HC Deb 04 February 1985 vol 72 c447W
Mr. Parry

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the Parliamentary Secretary's recent visit to the Caribbean; and why it was cut short.

Mrs. Fenner

I visited the Windward Islands at the invitation of their Governments. The purpose of the visit was to see on the ground the action being taken to secure the major improvements which Her Majesty's Government have been seeking in the quality of the fruit shipped to the United Kingdom under long-standing preferential arrangements enjoyed by these countries. These arrangements are recognised in protocol 4 of the 3rd EEC-ACP convention of Lomé.

In discussions with the Prime Ministers of each of the four islands which traditionally supply bananas to the United Kingdom market, I stressed that privileged access to the United Kingdom market implies an obligation to give the British consumer a fair deal on quality. I chaired, jointly with the Minister of Agriculture of St. Lucia, a committee to monitor progress on programmes of improvement agreed in 1983 and to determine further action necessary to ensure attainment of agreed quality targets; and I visited banana-growing regions and studied quality control procedures at every stage from production to shipping to see how measures to improve quality agreed anaupon between the United Kingdom and the Windward Island Governments were being put into effect.

I am convinced that the Governments of the Windward Islands are now fully committed to ensuring that their exports match up to the needs of the British consumer.

I returned to the United Kingdom early in order to be present for the debate in the House on 31 January.

Mr. Home Robertson

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if the Parliamentary Secretary, will now resume her engagements with the banana quality monitoring committees in Caribbean countries following her return to the United Kingdom to vote in the House on 31 January; which members of her party returned with her to the United Kingdom; and what additional costs to public funds have been incurred as a result of this change of plans.

Mrs. Fenner

I returned to the United Kingdom on 31 January, together with Mr. Fenner and my private secretary. As I am not in a position to return to the Caribbean at the present time the cost of the visit to public funds will be appreciably lower than previously estimated.