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Sugar Refiners (Payments)

Volume 466: debated on Monday 4 July 1949

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asked the Minister of Food whether his attention has been called to the fact that on pages 22 and 42 of the Trading Accounts and Balance Sheets, 1947–48, it is stated that subsidies amounting to £12,739,256 are paid to sugar refiners in this country to enable them to earn an approved profit margin, whereas in fact no subsidies are paid to the refining industry; and whether, in view of the misunderstanding which may arise, he will take steps to rectify this error and to clarify the position.

In the 1947–48 accounts we showed separately that part of the subsidy on sugar which is represented by the payments made to sugar refiners. In paragraph iv (f) on page 22 of the Trading Accounts it is indicated that the payments are made on a basis which will enable them to earn an approved profit margin after taking account of the cost of raw sugar, their operating expenses and the prices at which they are required to sell.

Arising out of that answer, did not the right hon. Lady herself tell the House in November, 1945, that sugar refiners received no subsidy, and is it not important, when the reorganisation of this industry is under consideration, that the Ministry should not give the impression in their accounts that the industry is in receipt of a large subsidy when, in fact, it is not?

I think the hon. Gentleman has misunderstood the position. Of course, we distinguish between subsidies which are losses on trading and subsidies of this kind. Ultimately this subsidy will go to the consumer, but we have shown in the trading accounts just where it is injected, at the refining stage. We have done it for other trades and nobody has objected except Messrs. Tate and Lyle. I think they are unduly sensitive.