HC Deb 23 February 1995 vol 255 cc474-5
8. Mr. Whittingdale

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what measures he is taking to promote the sale of British jam.

Mr. Jack

We promote our high-quality British jams and preserves through Food From Britain's programme of action on speciality foods at home and abroad.

Mr. Whittingdale

My hon. Friend will be aware of the excellent jams and marmalades produced by Wilkins of Tiptree in my constituency. Can he confirm that, despite that splendid British product, we still have a balance of payments deficit in jam? What is he doing to correct that imbalance?

Mr. Jack

My hon. Friend is right to draw the attention of the jam makers of Britain to the commercial opportunity that exists to bridge the gap in the jam trade. I am glad that he mentioned Wilkins and company, the manufacturers of Tiptree jam in his constituency. That company has perhaps shown the way forward. It grows its own raw material on 1,100 acres, and one of its recent successes that has helped to turn back the tide of imports has been the brand Little Scarlet, made from strawberries grown in Essex. It has been a tremendous success that I hope will be replicated throughout the length and breadth of the land.

Mr. Skinner

Why can't we have jam today?

Mr. Jack

Because the hon. Gentleman represents the "jam tomorrow" party.

Mr. Lord

May I remind my right hon. Friend that it will seriously damage British jam sales if we do not have enough British sugar to go in the jam? I urge him not to forget that all the British sugar beet growers are expecting him to fight very hard for our sugar beet quota.

Mr. Jack

My hon. Friend would have been in European Standing Committee A when we had a lengthy debate on that subject and he will know the Government's line. We do not believe that the United Kingdom should suffer any form of quota cut. Our production is already in balance with our consumption of sugar, if one takes cane and beet production in total. Other member states have a total imbalance, and, in the light of the general agreement on tariffs and trade, they, not we, should bear the brunt of any adjustments.