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Sugar Beet

Volume 978: debated on Thursday 14 February 1980

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received concerning the sugar beet quotas for United Kingdom growers.

We have had representations including those from British Sugar Corporation Ltd., Tate and Lyle Ltd., the National Farmers Union, the trades unions representing workers in both sugar beet processing and the cane sugar refineries, associations representing sugar-using industries and from the Shropshire county council.

As two of the Ministers on the Government Front Bench are aware of the concern in the West Midlands about the future of the two beet processing factories there, would my hon. Friend care to spell out again this afternoon exactly what the Government intend to do to protect our sugar production in view of the fact that we are not responsible for the surplus in the EEC?

I assure my hon. Friend that there are three Ministers on the Government Front Bench who are concerned about the problems of sugar beet, not only in the Midlands but in other sugar beet growing areas of the United Kingdom. I repeat that the proposals put forward by the Commission are unsatisfactory because they discriminate against the efficiency of our producers and our industry. We shall certainly be opposing them resolutely in the course of the discussion on them.

Will the Minister advise the House on whether his right hon. Friend intends to meet the trade unions representing workers at port refineries? He has not met them yet, although several of his immediate predecessors have.

Will my hon. Friend be a little firmer than he was a moment ago and say that the proposals are totally unacceptable in any circumstances?

In view of the continuing criticisms of the EEC sugar quotas and other EEC matters, will the Minister recognise that these criticisms were put forward by some of us even before the referendum on the common market? What contingency plans does the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food have against the continual refusal of the EEC to accept our repeated representations?

Some criticisms such as those from the hon. Gentleman, are destructive, and others are constructive. In the wider interests of Europe, we believe that we are much more likely to achieve success in negotiations if we criticise constructively, not destructively.