§ 2. Mr. Loyden
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he remains satisfied about the future availability and price of refined sugar in the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Loyden
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the forecasts made by the press about the increase in price and the shortage of refined sugar? Is he aware, further, that the problems in the refining industry stem from the insane practices attributed to the common agricultural policy of the EEC? Is he aware also that jobs in the north-west are threatened by the dumping of refined white sugar in that area in particular? Will he ensure that the capacity of the British industry is used in order to ensure that sugar supplies and prices remain stable to the British housewife?
§ Mr. Bishop
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his activities and the interest and concern he has shown in defence of the area that he represents. As he has quite rightly said, we are facing the need to keep supply and demand in balance, and, of course, the price is a very impor- 766 tant factor in this. One of the problems is the sugar supply situation.
In regard to the import of EEC white sugar, we shall be importing about 210,000 tons of white sugar this year, so obviously there is some demand for it. However, I believe that we should all be thinking of the situation and buying British as far as we possibly can. We should seek to supply as much as possible from our own market, whether from the beet sector or from the refined sector to which my hon. Friend has referred. Of course, my hon. Friend is aware of the discussions which have been taking place for some time and particularly in the past few days. I understand that there is great measure of agreement between the unions and Tate and Lyle on the current situation.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. May I appeal for shorter questions and answers? Hon. Members should realise that we are usually on Question no. 5 by this time.
§ Mr. Farr
May I ask the Minister whether he is aware that, while sugar prices charged to the consumer at home are very high, overseas world sugar prices are at a record low level? What can he do to obtain some of these cheap supplies of overseas sugar and make them available for consumers in Britain?
§ Mr. Bishop
The hon. Member will be aware that my right hon. Friend and our colleagues have campaigned vigorously within the Community to keep surpluses down and also, of course, that the award this year of the 2 per cent. increase for sugar was below the average. These are factors in the situation.