 February That is why the Foreign Secretary adds: But even if it could not be, the Lomé commitment stands. However, I repeat that the company is saying that it will try to find a market elsewhere in the Community for the amount that it is not able to refine itself.

A letter from Lord Jellicoe states: The closure of Liverpool will leave available for other markets in the EEC not more than 125,000 tonnes of ACP sugar…Our preliminary enquiries lead us to believe that there is an excellent chance of placing any sugar surplus to our requirements, mostly to France, where there are three cane refineries, but possibly also elsewhere. There may be more up-to-date information, but the letter leads me to believe that the Government are permitting Tate and Lyle to close and to leave Livepool with the attendant loss of jobs.

Mr. James A. Dunn

The information that Lord Jellicoe gave to my right hon. Friend in that letter is not the same as the information that I received when I visited him in the company of my hon. Friends the Members for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and Liverpool, Scotland Exchange (Mr. Parry). Lord Jellicoe categorically said then that the surplus for overseas refining would be no more than 60,000 tonnes. The figure has dramatically changed in the past few days.

Dame Judith Hart

The Foreign Secretary's letter mentions 60,000 tonnes. However, let me quote Lord Jellicoe's letter in full: You are correct in assuming that there will be some increases in the capacity of our London refinery, by the removal of bottlenecks, so that we expect in future to be able to refine around 1.1 million tonnes of sugar in an average year. The traditional tonnage of ACP sugar that has been imported for refining in the UK has been 1.225 million tonnes. The closure of Liverpool will leave available for other markets in the EEC not more than 125,000 tonnes of ACP sugar, some of which has in any case recently been finding a home elsewhere in the EEC. Our preliminary enquiries lead us to believe that there is an excellent chance of placing any sugar surplus to our requirements, mostly to France, where there are three cane refineries, but possibly also elsewhere. I believe that there is every prospect that all the 1.3 million tonnes of ACP sugar should continue to be imported and consumed within the Community, although the quantity coming to the United Kingdom will reduce slightly. Our commitment to Lome, which I welcome and which is correct, is bringing about the loss of jobs and refinery capacity here, but not in France and other member countries of the Community. That does not make much sense. It does not make sense when considering the workers in Liverpool and our commitments to the ACP countries.

My final point is important. If the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to take note of it, his officials may. The Labour Party has a commitment to leave the Common Market—

Mr. Robert Atkins (Preston, North)

Which Labour Party?

Mr. Heffer

There is only one Labour Party.

Dame Judith Hart

I refer to the official Labour Party. I am certain that one of the main concerns of some of my former hon. Friends who are in the process of moving elsewhere is that that commitment should not be honoured. However, it is a policy decision of the Labour Party that we should leave the EEC if we are re-elected to power. If we are re-elected, and when we carry out that commitment, in terms of Lome, the ACP and the sugar protocol we shall have to consider how to honour the obligations to the ACP countries.

My preliminary discussions with some of the sugar producing countries show that they would welcome our going back to the Commonwealth sugar agreement. Should that happen, we would need the cane sugar refining capacity in Britain. Officials should at least take account of that when they consider what would happen if there were a change of Government.

9.23 pm
Mr. Geoffrey Rippon (Hexham)

I shall not follow the right hon. Member for Lanark (Dame Judith Hart) into the question of divisions of opinion in the Labour Party. Still less shall I speculate on how it might honour commitments which it had unilaterally abrogated. The right hon. Lady spoke from her wide experience about a matter that deeply concerns all hon. Members.

It is necessary to remind ourselves of the nature and extent of what I described at the time as both a specific and a moral commitment to the developing sugar-producing countries of the Commonwealth. That commitment was made by the Community and is frequently repeated and accepted by Her Majesty's Government. It is embodied in title 3 of protocol 22 of the Treaty of Accession.

As President de Gaulle once said, the trouble with treaties is that they are like roses—they fade, they fade. The memory of what was intended lapses, the circumstances change and the process of evolving new mechanisms and arrangements overlaps the original concept. As the right hon. Lady said, that happens particularly at a time like the present, when there is a grave international trading recession. To put it another way, when one is up to one's behind in alligators one is apt to forget that one's original purpose was to cleanse the stream.

Our debate takes place against a background of growing unemployment. It causes anxiety to both cane sugar and beet sugar producers. In the difficult determination of what closures are necessary—whether of the Tate and Lyle refinery in Liverpool or of sugar beet factories elsewhere—we must keep faith with the Commonwealth countries which relied upon the word of honour of Britain and the Community. It is important to put clearly on the record exactly what we promised and why we promised it.

The essential history of the negotiations can be found in the Hansards of 22 February, 17 May, 9 June and 21 July 1971. In our discussion on 22 February 1971, I tried to explain to the House that the Commonwealth sugar producers wanted to be able to plan production ahead with the degree of assurance that they had under the Commonwealth sugar agreement. For that they required—and still do—what the Jamaican Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr. Bob Lightbourne, described as "bankable assurances". That phrase came up thereafter in our discussions. He wanted assurances that would enable bank managers to provide the credit necessary for the roll-on of sugar production.

Cane sugar production has to be planned a number of years in advance. It is more difficult than planning for sugar beet production. A long process of negotiation followed, until I was able to tell the House: As regards sugar, the Community on 11th May undertook to bear in mind the importance of sugar for the economies of the developing Commonwealth countries concerned after 1974, and suggested that the question should be settled within the framework of negotiations on whatever form of association or trading agreement these countries wanted. I replied that this approach was helpful but needed clarification. I did not think that the undertaking, so far as sugar was concerned, was sufficiently firm to provide the sort of assurance which the Caribbean countries and other sugar producers had always needed. In the early hours of 13th May, after further contacts, the Community put an additional text to us. They now said that it would be the firm purpose of the enlarged Community to safeguard the interests of the countries in question whose economies depended to a considerable degree on the export of primary products, in particular sugar. This text amounts to more than a declaration of intention. It is both a specific and a moral commitment. I can now say this to the developing sugar producing countries of the Commonwealth. There would be room in the enlarged Community, of which Britain would be part, both for present quantities of sugar from these countries at remunerative prices and for the development of sugar beet production."—[Official Report, 17 May 1971; Vol. 817, c. 885–6.] That declaration, including the words "firm purpose", was embodied in the protocol as a translation of the phrase "aura àcoeur". That caused a lot of fun, because the next day the Evening Standard employed its "dial a Frenchspeaking expert" to translate what it meant. We were told that it meant "It is right there, written in the heart of me. It is in my soul. It is in my being." When the Evening Standard reporter said that that sounded religious, even hymn-like, the reply was "Well, it is rather."

Whatever the quibbles about the French translation, the English version is clear and official. It binds the Government and the House, because it was the agreement that both sides of the House demanded continuously. It provided a wide protection for the sugar-producing countries of the Commonwealth so that we would have regard to their interests, and not simply to their access to the Community market. That is clear from all the discussions which took place with the Commonwealth countries which culminated in the Lancaster House conference of 2 and 3 June 1971. The communiqué is set out in full in Hansard of 9 June.

It needs to be emphasised that the independent developing Commonwealth sugar producers accepted the Community's proposal, which is now in the protocol only on the basis of the Lancaster House communiqué. The essential paragraph in that communiqué is the one that reads: There was a full discussion of the Community's offer made on sugar after 1974. The British delegation assured other delegations that the Community's proposals constituted a specific and moral commitment by the enlarged Community, of which the United Kingdom would be a part. The British Government and other Commonwealth Governments participating regard this offer as a firm assurance of a secure and continuing market in the enlarged Community of fair terms for the quantities of sugar covered by the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement in respect of all its existing developing member countries. The developing Commonwealth countries will continue to plan their future on this basis."—[Official Report, 9 June 1971; Vol. 818, c. 1062.]

Dame Judith Hart

I want, as one of those involved in the 1974 negotiations, to endorse every word that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said.

Mr. Rippon

I conveyed the text of that communiqué—this was all said in 1971—to the Council of Ministers on 7 June. I did so entirely on the basis that the communiqué was not simply the British interpretation but the Community interpretation that should be placed on the agreement that we had reached. They received the statement. They placed no interpretation of their own on it. For my part, then and now, I took the view that this was all that was necessary. They had already given their own firm assurance, however one may choose to translate "aura à coeur".

Whatever view we take, so far as the British Government are concerned there can be no possible doubt about the position. In the event—this is where the right hon. Lady comes firmly into the picture—although many people forecast a battle royal the Community Council of Ministers in 1974 formally endorsed the 1.4 million tonnes commitment, as they put it, "on a continuing basis". The Community's agreement—this is also important—that the great bulk of the Commonwealth sugar would be exported "in accordance with traditional patterns of trade" meant that it would come to United Kingdom refineries, as before, so long as the price was fair.

Those undertakings, in my view—I am again at one with the right hon. Lady—remain intact. They remain intact regardless of the negotiations subsequently, such as the Lomé sugar protocol of 1975. I think that the right hon. Lady will agree that Lomé does not replace the original agreement. It merely underlines and underpins it. We must hold firmly to that.

Dame Judith Hart

Quite right.

Mr. Rippon

There are difficulties about making long-term arrangements concerning primary products. In the absence—we could not negotiate this—of a guaranteed weather clause in the Treaty, supplies are bound to fluctuate from year to year. Equally, as we know, consumption patterns are bound to vary. Of course, we hoped, and I indicated, that there would be room in the enlarged Community both for the Community's interest in developing sugar beet production and as for the Commonwealth sugar. At the Lancaster House conference, I made a statement to which the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) referred. I stated clearly that if quotas for beet sugar were increased in such a way that imports from Commonwealth countries were threatened, it would be a breach of undertakings by the Community. I went on: The Community's regulations clearly laid down that production in excess of quotas must be disposed of on the world market, and, therefore, could not be a challenge to Commonwealth cane sugar. I wish, like the right hon. Gentleman, that the Community would become members of the international sugar agreement. I am sure that this is the right solution in the longer term. Meanwhile, a situation has arisen where the Governments of the principal suppliers of cane sugar to the United Kingdom have undoubtedly shown concern. Perhaps subsequent discussions have modified that concern but they were concerned. They wrote to me, and no doubt to the right hon. Lady, to tell us that they were concerned about the announcement that Tate and Lyle intended to close the Liverpool refinery and about the circumstances that had caused that decision. I share that concern.

They fear not only the next five years but the long-term weakening of the only secure bridge over which their cane sugar can gain guaranteed access to the Community. That is why I initially wondered—and, to some extent, still do—why the Government had not backed the proposal that the Commission put forward last year. It would have reduced the British quota below the figure now sought. It would also have given the Tate and Lyle refinery its best chance of operating profitably and at its present capacity.

I can understand why the French Government should fight for higher sugar beet quotas at our expense. After all, the French have always blamed us for the fact that they have a sugar beet industry. They say that it is our fault because we blockaded Napoleon. However, I cannot understand why a British Government, in the face of previous assurances, should ever fight for sugar beet quotas that may undermine the position of ACP countries, both now and in the long-term future.

In a changing situation ad hoc arrangements can be, and have been, made with Commonwealth sugar producers. However, I emphasise that they must be agreed. In practice, less ACP sugar has gone to Tate and Lyle than the maximum now proposed. It is not a matter of blaming the ACP countries. On the contrary, the ACP countries have acceded to our requests and have placed sugar elsewhere from time to time. They have played fair by us, and we should play fair by them.

I have been very much encouraged by my right hon. Friend's speech. I understand that later consultations were satisfactory to the ACP countries. I shall study my right hon. Friend's speech more carefully tomorrow. I rely absolutely on his remarks about the consultations that took place and the degree of satisfaction felt by the ACP countries. My right hon. Friend and the majority of the Cabinet were parties to the clear and unequivocal commitment that was given to ACP countries. I take my right hon. Friend's speech as a solemn assurance that those undertakings will not be breached and that the Government are not for turning on this issue.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

Order. I remind the House that if the business motion is carried the debate will end at 11.30 pm. I should point out that 20 hon. Members wish to speak.

9.38 pm
Mr. Robert Parry (Liverpool, Scotland Exchange)

My right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) has given the historical background to this debate and my right hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Dame Judith Hart) has touched on the question of the Lomé agreement. I hope that the House will understand if I deal mainly with the proposed closure of the Tate and Lyle plant, which lies in my constituency. I wish to deal with the effects that that closure will have on the people of Liverpool, and particularly on those who live in the inner city areas. On Merseyside, more than 100,000 people are unemployed. In the special development area nearly 16 per cent. are unemployed.

The position in Liverpool is far more serious. In inner city areas—including my constituency—unemployment has reached 40 to 50 per cent. Those are official figures, given by the Under-Secretary of State for Employment just before Christmas.

Recently, the Daily Mirror carried out a survey in a multi-storey block of flats in my constituency—Logan Towers—which is situated close to the refinery. That survey showed that 50 per cent. of the people living in those flats were unemployed. The deputation that met the Minister this morning included people from all strata of society. I think that the Minister was touched when the Roman Catholic archbishop. the Rev. Derek Warlock, said that only last Sunday he went to St. Anthony's church, in the Scotland Road area, and found that, in a parish that formerly had 12,000 people, only 2,000 remained. Out of that 2,000, 250 worked at the Tate and Lyle, refinery. That gives some indication of the tragic consequences that will accrue in the inner areas of Liverpool. Mr. Runge, the managing director of Tate and Lyle, told the Minister that in his opinion the work force at Tate and Lyle was second to none.

We are pointing out that the closure of the Tate and Lyle refinery is due not to bad industrial relations or poor production but to the old question of the production of sugar beet in the United Kingdom. The Tate and Lyle workers are not opposed to the British Sugar Corporation producing more sugar. They insist—they have asked us to support them—that the 1.3 million tonnes of ACP sugar should be imported, refined and consumed in the United Kingdom. They say that if the British Sugar Corporation wished to refine more than the 936,000 tonnes that has been proposed the surplus should be exported. The cane sugar workers have never put forward any proposals that would lead to a loss of jobs in the beet industry.

Following an all-party meeting of hon. Members, the Minister wrote to me last Wednesday saying: On the question of exports, I made clear that if either or both companies"— That is Tate and Lyle and the BSC— were able to export and hence maintain a higher throughput than could be absorbed by the United Kingdom market, I would welcome it. But exports are less remunerative than home sales and I could not require one company to incur the cost of exporting to ease the problems of the other. Is there no way that a joint venture could be set up between the British Sugar Corporation and Tate and Lyle to export surplus sugar? I understand that the British Sugar Corporation is totally opposed to that, but I see no reason whatever why such a venture could not be set up. The Minister said that it would not be against the public interest.

Will the Minister of State consider the question of an increase in the regional premium from £7.50 to £20 a tonne? I understand that that would be borne by the EEC budget, and would cost £4.4 million a year gross. The net figure would be lower because the EEC budget would have to pay for absorbing the surplus sugar. That cost is very small beer when we consider that United Kingdom taxpayers and consumers have paid £1 billion over the last five years—£200 million a year. That is the highest contribution of any member State. Will the Minister really fight in Europe for the workers of Liverpool? Will he really put his shoulder in their corner?

Unemployment on Merseyside has reached such tragic proportions that we cannot face any more closures. There are 30,000 young school leavers under the age of 18 unemployed on Merseyside. Is the Minister aware that at Tate and Lyle there are more than 100 young apprentices serving their time who will be thrown on the scrap heap half way through their training? If the majority of people who are 50 years or more are made redundant, they will have no possible chance of finding any alternative employment.

The estimated cost of the closure of the refinery is £30 million. The bill for social security and loss of revenue that will follow will not be far short of £10 million a year. That does not take into account the degradation and feeling of absolute despair and despondency of the people in an area which has suffered so much.

In the last year or so, even in the area where the refinery is situated, we saw the closure of Tillotsons, with the loss of nearly 500 jobs. Around the corner, we saw the loss of the CBS Engineering and Ship Repairing Company, again with the loss of several hundred jobs. The cane workers have also suffered their share of losses in the industry. My right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley has already mentioned the number of jobs that have been shed there.

As I said earlier, in an intervention, Liverpool cane workers are carrying the can. They are carrying more than two-thirds of the total number of jobs which have been shed by the Tate and Lyle company.

I asked the Minister of State a question when I was dealing with the position at Tate and Lyle. He replied: One of the tragedies of the situation is that this should be seen simply as a beet sugar versus cane sugar lobby. Cane sugar is important, and so is beet. Beet production holds an important position in British expenditure. We believe that there is a place for beet sugar and cane sugar within our sugar refining capacity and we intend to keep a proper balance to the benefit of both." [Official Report, 5 March 1980; Vol. 980, c. 488.] Does the Minister of State feel that a proper balance has been kept? Over the past six years, the British-grown beet share of the home market has increased from 26 per cent. to 49 per cent. I am not opposed to the British Sugar Corporation's growing more beet provided that it is exported, but I would be totally opposed to any further expansion of the British Sugar Corporation output at the expense of the workers in Tate and Lyle at Liverpool.

I understand that the proposed merger with S. and W. Beresford is before the Monopolies and Mergers Commission and that the report is due in two weeks' time. Labour Members of Parliament were advised by trade unions that if the merger were to go through—I understand that it would not be against the national interest—the Tate and Lyle refinery would be saved, because the new company could then export cane.

The Minister's point that the Tate and Lyle company has signed a five-year agreement with the ACP countries does not wash very much with me, because the various high commissioners for the ACP countries have shown their grave concern over the closure of the refinery. They feel, as we do, that this is the thin end of the wedge and that the bridges have been taken down.

There were three preconditions for the British Government's accession to the EEC, and the commitment to the ACP countries was one of them. The other two were the British contribution to the EEC budget and the imports of New Zealand dairy farm products. We know about the fights that have been put up by successive Governments in that connection, but they have not been very successful in defending the interests of the ACP countries. Those countries are rightly asking that their sugar cane should not have to suffer. They fear that if assurances given about preserving the cane markets can be breached once, they can be breached again.

The Minister has the right of veto on the new sugar regime on 1 July 1981. Will the right hon. Gentleman use his veto? If not, why not? Will he use it to ensure that Tate and Lyle will be able to remain open on Merseyside? If the closure takes place it will displace surplus home sugar from the United Kingdom. However, the United Kingdom taxpayer will still have to pay £1.8 million.

The Government are pumping cash into Liverpool in the form of inner city area payments. I am sure that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Steen) will refer to those payments if he succeeds in catching your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Liverpool is also receiving Government assistance in the form of activity by the National Enterprise Board and the urban development corporation. It is crazy that the Government are pumping money into Liverpool at one end when there is a constant outflow of jobs at the other end.

I was delighted to note that there were seven Conservative Members among the group) of Members that saw the Minister last week. If they are so concerned about the loss of jobs on Merseyside, I hope that they will demonstrate their concern by abstaining when the Division takes place. I should prefer Conservative Members to vote against the Government. That would demonstrate the strength of their feeling about the loss of jobs in Merseyside constituencies. I voted against the Labour Government on issues on which I felt strongly, and I ask Conservative Members to think again.

I was disappointed by the Prime Minister's refusal to meet an all-party delegation to discuss these issues. In the past, my right hon. Friends the Members for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) and for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) have met all-party delegations from Merseyside. I shall be receiving next Thursday, a document produced by the three main trade unions involved—namely, the Transport and General Workers Union, the General and Municipal Workers Union, and ASTMS. I believe that the document will contain several options. If the Government are interested in saving the Liverpool Tate and Lyle refinery, one of the options could be the answer to the problem.

When I receive the document I shall present it to the Prime Minister. The right hon. Lady has given me an assurance that she will meet me. I wrote to her this afternoon and asked her to meet me next Monday or Tuesday. I shall advance the argument on behalf of the trade unions and Merseyside Members.

If there is no response from the Government, all these exercises having been gone through, I shall be convinced that the Government do not give a damn about unemployment on Merseyside, and specifically in Liverpool. The company is not responsible, there is no depression within the industry, and the workers are not responsible. If the Government do not respond, I shall consider that they are washing their hands of Tate and Lyle, Liverpool, and are trying to blame either the EEC or the company for making a commercial decision.

If the Government decide to allow the Tate and Lyle refinery to close, the next time a Minister starts shedding crocodile tears from the Dispatch Box over job losses on Merseyside I shall call him a hypocrite.

9.53 pm
Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge)

I am pleased to have the opportunity to take up the remarks of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Scotland Exchange (Mr. Parry). I think that I am the only Member in the Chamber who has worked in the sugar industry. I have done so for about 15 years. I declare the interest that I have placed in the Register of Members' Interests. I am director general of the British Sugar Bureau and secretary of the United Kingdom Sugar Industry' Association.

I shall put forward my own point of view and comment upon strategy. I shall do so as one who for 15 years has been in a position to observe the events that have led up to the problems that we are now discussing. As the hon. Member for Scotland Exchange said, the debate has been triggered off by the proposed closure of the Tate and Lyle refinery at Love Lane, Liverpool. I share the hon. Gentleman's distress about the jobs that will be lost if it is closed.

I identify myself with those who, through no fault of their own, face redundancy. Nobody outside the House, or any hon. Member, can fail to be deeply distressed about the effect of that closure and what it will mean to the lives of the men and women of Liverpool, where unemployment is so high, especially among unskilled workers in the city centre.

I want to explore the reasons why the closure of Love Lane, as those of us in the industry know the Liverpool refinery, is imminent and the effect that that will have on the ACP suppliers. Let us be quite clear about two facts. First, the closure is not due entirely to Britain's membership of the European Community, nor is it due entirely to the expansion of the sugar beet industry at the expense of the cane refiners. That expansion is due mainly to the encouragement given to sugar beet production by the Labour Government in their White Paper "Food from Our Own Resources" which was endorsed by the TUC and the National Farmers Union. The policy in that White Paper was to produce 1.3 million tonnes of beet sugar. That is fact. I am not blaming the Labour Government for developing that policy.

The closure of the Liverpool refinery is about to take place because of the substantial reduction of 400,000 tonnes in sugar consumption in Britain since 1974 due to a number of factors, which are in themselves complex. First, there has been a major switch by the food and drink manufacturers to the use of glucose, mainly in the production of jam, beer, cider and confectionery. That amounts to at least 200,000 tonnes of sugar, and it occurred because of the sugar shortage in 1974. At that time manufacturers reformulated recipes to use glucose instead of sugar and that, coupled with price competition from glucose, has resulted in a large permanent loss to the sugar industry. How vital it is, therefore, to ensure security of supplies in the future and to prevent further substitution by other sweeteners using reformulated recipes.

Secondly, there has been a direct reduction in domestic consumption of sugar of about 100,000 tonnes, due mainly to changes in lifestyle and dietary habits. For example, when I entered the sugar industry in 1966 about 50 per cent. of white sugar was used in the home and about 50 per cent. in food manufacture. By 1974 the position had become 60–40 in favour of food manufacture. More and more women were going out to work. They were cooking less at home. They drank less tea in the home and the beginning of a new age of ready prepared food had arrived. The net result was a substantial reduction in the per capita consumption because the housewife used more sugar overall in previous years in home cooking and purchases than she and her now smaller family consumed in manufactured foods of every sort which are so quick, easy and pleasant to put on the table at the end of a busy day. Those are the facts that we have to face.

Thirdly, the world recession in 1980 has resulted in the consumption of much less ice cream, soft drinks and confectionery in Britain. That accounts for another 100,000 tonnes loss of sugar consumption, making 400,000 tonnes altogether. The fact that the House must face is that per capita consumption of sugar is now 11.2 ounces per week on average compared with 17 ounces a week in 1966 without a corresponding increase in manufacturing usage. So much for the reasons for the decline in domestic sugar consumption.

I turn to Britain's obligations to import sugar under the Lomé convention, and the development of beet sugar production both in Britain and in Continental Europe. To put the position into perspective, it is first necessary to recall Britain's sugar strategy to 1975. Under the Lomé convention the Community—

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Ordered, That, at this day's sitting, the Motion relating to EEC Sugar Proposals may be proceeded with, though opposed, until half-past Eleven o'clock.—[Mr. Brooke.]

Question again proposed.

Mr. Speaker

I remind the House that there is about one hour left for Back Bench speeches. Almost everyone in the Chamber is trying to catch my eye. I appeal for brevity.

Mr. Shersby

Under the Lomé convention, the Community undertook to receive and refine about 1.3 million tonnes of raw cane sugar from ACP countries. The British beet producers expected to produce annually an additional 1.3 million tonnes under "Food from Our Own Resources." Imports to fill the gap between ACP imports and domestic beet sugar production were to be 100,000 tonnes. That provided sugar supplies of 2.7 million tonnes to meet demand at that time, and was based on our then sugar consumption requirement. Since 1975 consumption has fallen to 2.3 million tonnes. British beet sugar production has not exceeded 1.15 million tonnes, and beet production has stabilised at about 210,000 hectares.

Cane sugar imports from ACP countries, which were about 1.225 million tonnes, have now fallen to 1.17 million tonnes—not through any default by ACP suppliers, but at the request of Tate and Lyle because of the contraction of the market, in addition to 150,000 tonnes of white sugar imports mainly from Denmark and Ireland. Consequently, the 1975 strategy has been overtaken and a new strategy is necessary.

The new strategy that we have heard about tonight should have three objectives. First, there should be security of British supply. Secondly, there should be flexibility to allow for variations in supply. Thirdly, there should be a balance of competitive advantage as between beet production, imports of raw sugar from ACP countries, and imports of white sugar from Europe.

I wish to say a few words about imports of white sugar from Europe. They are unavoidable, not because of any sinister plot by our fellow Europeans to undermine the sugar workers of Liverpool and East Anglia but because the industry's customers want a competitive third source of supply. The only barrier to EEC imports is a low-cost British industry, whether it is in cane or beet. I ask the House to take that point into account.

The method by which to achieve a new sugar strategy must take account of the latest proposals in the EEC document, and of my right hon. Friend's explanatory memorandum on European Community legislation. If implemented, together with the improvements that I am advocating for a new sugar strategy, it will achieve a reduction in the cost of European sugar disposal and a stable market both for British beet and ACP cane sugar in Britain. It will also provide job security for a smaller and more efficient British sugar industry.

How will that strategy be achieved? First, the British "A" quota for sugar beet should be maintained at the current level of 1,040,000 tonnes of white sugar. But the "B" quota will be reduced from the present 286,000 tonnes to a future 110,000 tonnes, which is vital in order to cope with crop variation and climatic conditions. That is a total of 1.15 million tonnes overall.

The maintenance of the beet "A" quota and the reduction of the "B" quota means that the British Sugar Corporation has to reduce capacity—I draw this to the attention of the hon. Member for Scotland, Exchange—by closing four of its smaller and older factories and concentrating production at its modern larger factories upon which it has spent £150 million of its own, not the taxpayers' money, in the past five years or so.

If, however, the pressure from Opposition Members— some of whom are seeking to cut beet sugar back to 936,000 tonnes—were to succeed, the British Sugar Corporation would have to close another four factories which are efficient and cost-competitive. Whereas the present closures do not involve any loss of acreage, the closure of a further four factories would mean the loss of 50,000 hectares which our fanners could no longer drill for sugar beet.

Accordingly, I believe that the British Sugar Corporation has taken the right step in bringing its production into line with current circumstances. To cut back its quotas to 936,000 tonnes would be a severe setback for the British Sugar Corporation and for British farmers, which would not assist Tate and Lyle or the ACP suppliers. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food should therefore be supported in his insistence on a United Kingdom quota of 1,150,000 tonnes. It must not be less.

Distressing though the position in Liverpool is, one must express similar feelings for the British Sugar Corporation's employees at Selby and Nottingham—areas of high unemployment—and in the rural areas of Ely and Felstead, where the corporation's factories are probably the area's biggest single employer. The loyalty of the employees to the beet sugar industry is no less than that of the employees in the cane sugar refining industry. It has been outstanding. That, too, is being recognised by the board of the British Sugar Corporation in the severance terms, which I am glad to see have been described as generous.

I remind the House that the reason behind the present situation is a loss of 400,000 tonnes in consumption. We have heard quite a lot tonight from the right hon. Member for Lanark (Dame Judith Hart) about the obligations that Tate and Lyle has entered into. Perhaps the House will allow me to comment on them. It has contracted to import 1.225 million tonnes of ACP raw sugar and to place any surplus over United Kingdom consumption requirements for refining elsewhere in the Community. I emphasise the words "over United Kingdom requirements". That is the problem. Tate and Lyle has to place the surplus in the Community because it is in excess of our own domestic consumption requirements. This very important point enables Britain to discharge its full part of the Community's commitment to take up 1.3 million tonnes of Commonwealth sugar, the vast bulk of which will still be refined in Britain.

The Government must apply pressure to prevent sales of imported EEC sugar at any price lower than Continental intervention price plus freight. In other words, there must be no dumping and no unfair competition. I hope that the Minister will give the House the necessary assurances on that point when he winds up the debate.

These three methods of achieving a new strategy would, to my mind, leave the United Kingdom market in approximate balance. With an efficient United Kingdom industry, we shall be in a much better position to compete with EEC imports. I am sure that that is as important to me as it is to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis), who has a very big cane sugar refinery near his constituency.

Why does Tate and Lyle feel that it must close its Liverpool refinery when it will contract for 1.225 million tonnes but expects actually to import between 1.05 million tonnes and 1.1 million tonnes? The reason is that the Love Lane refinery has a current production of 300,000 tonnes. With its refineries at Silvertown and Greenock, Tate and Lyle will be able to refine about 1.1 million tonnes. In the past, those refineries between them have refined up to 1.15 tonnes.

I understand that further investment is to be made to keep those refineries going at full capacity. That means that 300,000 tonnes capacity at Liverpool represents substantial over-capacity which it is costing Tate and Lyle more than £10 million a year to maintain. Quite simply, that means that Tate and Lyle's viability is being undermined to a serious extent, and that cannot be allowed to continue, in the interests of fellow workers and ACP suppliers alike.

Therefore, for these complex but inescapable reasons, there appears to be no realistic alternative to the closure of Tate and Lyle refinery in view of the decline in consumption. That is the reason why Tate and Lyle has come to this difficult decision.

The choice facing the United Kingdom industry is as follows—if British Sugar cut back to 1,150,000 tonnes, and Tate and Lyle to 1,100,000 tonnes, both United Kingdom producers will be efficient and highly competitive. It will be more difficult for the French and other EEC producers to export surplus sugar to the United Kingdom. There will be much more security of employment at both Tate and Lyle and British Sugar. That is a sensible sugar industry strategy. My right hon. Friend is to be congratulated on his courage in supporting it. If we want to strengthen that bridge between the ACP suppliers and the British consumer, this policy is the way of achieving it.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind the House—I promise not to do so again—that if speeches are limited to just under 10 minutes each I shall be able to call at least another six hon. Members.

10.12 pm
Mr. Robert C. Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, West)

I shall try to adhere to your appeal, Mr. Speaker.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Scotland Exchange (Mr. Parry) eloquently portrayed the plight of the city of Liverpool and the desperate unemployment and industrial dereliction that exists there. As a Member for a North-East constituency that has more than its fair share of misery—misery inflicted on the workpeople by the Government's policies—I echo all that he said. I am also a sponsored Member of Parliament for the General and Municipal Workers Union, which is the majority union at Love Lane, in Liverpool. Therefore, I could be said to be speaking for the workers tonight. I make no apology for that.

If the Love Lane refinery is closed, another major segment of the heart of Liverpool will be gone. If it happens, it will be the result of gross mismanagement of the sugar regime by the United Kingdom Government and the EEC.

The net result of six years of the existing European sugar regime has been a massive surplus of EEC beet sugar production amounting to 15 million tonnes over the last five years; the expenditure of £1,000 million of EEC taxpayers' money, the majority of it going to the beet producers; the expenditure of a further £4,000 of EEC consumer money in order to maintain an artificially higher price, the whole benefit of which went back to European farmers; the loss of 3,600 sugar jobs in the United Kingdom, including the jobs in Liverpool as a result of the Tate and Lyle closure; and the alienation of our friends and allies among the Commonwealth sugar producers.

That is a terrible record for an inefficient system of commodity production and marketing. However, it is within the context of those figures that the cost of saving Liverpool needs to be seen. In total, it would cost a few million pounds to cover Tate and Lyle's losses on the refinery. In any case, those losses are not as large as the propaganda men make them out to be.

My union does not see the basic problem as being a conflict between production at Tate and Lyle and production at the British Sugar Corporation. At present, the name of the game at the British Sugar Corporation is rationalisation.

The aim must be to achieve a sugar policy that will embrace the needs of the workers in the beet production and refining process, as well as in the raw cane processing and refining. The fact remains that the past EEC regime, plus national policies in France in particular, and the BSC's own expansionist motives, have led to substantial over-capacity in beet production in the Community. This reflects also the serious decline in sugar consumption at home and to a lesser extent in Europe. It is the creation of over-capacity, plus Tate and Lyle's own ruthless outlook on jobs in relation to the ex-Manbré refineries, that has caused the problems in the cane refining industry.

The Liverpool Love Lane refinery is not a lame duck. When at full production it possibly breaks even. At a time of abnormally high world prices for sugar, at the end of the European regime, it might well make a substantial profit. As we said earlier, the cost of closing it could be substantial compared to the cost of keeping it open. Nevertheless, it is clear that some European intervention in the market is going to be necessary.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will shortly be entering into negotiations with other EEC Ministers. We are asking him to adopt a stance that will support the continuation of the Liverpool refinery. That will mean a planned control of total European sugar production. It will also mean that we should keep down the overall subsidy from the consumer to the producer, at least cutting it substantially below the effective rate of the past five years.

Tate and Lyle has agreed with the unions that it will not take any irrevocable action on the refinery until the beginning of April. That gives us an initial breathing space. The trade unions intend to use this space to draw up an overall assessment of the position, in particular the future economic and marketing arrangements of Tate and Lyle. That is expected in a couple of days. Since it seems unlikely that a new regime, with different pressures on it, will be agreed by the Council of Ministers in April, the breathing space is much longer. We must use that time to good effect.

The Minister should make a public decision. He should insist that no final decision will be taken while renegotiations continue. I also ask him to await the production of the report by the unions and to ensure that his officials co-operate with the unions in producing the facts for the case to be argued. Like the unions, I believe that there is a negotiable position within the EEC, which will retain the full refining capacity of Tate and Lyle, including keeping the Liverpool works open, which would not act to the great detriment of the British Sugar Corporation.

Nevertheless, we recognise that there is some conflict. Production of beet sugar for the United Kingdom market has had far-reaching and damaging social effects. It has not yet been able even to fulfil its quota. Even the Minister of Agriculture, who has to take on board the interests of the farmers as well as those of the BSC, must recognise that the system is the basic cause of the plight of the workers in Liverpool who, if they are made redundant, will in turn grossly aggravate the social problems of that area of the city.

At the end of the day the Minister of Agriculture may have to recognise that, whilst there are alternative crops that British and European farmers can grow, there are no alternative jobs in Liverpool. A relatively small diversion of resources could save them. We have a right and a duty, on behalf of the Tate and Lyle workers, to make that demand of the Government.

10.20 pm
Sir William Clark (Croydon, South)

At the outset I must declare an interest. I am a director of British Sugar Industries, which is a subsidiary of Tate and Lyle, although I am not on the refining side.

I regret the closure of the Liverpool refinery. The throughput has been low over past years, for two reasons. Hon. Members who know the refinery intimately will bear me out in this. The throughput in the Liverpool refinery has been such that because it has not worked to capacity it is losing a lot of money. There are two reasons for that. One is that the consumption of sugar, partly because of the recession and partly because of the use of sugar substitutes, has been about 400,000 tonnes less over the past five or six years. That has meant that the ACP cane sugar that Tate and Lyle imports is the company's only business. With its three refineries, Greenock, Thames and Liverpool, the throughput is not sufficient. It is a question of commerce, and if the throughput is not there there is no point in keeping the refinery open.

Tate and Lyle, which is the main refiner in this country, has said that it will take 1.25 million tonnes or thereabouts of ACP sugar. My right hon. Friend the Minister referred to the copper-bottomed guarantee, but he will find that Tate and Lyle will take the ACP sugar provided it has the flexibility—which it has not at the moment, because of EEC regulations—to divert some of the sugar to the rest of the Community.

The 1.3 million tonnes from Lomé is a commitment not of the United Kingdom Government but of the Community. French refineries have capacity. They import sugar from Martinique, Guadeloupe and other places. The producers in Martinique and Guadeloupe are in a slightly different position from the ACP countries because those two islands have the advantage of being metropolitan districts of France. If Liverpool closes, there will be a shortage of refining capacity in this country of about 100,000 tonnes per year, but that capacity can easily be found within the EEC.

I have just come back from Jamaica and Belize, and I have recently been in Guyana and Barbados, talking to people in the sugar industry. What worries the ACP countries is that apart from the closing of the refinery there is a growing surplus of sugar within the Community. They feel that if there is a surplus in Europe it is possible that some of our European partners will say "We must look after our best farmers. All this sugar comes from a long way away. Let us cut Lomé".

I remind the House that surplus sugar in this country or in the Community has a detrimental effect on the world price, unless it is controlled. The ACP countries are committed to produce their 1.3 million tonnes. They cannot send more than 1.3 million tonnes to this country or to the Community. Since the ACP/Lomé convention started, they have never reneged on their production, apart from one occasion when there was a hurricane in Mauritius.

The political danger cuts across Tate and Lyle and the sugar regime, and so on. If the Common Market were to cut lending, how would that affect the Lomé countries? Cane sugar is grown only in sub-tropical climates, and it is about the only crop that can be grown there in bulk. Beet sugar, on the other hand, is grown in temperate climates, and other crops can be grown instead of beet. That is the difference between cane and beet.

There is a political question. If Lomé is cut, what will it mean to the countries concerned—Mauritius, Fiji, St. Kitts, Jamaica, Barbados, Belize, Guyana, and so on, the countries of the ACP? They will lose their guaranteed market for part of their sugar. If they lose their guaranteed market, their economy will be upset. These are Third world countries—developing countries. If their economy is upset, a political vacuum will be created. When people cannot be employed there, they sit in the hills twiddling their thumbs and get up to mischief.

What does the West do then? If we cut the Lomé agreement, cut the quotas of those countries, and ruin or shake their economies, who will fill the vacuum? Let us take the Caribbean. Will Cuba fill the vacuum? Let us take other countries—Mauritius or Fiji. Will Russia fill the vacuum there?

I am afraid, as I think the West should be afraid, that someone will fill these vacuums if they occur. My guess is that the West will fill them. But how stupid can we get? The West will then have to give aid to those countries, having taken away the trade on the Lomé agreement. Here we have a political problem that cuts across the domestic sugar arguments that have been adduced in today's debate.

I should have thought that the easiest remedy was for the Common Market to reduce its beet quotas. Let us forget the United Kingdom for a moment. The beet quotas within the European Community are too high, and a surplus of sugar is being built up in the Community. The ACP sugar that comes in is not allowed to be re-exported, but beet sugar should be exported. The reason why BSC does not export beet sugar is that if it exports it will lose £15 a tonne on the sale price. The EEC has not yet joined the international sugar agreement because it does not have a concerted or co-ordinated comprehensive sugar policy. Its surpluses get thrown on to the world market. That is the reason for the yo-yoing world market price of sugar.

The Government have an irrevocable commitment, which we must alter, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) said. It is essential that ACP countries continue to enjoy a fixed quota, with a fixed market and a fixed price. It is in the interests of the West to see that Lomé is kept in being. It is no good saying that we accept Lomé unless we acknowledge that we must do something about the excess beet programme.

10.28 pm
Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Edge Hill)

I listened with interest to the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Sir W. Clark). His arguments conflicted with those advanced by the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby). The two arguments sum up the dilemma facing the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he considers the uncertainties and difficulties of the sugar market at a time when consumption has dropped. The former argument was in favour of the sugar beet industry. I suspect that, had the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) been able to intervene earlier, he would have put the case for those working in the sugar cane industry. That is the dilemma.

Hon. Members representing Liverpool constituencies have tried to put the arguments on behalf of our constituents to the Minister. On the two occasions that we have met him he has been most courteous and helpful. I thank him for that. However, helpfulness, patience and sympathy are not enough when we face other dilemmas as well. I have met Lord Jellicoe, and my colleagues and I have met the Minister at civic delegations and we have had meetings at the Liverpool town hall and with trade union groups today. They have all been to discuss the problems of a city in a major crisis. What do we do in a city which, as the hon. Member for Liverpool, Scotland Exchange (Mr. Parry) said earlier, already has over 50,000 people out of work? Over the past four years, 40,000 people have been made redundant in the city of Liverpool—that is, 10,000 for each year. Today 50,175 people are registered as unemployed in the city of Liverpool and well over 100,000 on Merseyside. We have only 890 vacancies in the Liverpool employment offices. If the refinery closes, men and women who have given a lifetime of service to the company will be thrown on to the scrap-heap. There is no other work for them in the Liverpool area.

The cost to the country of leaving those people on the dole will be enormous. Last week in its "Economic Progress Report" the Treasury admitted that for every person left unemployed the cost to the taxpayer is about £3,500 a year in lost tax revenues and unemployment and social security benefits. Therefore, the 1,500 redundancies at Love Lane will mean an additional burden for the taxpayer of £5,250,000 a year, without taking into account redundancy payments and so on. Liverpool's 50,000 unemployed equals £175 million a year in lost taxes and unemployment benefits. Some would put the figure even higher.

We must also consider the political and social consequences of the closure. It is a shame that we have no Ministers from the Departments of Employment, Industry or the Environment in the Chamber. There are important implications in the debate for those Departments.

It is said that in the recent march through Liverpool the workers were good humoured, patient and tolerant and that there was no disorder. Many of us who were worried about the effect of the march on the city were delighted with the outcome. Sadly, I suspect that if another march takes place it will not be so orderly. People's patience is running out. The Government are risking serious confrontation.

The Prime Minister must come off her pedestal. She says that she is not for turning. She has not been for listening either in the case of Tate and Lyle. The hon. Member for Exchange and I asked her to meet a civic delegation consisting of trade union representatives, Liverpool Members and the Bishop and the Archbishop of Liverpool. She was not prepared to meet them. She said that she did not herself see delegations. She later modified her response by agreeing to see the hon. Member for Exchange. She should have been prepared to see us. Many of us regard her response as an insult and a slap in the face for the people of Liverpool.

On 11 February the Liverpool Echo stated: The Premier should step down from this lofty position and if mere delegations are below her dignity, the city of Liverpool would offer her a warm welcome to see at first hand what is happening outside Whitehall.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (Newham, North-West)

I think that the hon. Member ought to be fair to the Prime Minister. When I questioned the Prime Minister, she said that she would see any Member who had factories closing in his constituency, so each of the hon. Members concerned can go to see the Prime Minister.

Mr. Alton

I think that the hon. Member will agree that it would be ludicrous if every Member of the House queued up in Downing Street. Because of the present climate, all of us have redundancies in all our factories. Would it not have been better if the Prime Minister had met a joint delegation? Would not that have saved time? Would it not have been a more conciliatory way of dealing with this matter?

As I have said, the Secretary of State has been patient and has listened carefully, but I think that the Prime Minister should not have handled this matter in the way in which she has done. People in Liverpool blame her very much for the policies that are being pursued by the Government. Furthermore, the Prime Minister has not set foot in the city of Liverpool since before the last general election. That, too, is a matter of great regret to many Liverpool Members, because it would do the right hon. Lady good to come and walk around the streets of Liverpool and see for herself the effects of the policies that she is promoting.

I turn next to the question of the role of Europe. Since 1900, the world has been glutted with sugar in eight years out of 10. The EEC's policies are underwriting this cycle. Tate and Lyle has been squeezed by an EEC pricing system that is biased in favour of beet refiners. Beet refiners enjoy margins about five times as wide as those of cane refiners. This favouritism has allowed the BSC to increase its share of the home market by undercutting Tate and Lyle's selling prices by as much as £20 a tonne. Clearly, this has been cause for concern for ACP countries, which initially saw the closure of the refinery at Liverpool as the thin end of a wedge and reacted by writing in the terms that they did to Members of this House.

Five-year agreements, and contracts that none of us here has yet seen, are no substitute for a clear commitment to honour the spirit and the letter of the Lomé convention for many years to come. Just as Liverpool's economy stands to be ruined in the long term, so do the economies of thousands of people living in places from Mauritius to Fiji, who also rely on Tate and Lyle for a living.

The EEC will be brought into disrepute—I say that as an avid European; I make no apology for that—if it goes on in a foolhardy fashion pursuing these kinds of policies. They make no sense to any of us who look at them. Instead of 61 MEPs junketing around the world with 74 support staff, they would do far better to sit down and sort out the common agricultural policy, which undoubtedly is bringing them and the EEC into disrepute.

I finish with what I believe to be the four choices before this House. I said at the beginning that I believe that the Secretary of State faced a crude choice between the sugar beet and the sugar cane industries. Whether the choice is cane or beet, he owes it to the workers within the industry to ensure that, before any refinery is closed, alternative work is found for those employed in the industry. It is just not good enough to pass the buck around Whitehall.

Secondly, the Secretary of State must ensure that the balance is right. The Government must re-examine their policies. They must look at areas such as Liverpool, which are being turned into industrial deserts, and ensure that the chaos which I have, regrettably, had to predict tonight does not come to pass. That requires political judgment.

Commercial judgments, too, are required by companies such as Tate and Lyle. They must remember that Tate and Lyle, which has grown up in Liverpool, is a firm which last year made—as the Secretary of State told us at the meeting this morning—a profit of £30 million. The company, too, must make social judgments, bearing in mind its commitment to its work force, some of whom have worked there all their lives, as did their parents and grandparents before them. My grandfather worked for the Tate and Lyle refinery in London for all of his working life, so I know that it is a company that has cared for its work force in the past, but, sadly, its record on that matter will be jeopardised if it does not deal with its workers at the Liverpool refinery with rather more than the courtesy and respect that it has shown them so far. The company should try to bring about a breathing space during which new efforts could be made to save the Tate and Lyle refinery.

The Secretary of State has not yet called a joint meeting between the British Sugar Corporation and Tate and Lyle. The dilemmas facing the industry were summed up earlier by his hon. Friends. If he could bring the people together, there might be some hope yet for the refinery.

All the Government grants, job creation programmes, urban development corporations and enterprise zones in the world are no substitute for the 10,000 jobs that Liverpool is losing each year. The Secretary of State has always been committed to the concept of inner city revival. He was the architect of the original studies which led to the establishment of the partnership committees. He cares passionately about the future of our inner cities. I hope that he will think again about allowing the refinery to close with the subsequent job losses which will make Liverpool a total industrial desert. I hope that the Government will lift the dead hand of unemployment off our city, consider the social, moral and commercial implications of the decision, and think again.

10.41 pm
Mr. Anthony Steen (Liverpool, Wavertree)

Much of what the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton) says is worth listening to, but I do not agree with all that he says. He should have said that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has increased the amount of cane sugar that can be produced. We should thank my right hon. Friend for that. He has reduced the beet quota so that more cane sugar can be produced. Without that, Tate and Lyle might have closed many years ago.

I have been on most of the delegations and attended most of the meetings. It seems that everybody blames somebody else for the Tate and Lyle problem. The people of the country are blamed for eating less sugar. Tate and Lyle is blamed for closing the Liverpool plant rather than others. Tate and Lyle offers to keep the Liverpool plant open if the beet quota is pegged at 936,000 tonnes or the British Sugar Corporation is told to export excess production.

The EEC is also blamed. Some people say that the French must be pulling a fast one somewhere. The beet farmers say that we should grow local beet because it is good for food rotation, it helps the balance of payments and is less expensive. Members of the European Parliament raise the issue in Strasbourg and exhort that Parliament to do something. Everybody blames somebody else. Everybody points the finger elsewhere and does not take responsibility for a practical solution.

When I asked the Secretary of State for the Environment last week about Tate and Lyle after his statement on inner city policy, he said that it was a matter for the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. When I asked the Minister of Agriculture about the effects of the closure I was told that it was a matter for the Secretary of State for the Environment. Because Tate and Lyle has a work force of more than 1,600, it is, apparently, not a matter that concerns the Minister with responsibility for small firms. The rate loss as a result of the closure will be in excess of £500,000; and one would expect the Department of the Environment to take some interest.

It seems that the closing and opening of refineries is based on a commercial judgment. It is a matter for Tate and Lyle and the British Sugar Corporation, and the Government cannot intervene. The Government say that their policy is to let free market forces operate without any distortion. What is a special development area? Is not that a market distortion? What about partnership committees? Are they not market distortions? We have been promised an urban development corporation. Is not that a market distortion? What about enterprise zones and EEC regional aid? Do not they distort our market forces? The sugar quota is a market distortion. The Government are involved and they are intervening in a number of ways.

I hope to make a simple and practical suggestion on which the Government can comment. I believe that it could be a short-term solution for solving the Tate and Lyle situation in Liverpool. An enterprise or venture involving business, the Government and local government, and the public and private sectors, could provide a short-term staying solution. I do not expect Tate and Lyle to go on losing millions of pounds a year keeping the Love Lane plant open. Nor do I expect the Government to finance the on-going, loss-making venture by providing some sort of subsidy. I believe, however, that if £22 million is to be spent on an urban development corporation, and if we are to have an enterprise zone, we must ask the Government to provide some enthusiasm and speed to enable the urban development corporation to start work within the next two or three years, providing new jobs and new industries.

I hope that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will not argue that his Department is not involved. It is too easy to keep saying this. We must expect the Government to make a commitment. At the same time, my right hon. Friend must ask the chairman of Tate and Lyle to keep the plant open for two or three years and run it down. In that two or three years, it is to be hoped that new jobs will spring from the work of the urban development corporation. What is the point, after all, of urban development corporations and enterprise zones if new jobs do not materialise?

It is to be hoped, therefore, that Tate and Lyle will keep the plant open for two or three more years and use some of the £25 million profit it made last year to phase the rundown of the plant and enable the work force to switch into new businesses under the urban develoment corporation. The Government have a responsibility towards people who are not merely Tate and Lyle employees. They are the people of this country for whom the Government have responsibility.

The beet farmers could surely grow some other crop for two or three years. There are plenty of root crops that they could grow. If they are short of land, the Minister will be aware that 60,000 acres of agricultural land is taken every year by urban sprawl and green field site developments on the edge of our towns. The Government need only to stop the erosion of green field sites and to persuade the planners not to continue building in the outer cities until inner city land has been filled.

I am not asking that the Minister should intervene and distort commercial judgments. I am asking him to exercise his own commercial judgment. In cash terms alone, it makes sense. Added to this must be the effect on thousands of families all over Liverpool. This is not simply a matter of 1,500 jobs. It seems that 5,000 or 6,000 jobs will be affected as a direct result of Tate and Lyle closing. The Government and the company can, and should, produce a plan which would allow the rundown of the company contemporaneously with the new businesses formed in the enterprise zone and under the urban development corporation.

This is not only a compassionate way to proceed. It is commercially sound and essential for the future, if there is to be one, in Liverpool.

10.48 pm
Mr. James A. Dunn (Liverpool, Kirkdale)

In view of the time, I feel that it is a shame that the appeal made by Mr. Speaker was not made at the commencement of the debate. Perhaps many more hon. Members would have had the chance to speak. I am reluctant to try to speak against the clock. I declare my interest because other interests have been declared. I am trying to speak for the people who will lose their employment. Their voice has not been heard often in the Chamber in this debate as one single appeal. Sympathy has been expressed and appreciation shown of the difficulties that confront all those involved. With those words, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I ask you to convey to Mr. Speaker a request that he reconsider how contributions are made in such short debates by Privy Councillors, who do not necessarily always have identification with the subject before the House. I trespass and I shall not go further.

I direct my remarks directly to the Minister, who has so courteously received hon. Members on more than one occasion, as the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton) has stated. The right hon. Gentleman has tried within the limits of his responsibilities and the constraints placed upon him to meet some of the needs and to try to explain some of the complex problems that confront him. I hope that he will not take it amiss if I say—as I did before—that the joint deputation went beyond his sole responsibility and trespassed on to the responsibility of other Departments. That is one reason why I believe that the Prime Minister should have received a deputation made up of people from many walks of life. She might then have become more aware of our feelings. I am not saying that the right hon. Gentleman did not convey the consensus expressed at the meeting. However, it is always better to have direct talks. Their impact cannot be pushed easily to one side.

The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) explained the background to this issue and the statements that he made to the House when we considered entry into the EEC. He explained the assurances that he gave to the old Commonwealth nations which now form the ACP countries. There was a firm commitment to 1.4 million tonnes of cane. If that figure still applied, the Love Lane refinery would not face any problem. However, that is not the figure. Tate and Lyle has used its commercial logic to make different statements. It sent a written reply to the Foreign Office, to my right hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Dame Judith Hart). At the same time it gave verbal assurances to some of my hon. Friends when we spoke to Lord Jellicoe. We spoke to Lord Jellicoe before this issue had been raised in the House, and he firmly told us that both he and Tate and Lyle wanted constraints on beet sugar production.

I cannot recall any of my colleagues supporting constraints in order to ease the problem for the cane sugar refinery. Tate and Lyle made a commercial judgment. There is no reason why the Standex arrangements for commodity financial support within the EEC could not be used to support the export of surplus—above 930,000 tonnes—beet sugar. Indeed, Tate and Lyle says that it can operate commercially with 1.1 million tonnes of cane.

Such support would allow time to be utilised to find new markets for the export of cane sugar. Why should not the United Kingdom export beet sugar throughout the world? Europe has been increasing its volume of exports every year. Some of the figures are dramatic.

I am led to believe that the European export of beet sugar accounts for about 14 per cent. of total sugar exports. At one time the figure was only 6 per cent. Why cannot the United Kingdom join in that venture to export, as other European nations do? Why cannot the Government constrain and restrict the importations of at least 200,000 tonnes of beet sugar from Germany and Denmark? If we continue to import such amounts, employment will suffer.

Therefore, the Government could do many things. Points have been made about the inner city partnership and about the Government's attempts to overcome the employment crisis on Merseyside and Liverpool. Mention has also been made of some of the things that could be done.

But, at the end of the day, the Minister of Agriculture put his finger on the problem when he accused my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) of misleading himself, in that he could not achieve what he was seeking. With respect, my right hon. Friend said that those were not the facts as he understood them, and he asked what the Government intended to do to ease the terrible problem and the burden of the proposed closure of the Tate and Lyle refinery. I have not yet heard the Minister say how he would overcome that problem. Perhaps he will take the opportunity tonight to make positive suggestions as to how Tate and Lyle can be kept open, how the 1,500 jobs can be maintained and how the Lomé convention can be properly honoured, with the refining taking place in the United Kingdom even if consumption does not take place here. If that can be achieved, the major part of the problem will disappear overnight. If that is not done, all the sympathy in the world will not help.

10.58 pm
Mr. Richard Body (Holland with Boston)

If we lived in a sensible world this problem would not exist and we need not have this debate. In such a world the lowest-cost producers would have first place in our market. We express regret at the closure of these refineries, but the fact is that in the real world successive Governments have, by an act of policy, artificially stimulated the production of sugar beet by a massive degree of State control in the form of grants, subsidies, tax allowances and other forms of State aid. The result is that sugar beet can now be put on the market at a price substantially less than that of cane sugar. If that continues cane sugar will be at a serious disadvantage, so long as the consumption of sugar stands still in the Common Market.

The consumption of sugar now stands at about 9.5 million tonnes a year. The amount of ACP sugar should be about 1.3 million tonnes. Therefore, if we are to honour the agreement we should be making sure that the production of Common Market sugar—beet sugar—is no more than 8.2 million tonnes. We all know that that is markedly less than the amount that is being produced and that will continue to be produced. We know that if that process continues, up to 3 million tonnes of beet sugar will be dumped on the world market.

That is serious for the ACP countries, which have to export 2.5 million tonnes in order to gain the foreign exchange that they must secure in order to maintain a humble standard of living. It is important for them to get fair prices for that 50 per cent. of their exported sugar if the Community continues to dump up to 3 million tonnes of sugar year in and year out. It should be emphasised that every tonne of sugar that is dumped on to the world market by the Common Market is a tonne of sugar displaced from ACP exports or sold by them at an artificially depressed price.

If the figure is to be about £350 million a year for subsidies for those exports, that is the same thing as taking away from those poor countries the sum of £350 million a year. I do not think that my hon. Friend can contradict me on that. If we are in earnest in supporting the Lomé convention, we must insist on substantially lower quotas of sugar being produced in the Common Market. If we fail to insist upon that we cannot expect those very poor people in the Third world who are dependent upon cane sugar for their livelihood to have the livelihood that they deserve.

11.0 pm

Mr. Frank McElhone (Glasgow, Queen's Park)

In replying to this very important debate, I hope that the Minister will give serious attention not just to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) and others but to the views expressed outside the House—from the churches, from the local authorities, and from the trade unions. As the Liverpool Echo echoed—if I may use a pun—it was a disastrous insult to the people of Liverpool when the Prime Minister refused to meet a bishop and an archbishop, and the leaders of the Liverpool community. It was a very bad snub.

Despite the misery of unemployment that faces so many workers now in Liverpool, the most gratifying thing that I found yesterday in talking to some of them was their equal concern for the poor people in the Third world countries who might be at risk if cane refining were in any way reduced or stopped at some time in the future. The Prime Minister, however, has shown a lack of care and interest in what is a very serious problem in that part of the world.

We know that at the weekend the right hon. Lady made a speech in which she talked about "dead-slow Socialism". It is not dead-slow Socialism that this country has to worry about. The dead-stop idealism of the Government and their dead-stop economy are destroying Merseyside and the rest of the industrial base of this country. To the eternal shame of the right hon. Lady, her policies concerning the Third world appear to have gone into rapid reverse.

I warn the Government that it will not be good enough for the Minister, in replying to the debate tonight, to say that the sugar can be refined at Greenock or London and that the rest will be refined in France or elsewhere.

The Minister referred to the agreement by Tate and Lyle when he said that there was an assurance of a five-year guarantee for the ACP sugar. What he did not say—I think he left it out deliberately—was that that would depend on the flexibility of refining. That is the problem that we are facing today. The decision by Tate and Lyle to close the Liverpool factory and refine the surplus in France puts seriously at risk the future of the refining industry in this country.

After our earlier debate today, who can trust the French? When we were in Government we believed that the promise given to produce cars at Linwood was a very solemn promise. I am sure that the Government, who were involved in negotiations as late as last week, were also extremely disappointed that the French reneged once more on a promise.

It will not be good enough for the Minister to state that if the Third world countries get into difficulties they can go to the European development fund, when that fund, during the 1975–80 period, allocated only £318 million out of a £1,500 million limit—and most of that, I am sorry to say, went to three former French colonies. The books of the fund are now being studied by the European Court of Auditors, and that cannot give a great deal of confidence to countries that might be in trouble because of decisions by the British Government.

The Government cannot wash their hands of this matter and leave the responsibility to the vagaries of market forces or to Tate and Lyle. As the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) rightly said, there is a solemn and binding agreement for this country and the rest of the EEC to accept annually 1.3 million tonnes of cane sugar from the ACP countries.

I say to the right hon. Lady—I am sorry that she is not here—and to the Government that if they intend to stand by the principles of the Common Market—they keep telling us from the Dispatch Box that they intend to do that—they must also stand by their commitments. That must be put across in the House. If the philosophy of interdependence—a word that seems to roll off the tongues of Ministers—is to mean anything, this is the first real opportunity for the Government to put the concept into practice. This is a litmus test of their good intentions to save the future of the cane refining industry.

We should recognise that the industry's future is seriously at risk in the United Kingdom. The Government were prepared to give extra financial assistance to the French firm at Linwood to save the Scottish car industry. As a Scot, I say that what is good enough in financial terms for Clydeside is equally good for Merseyside. I hope that the Minister will bear that in mind. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Scotland Exchange (Mr. Parry) made that point very strongly.

I have little sympathy for the Tate and Lyle company. Despite the many handouts and the giving of sympathy to the ACP countries and the Third world in general, I am sorry to say that over the years this profitable company spent less than 1 per cent. of its turnover on modernising and improving its factory at Liverpool. How can it survive in a competitive world with that sort of record? Earl Jellico reminds me of the man who, after murdering his mother and father, throws himself on to the mercy of the court now that he is an orphan. He cannot have it both ways.

The Government must accept that we are not dealing merely with another factory closure, important though that is; we are dealing with the survival of several Third world countries.

Mr. Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden)

If the hon. Gentleman has no sympathy with Tate and Lyle, does he have any sympathy for the employees who will lose their jobs in the BSC factories? Why is that not expressed more clearly in the motion that he is asking the House to endorse?

Mr. McElhone

I must ask the hon. Gentleman to be patient. I shall come to the issue.

I was about to refer to three Third world countries. The first is St. Kitts, where 69 per cent. of exports come from sugar. The second is Fiji, where exports of sugar amount to 76 per cent. of total exports. The third is Mauritius, where sugar exports amount to 85 per cent. of all exports. The industry is labour-intensive, which is crucial for Third world countries. Those countries do not have to depend on imported energy to maintain the industry. The future of Liverpool must be protected so that the future of these countries may also be protected.

These Third world countries are endeavouring to stand on their own feet. That is the philosophy of the Conservative Party. The other philosophy about which we hear so much from the Government is "trade, not aid". Is it not better to guarantee the future of these small countries by ensuring that they are able to trade rather than allowing them to go bankrupt and ending up in the care of the IMF, or depending more and more on the United Kingdom and other countries' aid programmes. That is why we continue to believe that the futures of Liverpool and of these countries are inseparable. That is why the plant at Liverpool must be saved.

I shall outline the steps that the Government can take. Their attitude has been one of total indifference to job losses. They should ask themselves why Tate and Lyle is persuading many cane producers to send some of their crops to the Continent for refining. Is it a question of consumption or a question of price? The company refines only 1.17 million tonnes—the Minister said 1.16 million tonnes—and it contracted to take 1.225 million tonnes. I understand that the balance was to be sent to Ireland for refining to make up the 1.3 million tonnes agreement.

This is a Government responsibility. Although in essence and in legality it is a Community responsibility, the Government have a moral, social and political responsibility to ensure the continuance of the refining industry and to guarantee the future of the small countries to which I have referred.

The Government must press the Community to join the international sugar agreement. The Minister agrees with that. I hope that that will be done as soon as possible, despite the objection of France. It will prevent the dumping of Continental sugar on the world market and even prevent the illegal dumping of sugar in Britain. At a stroke—to use a favourite term of the Conservative Party—it would save the British taxpayer a great deal of money, because much of that dumping is heavily subsidised by Community, and therefore British, taxpayers' money. It would give a better price deal to Third world sugar exporters, which would encourage greater investment in those countries. As Tate and Lyle says in its statement, it would restore the in-transit export trade, which has cost it 200,000 tonnes in lost refining of cane sugar. The difference between 1.17 million tonnes and 1.225 million tonnes, together with that 200,000 tonnes, gives a total figure of 255,000 tonnes available for refining. We are told that Liverpool has a capacity of 300,000 tonnes.

The Government could take steps to persuade the British Sugar Corporation to sell its sugar on the open market. After all, the Government are major shareholders in that company. Why is it that after £150 million investment in that company we find that the Danes and others can sell between 150,000 and 200,000 tonnes of EEC white sugar to Britain, but that we cannot sell anything to the Continent?

Mr. Shersby

The answer is that the food and drink manufacturers prefer a third source of supply. It is not a question of the British Sugar Corporation being uneconomic in any way.

Mr. McElhone

The hon. Gentleman misses my point. I am not complaining about the 150,000 tonnes coming to Britain for food manufacturers, although I would prefer that they did not do so. I hope that the Minister will take the line of persuasion used by my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin), who persuaded food manufacturers substantially to reduce their intake of EEC white sugar. If Continental producers within the same Community can sell between 150,000 and 200,000 tonnes of sugar to Britain, the BSC—with £150 million public investment—should be able to sell sugar to the Continent.

Mr. Peter Walker

Why, during their last month in office, did the Labour Government urge the BSC to increase its production while not specifically urging it to export?

Mr. McElhone

That may have been the case, but positions do not remain static for any Government. It should not be difficult—certainly not impossible—for a company of the size of the BSC, which claims to be the most efficient refiner of beet sugar, to sell sugar to the Continent or anywhere else. Without being facetious, if the Government can employ defence salesmen to sell weapons of destruction, why cannot the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food sell sugar to the Continent and elsewhere? That would reduce the BSC share of the British market to about 1 million tonnes. Tate and Lyle would have the remainder of the British market for cane sugar, which, allowing for the imported white sugar for food manufacturers, would leave Tate and Lyle with a capacity of about 1 million tonnes. Lord Jellicoe, the chairman of Tate and Lyle, said that he could keep open the Liverpool factory with a sugar beet quota of 936,000 tonnes.

Does the Minister accept that in terms of volume the margin between success and failure for the workers—the Opposition are primarily worried about the workers of Tate and Lyle and the BSC—is small indeed? The Minister must recognise that Britain now has the lowest-ever consumption of sugar. Even under this Government we hoped that that might be reversed and that it would go back to 2.4 million or 2.5 million tonnes. Taking a long-term view, there is no excuse for the sacking of 750 workers by the BSC. It was timed in an extraordinary way, I believe, in order to put pressure on the Government on the eve of this debate.

There are other factors that cannot be ignored. Tate and Lyle has stated that the economic recession has seriously aggravated the problem and that due to the strength of sterling many of its customers are losing export markets for products containing sugar. I do not think that the Government can deny that.

I therefore rest my case for Liverpool and the 750 workers employed by the BSC. I hope that commitments will come from the Government which give some hope even at the eleventh hour for the workers in Liverpool. Lord Jellicoe also said that world sugar consumption will rise by 3 per cent. Booker McConnell, in evidence to the Select Committee, stated that by 1990 consumpton will rise by some 33 million tonnes. In my opinion, therefore, Tate and Lyle, the BSC and the Government should be treating the problem in a far more serious fashion. So far, there has been complete indifference to the plight of the workers.

In conclusion, for the Government to allow Tate and Lyle substantially to reduce its sugar refining capacity would be seen not only as a massive breach of faith from the point of view of the people involved in the Lomé agreement, but as the destruction of just about the last vestige of credibility that the Government have with the Third world. That is why we shall vote for our motion tonight.

11.17 pm
The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith)

In the debate today we have, quite fairly and understandably, heard a number of different points of view in relation to a number of very important issues. I certainly appreciate, as I believe that many hon. Members on both sides of the House appreciate, that on some aspects there are paradoxes and differing points of view which in some circumstances are difficult to reconcile. Given the different backgrounds from which some of those points of view have been put, I understand and respect the deep feelings underlying them.

By contrast, the last speaker from the Opposition Front Bench, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Queen's Park (Mr. McElhone), tried to ride both horses together all the time. Other Opposition Members attempted to make clear the points of view from which they were arguing. The hon. Member for Queens Park cannot have it both ways all the time, as he tried to do this evening. He says that he wishes to preserve the jobs of the cane sugar workers in Liverpool. That is an entirely honourable view. But given the situation in the sugar market, to which my right hon. Friend the Minister referred at the beginning of the debate and which others realistically described throughout the debate, and given the policy of the Labour Government, of which the hon. Gentleman was a member, he cannot at the same time seek to preserve every single job in the British Sugar Corporation as well. I therefore found his speech one of the least convincing in the debate.

Secondly, I would say to the hon. Member for Queens Park that it is equally wrong to say that on the Government side of the House there is total indifference to the problems of the cane sugar workers in Liverpool. That is quite untrue. I believe that his hon. Friends who represent Liverpool constituencies would deny what he said as well. They have come on deputations to myself and to my right hon. Friend the Minister. I think that the one thing that they will not say is that there has been total indifference. Indeed, the deputations of trade unionists and others that I have met have expressed appreciation for the way in which the delegations have been received and the way in which the matters have been discussed.

Equally, my own hon. Friends—for example, my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Steen)—have also been on these deputations and have thus demonstrated the real concern that they feel and the very active part that they have played in representing the views of Liverpool. Therefore, it is utterly false to say that there is indifference either on the Government Front Bench or, more particularly, among those of my hon. Friends who represent Liverpool constituencies.

Mr. Heffer

I agree that we have been courteously received when we have gone on deputations, but will the hon. Gentleman now tell us something that we have been waiting for from the Secretary of State, and now from him? Precisely what proposals do the Government have to ensure that the factory is kept open and that Merseyside will be assisted in its problems? That is what we want to know, and that is what we have not been told.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I shall come more precisely to some of the deep issues raised by this matter, but I wanted to start by making clear that the position in Liverpool is understood, as are the implications of the decision of Tate and Lyle in relation to its factory. At the beginning of the debate, my right hon. Friend mentioned the various ways in which the situation in Liverpool can be eased in the event of the closure going ahead. I must stress again that the seriousness of the social and economic implications for Liverpool is understood, not least from the strength of feeling expressed by the broad cross-section of opinion represented in the delegations which have come to see us. That is why I totally refute what the hon. Member for Queen's Park said a few minutes ago.

I turn now to what I think is the second main strand in the debate—that is, the realistic approach which we must all adopt—as did many of those from the trade unions and other groups who came to see me—towards the position of the sugar industry today. I repeat what my right hon. Friend said at the opening of the debate, that there is no question of beet being favoured at the expense of cane sugar. That cannot be stated too categorically tonight. As my right hon. Friend said, when we came to power, we inherited a difficult situation from the Labour Government, in which the hon. Member for Queen's Park was a Minister. They had negotiated and accepted, and at the time when they left office were supporting, a total beet quota of 1.3 million tonnes.

The right hon. Lady the Member for Lanark (Dame Judith Hart) referred to the support which she had in those negotiations from the Minister of Agriculture at the time, now Lord Peart. I shall quote what the noble Lord, then Minister in the Labour Government, said: …we have achieved"— I emphasise those words— a large increase in the 'A' quota from 900,000 tons to 1,040,000 tons. There is also a very large increase in the 'B' quota and next year the full EEC price will apply to no less than 1.5 million tons of home-produced sugar—far more than the most we have ever produced."—[Official Report, 31 October 1974; Vol. 880, C. 416.] That was said by the Labour Minister of Agriculture at the time, who negotiated that increase for beet sugar. That is the increase which we inherited.

My right hon. Friend is the first Minister of Agriculture to stand up to this difficult decision. If we were to protect the position of workers in the cane sugar industry, and if we were to respect the commitment which we have given to ACP countries, the first prerequisite was to get a better balance in the sugar market. My right hon. Friend took that difficult decision, against what the previous Government had done, and agreed and announced that we should have a reduced quota for beet sugar. We are the first Government—and he is the first Minister—prepared to take that decision, which has been against the interests of the British Sugar Corporation and against the interests of workers in the beet sugar industry.

Mr. Anthony Steen (Liverpool, Wavertree)

Will my hon. Friend say tonight that he will increase the cane sugar quota temporarily so that Tate and Lyle can continue in business until the urban development corporation and the enterprise zones have got going and jobs can be switched from Tate and Lyle to these new centres of enterprise and wealth creation?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I understand the point which my hon. Friend makes. The problem we have is to get the sugar market into a better balance. We have already taken the crucial first step in the reduction of sugar beet production.

I turn to two other points of particular importance. Those were raised by the hon. Members for Liverpool, Scotland Exchange (Mr. Parry) and for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. Dunn) in relation to the question of the subsidisation of exports. This is a difficult question. Already within the United Kingdom—and this is of benefit to the ACP countries—we enjoy a higher regional price, being regarded as an area of deficit. This creates difficulties in regard to exports because the export premium is based on the lower price that is available in other surplus areas of the Community.

My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) asked that there should be no unfair competition from the EEC. I give him the assurance that we will do everything to make certain it does not happen.

I ask Labour Members to remember that if we use the veto, as we were called on tonight to do, on the negotiations in Europe, what we would do is retain the sugar beet quota at the high level that it was when their party left office. At the same time we would also negative the proposal from the Commission that the European Community should join the international sugar agreement, which I believe we ought to do. If we follow the motion before us tonight, that would be negatived as well.

I come now to the absolutely crucial part of the debate, the ability to take the sugar from the ACP countries. Here I turn to the intervention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon). I remind him, as he reminded us in the House tonight, that we have commitments in the United Kingdom Government. I agree we have those commitments; they are moral and legal commitments. I know that the United Kingdom will not resile from those commitments.

I also remind my right hon. and learned Friend that when he negotiated this when we entered Europe—I refer to the White Paper for which he was responsible in July 1971, I think—it was made clear that after the end of 1974, when the existing commitments to the Commonwealth sugar agreement expired, the responsibility would be then taken over by the Community as a whole. The actual legal responsibility rests not only with the United Kingdom but with the Community as a whole. While the United Kingdom will fulfil its obligations—I give my right hon. and learned Friend that assurance—we have also got to remember that that commitment is one which rests not only with the United Kingdom but with the Community.

Turning to the question by the right hon. Lady the Member for Lanark, what we have to remember is that the fundamental point of the arrangements that we and the Community have made through the Lomé convention is to give suppiers from the ACP countries, about whom we are so rightly concerned, assurances for an indefinite period for a set quantity of sugar. In addition, the price level is firm for a year at a time. This is linked to the Community support prices and is not subject to violent fluctuations.

Moreover, I believe that in the way this agreement has worked, it has also meant that in regard to our commitments to the ACP they are able to supply the Community at a higher price than they would otherwise have been able to do. We stick to that commitment.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 242, Noes 300.

Division No. 74] [11.30 pm
Adams, Allen Dunnett, Jack
Allaun, Frank Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Alton, David Eadie, Alex
Anderson, Donald Eastham, Ken
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Ellis, R. (NED'bysh're)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ernest Ellis,Tom (Wrexham)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack English, Michael
Ashton, Joe Ennals, Rt Hon David
Atkinson, N.(H'gey,) Evans, John (Newton)
Bagier, GordonA.T. Ewing, Harry
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Field, Frank
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd) Fitch, Alan
Benn, Rt Hon A. Wedgwood Flannery, Martin
Bennett, Andrew(St'kp'tN) Fletcher,Ted(Darlington)
Bidwell, Sydney Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Ford, Ben
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Forrester, John
Bradford, Rev R. Foster, Derek
Bradley, Tom Foulkes, George
Bray, Dr Jeremy Fraser.J. (Lamb'th,N'w'd)
Brown, Hugh D.(Provan) Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Brown, R. C. (N'castle W) Garrett, John (NorwichS)
Brown, hon(E'burgh,Leith) Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)
Buchan, Norman George, Bruce
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Callaghan,Jim(Midd't'n&P) Ginsburg, David
Campbell, Ian Golding, John
Campbell-Savours, Dale Gourlay, Harry
Canavan, Dennis Grant, John (Islington C)
Cant, R. B. Hamilton, James(Bothwell)
Carmichael, Neil Hamilton, W.W. (C'tral Fife)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Hardy, Peter
Cartwright, john Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Cocks, RtHon M. (B'stol S) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Cohen, Stanley Haynes, Frank
Coleman, Donald Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Heffer, Eric S.
Conlan, Bernard Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire)
Cook, Robin F. Holland,S.(L'b'th,Vauxh'll)
Cowans, Harry Home Robertson, John
Craigen, J.M. Homewood, William
Crowther, J.S. Hooley, Frank
Cryer, Bob Horam, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence Howell, Rt Hon D.
Cunningham, G.(lslington S) Huckfield, Les
Cunningham, DrJ. (W'h'n) Hudson Davies, Gwilym E.
Dalyell, Tam Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Davidson, Arthur Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil(L'lli) Janner, HonGreville
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Jay, Rt Hon Douglas
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Johnson, Walter (Derby S)
Davis, T. (B'ham, Stechf'd) Johnston, RusselI(Inverness)
Deakins, Eric Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Dewar, Donald Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Dixon, Donald Kerr, Russell
Dobson, Frank Kilfedder, James A.
Dormand, Jack Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Douglas, Dick Kinnock, Neil
Dubs, Alfred Lambie, David
Duffy, A. E. P. Lamborn, Harry
Dunlop, John Lamond, James
Dunn, James A. Leadbitter, Ted
Leighton,Ronald Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)
Lestor, Miss Joan Richardson, Jo
Lewis, Arthur (N'hamNW) Roberts, Albert(Normanton)
Litherland, Robert Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Lyon, Alexander(York) Robertson, George
Lyons, Edward (Bradf'dW) Robinson, G. (CoventryNW)
Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J.Dickson Rodgers, Rt Hon William
McCusker, H. Rooker, J.W.
McDonald, DrOonagh Roper, John
McElhone, Frank Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
McGuire, Michael(lnce) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)
McKelvey, William Rowlands,Ted
MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Ryman, John
Maclennan, Robert Sandelson, Neville
McMahon, Andrew Sever, John
McNally,Thomas Sheerman, Barry
McTaggart, Robert Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
McWilliam, John Silkin, Rt HonJ. (Deptford)
Magee, Bryan Silverman, Julius
Marks, Kenneth Skinner,Dennis
Marshall,D(G'gowS'ton) Smith, Rt Hon J. (NLanark)
Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Soley, Clive
Marshall, Jim (LeicesterS) Spriggs, Leslie
Martin,M(G'gowS'burn) Stallard, A. W.
Mason, Rt Hon Roy Steel, Rt Hon David
Maxton,John Stoddart, David
Maynard, MissJoan Stott, Roger
Meacher, Michael Strang, Gavin
Mikardo, lan Straw,Jack
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Summerskill, HonDrShirley
Mitchell, Austin(Grimsby) Taylor, MrsAnn (Bolton W)
Mitchell, R.C. (SotonItchen) Thomas, Jeffrey(Abertillery)
Molyneaux, James Thomas, Mike(Newcastle E)
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw) Thorne, Stan (PrestonSouth)
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Tilley, John
Morton, George Torney, Tom
Moyle, Rt Hon Roland Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Wainwright, E.(DearneV)
Newens, Stanley Watkins, David
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Weetch, Ken
O'Halloran, Michael Welsh, Michael
O'Neill, Martin White, Frank R.
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley White, J. (G'gowPollok)
Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Whitehead, Phillip
Palmer, Arthur Whitlock, William
Park, George Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Parker, John Williams, Rt Hon A.(S'sea W)
Parry, Robert Wilson, Rt HonSirH.(H'ton)
Pendry, Tom Wilson, William (C'trySE)
Penhaligon, David Winnick, David
Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down) Woodall, Alec
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) Woolmer, Kenneth
Prescott, John
Price, C. (Lewisham W) Tellers for the Ayes:
Race, Reg Mr. James Tinn and
Radice, Giles Mr. Hugh McCartney.
Adley, Robert Biggs-Davison, John
Aitken,Jonathan Blackburn, John
Alexander, Richard Blaker, Peter
Alison, Michael Body, Richard
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Bonsor, SirNicholas
Ancram, Michael Boscawen, HonRobert
Arnold,Tom Bottomley, Peter (W'wichW)
Atkins,Robert(PrestonN) Bowden, Andrew
Atkinson, David (B'm'th,E) Boyson, Dr Rhodes
Baker, Kenneth (St.M'bone) Braine, SirBernard
Baker, Nicholas (NDorset) Bright, Graham
Banks, Robert Brinton,Tim
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Brittan, Leon
Bell, SirRonald Brooke, Hon Peter
Bendall, Vivian Brotherton, Michael
Benyon,Thomas(A 'don) Brown, M.(BriggandScun)
Best, Keith Browne,John(Winchester)
Bevan, David Gilroy Bruce-Gardyne, John
Biffen, RtHonJohn Bryan, Sir Paul
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Hawkins, Paul
Buck, Antony Hawksley,Warren
Budgen, Esmond Heddle, John
Burden,SirFrederick Henderson, Barry
Carlisle, John (Luton west) Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hicks, Robert
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n) Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Hill, James
Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul Hogg, HonDouglas(Gr'th'm)
Chapman, Sydney Holland, Philip (Carlton)
Churchill, W.S. Hooson, Tom
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n) Hordern, Peter
Clark, SirW. (CroydonS) Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd)
Clegg, Sir Walter Howell, Ralph (NNorfolk)
Cockeram, Eric Hunt, David (Wirral)
Colvin, Michael Hunt,John (Ravensbourne)
Cope, John Irving, Charles(Cheltenham)
Cormack, Patrick Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Corrie, John Jessel, Toby
Costain, SirAlbert Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Cranborne,Viscount Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Critchley, Julian Kaberry, Sir Donald
Crouch, David Kellett-Bowman, MrsElaine
Dean, Paul (NorthSomerset) Kimball, Marcus
Dickens, Geoffrey King, Rt Hon Tom
Dorrell, Stephen Kitson, SirTimothy
Douglas-Hamilton, LordJ. Knight, MrsJill
Dover, Denshore Knox, David
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Lamont, Norman
Dunn,Robert(Dartford) Lang, Ian
Durant,Tony Langford-Holt, SirJohn
Dykes, Hugh Latham,Michael
Eden, Rt HonSir John Lawrence, Ivan
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Eggar,Tim Lee, John
Elliott, SirWilliam Lester Jim (Beeston)
Emery, Peter Lewis, Kenneth(Rutland)
Eyre, Reginald Lloyd, Ian (Havant& W'loo)
Fairbairn, Nicholas Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Fairgrieve, Russell Loveridge, John
Farr, John Luce, Richard
Fell, Anthony Lyell, Nicholas
Fenner, Mrs Peggy McCrindle, Robert
Finsberg, Geoffrey Macfarlane, Neil
Fisher, SirNigel MacGregor, John
Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'ghN) MacKay, John (Argyll)
Fletcher-Cooke, SirCharles Macmillan, Rt Hon M.
Fookes, Miss Janet McNair-Wilson,M.(N'bury)
Forman, Nigel McNair-Wilson, P. (NewF'st)
Fowler, RtHon Norman McQuarrie, Albert
Fox, Marcus Major, John
Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh Marland, Paul
Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Marlow, Tony
Fry, Peter Marshall Michael(Arundel)
Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Marten, NeiI(Banbury)
Gardiner, George(Reigate) Mather, Carol
Gardner, Edward (SFylde) Maude, RtHon Sir Angus
Garel-Jones,Tristan Mawby, Ray
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Mawhinney, DrBrian
Glyn, DrAlan Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Goodhart, Philip Mayhew, Patrick
Goodlad, Alastair Mellor, David
Gorst, John Meyer, SirAnthony
Gow, Ian Miller,Hal(B'grove)
Gray, Hamish Mills, lain(Meriden)
Greenway, Harry Mills, Peter (West Devon)
Grieve, Percy Miscampbell, Norman
Griffiths, E.(B'ySt. Edm'ds) Mitchell, David(Basingstoke)
Griffiths, Peter Portsm'thN) Moate, Roger
Grist, Ian Monro, Hector
Grylls, Michael Montgomery, Fergus
Gummer, JohnSelwyn Moore, John
Hamilton, Michael(Salisbury) Morris, M.(N'hamptonS)
Hampson, DrKeith Morrison, HonC. (Devizes)
Hannam, John Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Haselhurst, Alan Mudd, David
Hastings, Stephen Murphy, Christopher
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Myles, David
Needham, Richard Sainsbury, HonTimothy
Nelson, Anthony St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Neubert, Michael Scott, Nicholas
Newton, Tony Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Nott, Rt Hon John Shaw, Michael(Scarborough)
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S. Shelton, William(Streatham)
Page, Rt Hon Sir G. (Crosby) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Page, Richard (SW Herts) Shepherd, Richard
Parris, Matthew Shersby, Michael
Patten, Christopher(Bath) Silvester, Fred
Patten, John (Oxford) Sims, Roger
Pattie, Geoffrey Skeet, T. H. H.
Pawsey, James Smith, Dudley
Percival, Sirlan Speed, Keith
Peyton, Rt Hon John Spence, John
Pollock, Alexander Spicer, Michael (SWorcs)
Porter, Barry Sproat, lain
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Squire, Robin
Price, Sir David (Eastleigh) Stainton, Keith
Prior, Rt Hon James Stanbrook, lvor
Proctor, K. Harvey Stanley, John
Pym, Rt Hon Francis Stevens, Martin
Raison, Timothy Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Rathbone, Tim Stewart, A. (ERenfrewshire)
Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal) Stokes, John
Rees-Davies, W. R. Stradling Thomas, J.
Renton, Tim Tapsell, Peter
Rhodes James, Robert Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Ridley, Hon Nicholas Tebbit, Norman
Ridsdale, Julian Temple-Morris, Peter
Rifkind, Malcolm Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW) Thompson, Donald
Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Thorne, Neil (llford South)
Rossi, Hugh Townend, John (Bridlington)
Rost, Peter Townsend, Cyril D.(B'heath)
Royle, Sir Anthony Trippier, David
Trotter, Neville Wells, John(Maidstone)
van Straubenzee, W. R. Wells, Bowen
Vaughan, DrGerard Wheeler, John
Viggers, Peter Whitney, Raymond
Waddington, David Wickenden, Keith
Wakeham, John Wiggin, Jerry
Waldegrave, HonWilliam Wilkinson, John
Walker, Rt Hon P.(W'cester) Williams, D.(Montgomery)
Walker, B. (Perth) Wolfson, Mark
Wall, Patrick Young, SirGeorge(Acton)
Waller, Gary Younger, Rt Hon George
Walters, Dennis
Ward, John Tellers for the Noes:
Warren, Kenneth Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and
Watson, John Mr. Anthony Berry

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 32 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

Mr. Deputy Speaker forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, 'That this House notes with regret that both Tate and Lyle Limited and the British Sugar Corporation have had to announce closures following the contraction of the United Kingdom market for sugar; supports the Government's intention of negotiating a quota for sugar beet production in the United Kingdom which represents a fair balance between the interests of cane and beet sugar producers and of pressing for a reduction in total Community sugar quotas; and confirms that recent developments in no way call into question the obligation towards developing country sugar producers which were accepted by the Community under the Lomé convention and which it wholeheartedly supports.'