HC Deb 25 February 1993 vol 219 cc998-9
12. Mr. Oppenheim

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make a statement on his policy on bananas.

Mr. Gummer

We have been determined to defend the interests of Commonwealth Caribbean banana producers against great opposition, and we have succeeded.

Mr. Oppenheim

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his policy of import quotas and tariffs penalises not only efficient south American growers but, above all, British consumers of bananas? Is he aware that the bulk of the extra cost that consumers pay goes not to Caribbean farmers but to two large multinational banana traders? If we really believe in free choice and free trade, surely we should give the British housewife the right to buy, at the lowest possible cost, the banana of her choice—whether it be for lunch, breakfast, dinner or at any other time—free from intervention from politicians?

Mr. Gummer

I am aware that five countries in the Caribbean will now have an economic future, which they would not have had if we had not defended them. I was pleased to have received cross-party support and congratulations from the Prime Ministers of those poor democratic countries.

Mr. Tony Banks

Is the Secretary of State aware that the Norwegian Prime Minister went bananas when she was quizzed by Labour and Conservative members of the Council of Europe about the resumption of commercial whaling by her country? What protest have the Government made about commercial whaling by Norway?

Mr. Gummer

I did not discuss bananas when I was last in Norway, but I protested against Norway's decision to resume whaling.

Mr. Jacques Arnold

Bearing in mind the fact that we can obtain bigger, better and cheaper bananas from central and south America, will my right hon. Friend ensure that the Caribbean producers do not rest in the nice, comfortable cradle of protection but are given a time limit beyond which they will not be protected?

Mr. Gummer

There is a very strong programme for improvement in the quality of bananas coming from such countries. However, any investigation into the banana market will show that there are countries to which we owe a very clear moral debt. We also have a legal debt under the Lomé treaty. So long as I am Minister I shall fight for those countries and recognise that debt.