HC Deb 23 March 1995 vol 257 c479
16. Mr. Thurnham

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action he is taking to defend British interests in the forthcoming discussions on the reform of the EU sugar regime. [13891]

Mr. Jack

My right hon. Friend is pressing strongly for a conclusion that meets the interests of consumers and the United Kingdom sugar beet and cane sectors.

Mr. Thurnham

Does my hon. Friend agree that we should look to world market prices to balance supply and demand for sugar, rather than to artificial quotas and price rises that threaten British jobs in my constituency and elsewhere?

Mr. Jack

My hon. Friend does the House a singular service in drawing our attention to the need for deep price cuts as the best way of solving Europe's over-supply problem, certainly in relation to beet sugar. We are pressing for a price reduction of some 12 per cent. in the negotiations. We do not believe that our sugar beet quota should be reduced, as our production is not contributing to the surplus.

Mr. Stevenson

If that is so, would the Minister care to explain why the British Government have just agreed to European Commission proposals on the sugar regime that effectively mean no change whatever in the next five years? How does he square that with his apparent enthusiasm for change in the sugar quota regime?

Mr. Jack

The hon. Gentleman—who, I know, follows these matters reasonably closely—is somewhat ill informed. No agreement has been reached on the future of the sugar regime. My right hon. Friend will examine the matter when he goes to the Agriculture Council next week.