HC Deb 22 October 1987 vol 120 cc910-1
9. Mr. Alexander

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what success he has had in obtaining an increase in sugar beet quotas in the European Economic Community.

Mr. MacGregor

The European Commission has proposed continuing existing quotas unchanged for the next three marketing years. In view of the large structural surplus, which has to be sold on world markets at low prices, there could be no justification for increasing the Community's sugar beet quotas.

Mr. Alexander

Is not the position of the British sugar industry increasingly unsatisfactory? Is it not faced, on the one hand, with no increased quotas, despite proven need, and, on the other hand, with increased levies to assist countries that are already in surplus production? Is this not grossly unfair, and what can my right hon. Friend do about it?

Mr. MacGregor

I well understand what my hon. Friend is pressing, and I very much understand his local interest, but he also has to look at it from the overall Community point of view. We are exporting to world markets substantial quantities of sugar which go to third countries at subsidised prices, the subsidy being paid through the levy, so I do not think that it will be possible to argue for an increase in quotas overall. I have to tell my hon. Friend that, realistically, a change in the distribution of A and B quotas between member states would not be satisfactory. Under the levy proposals of the Commission, which are being attacked by many other member states, about which we will have a battle, we pay 6 per cent. of the cost of the levy, whereas we have 9 per cent. of the quotas. So, it is not an unfavourable situation. It is a fair one, and I am determined that it should continue.

Mr. Curry

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that the only circumstances in which the United Kingdom would have an increased quota would be if there were a general increase in EEC quotas, and that such an increase in quotas would be disastrous both for the EEC budget and for Third world developing countries that depend upon the world market for their sugar?

Mr. MacGregor

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. That is a fair and realistic summary of the situation.