HC Deb 17 November 1983 vol 48 c980
13. Mr. Parry

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the viability of the British edible oil industry.

Mr. MacGregor

The industry is well aware that to maintain its viability and meet the challenge posed by imports it must modernise its operations and improve efficiency. The steps that it is taking are designed to achieve that.

Mr. Parry

In view of increasing EC penetration of the oil market and recent job losses in the industry, will the Minister fight the corner for the industry in the Cabinet with regard to energy costs and port charges, which are subsidised on the continent?

Mr. MacGregor

Those are clearly matters for other Departments. As the industry recognises, the problem is not so much the EC as outdated plant and overcapacity. I regret the closures and redundancies that have resulted from the attempts to restructure and modernise the industry, but they are inevitable and essential if the bulk of the industry is to survive. The edible oil market is a more or less static market. That is one, fairly small, reason why I believe that an oils and fats tax would be highly undesirable, in that it would hamper the industry.

Mr. Rathbone

Can my hon. Friend reassure the House that such a tax will not be imposed under duress from our partners in the EC?

Mr. MacGregor

As I have said before, the matter is still being discussed in the talks on the reform of the CAP. Nevertheless, we have made clear our strong opposition to such a tax and we are supported in that view by a number of other member states.

Back to