§ Mr. Michael Shaw
asked the Secretary of State for Trade what steps he is taking to ensure that any merger between the British Sugar Corporation and S. and W. 386W Berisford Ltd. meets the conditions proposed by the Monopolies Commission to safeguard the interests of sugar beet growers who are currently protected by the Government's powers of intervention in British Sugar Corporation affairs.
§ Mrs. Sally Oppenheim
My right hon. Friend has requested the Director General of Fair Trading, pursuant to section 88 of the Fair Trading Act 1973 to consult S. and W. Berisford Ltd. with a view to obtaining undertakings to take action requisite in the opinion of my right hon. Friend for the purpose of remedying or preventing the adverse effects of the proposed merger specified in the report of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. The report did not, however, contain findings relating to the powers available to Agriculture Ministers under the Sugar Act 1956 and the European Communities Act 1972 to intervene in the affairs of the British Sugar Corporation.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
asked the Secretary of State for Trade (1) what are the terms of the undertakings which S. and W. Berisford is being required to accept before its bid for the British Sugar Corporation is allowed to proceed;
(2) if, in view of Her Majesty's Government's shareholding in the British Sugar Corporation, he will ensure that undertakings being sought from S. and W. Berisford are sufficiently detailed to provide farmers and the National Farmers Union with all of the information they need and currently receive to negotiate the annual beet contract as required by the European Communities Act 1972;
(3) if, in view of Her Majesty's Government's shareholding in the British Sugar Corporation, he will report to the House before concluding the negotiations of undertakings with S. and W. Berisford arising from the report of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission into the proposed merger;
(4) if, following the report of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, the undertakings being sought from S. and W. Berisford will ensure that the British Sugar Corporation is maintained as a fully separate subsidiary able to continue to sell the sugar it produces to the United Kingdom market;
(5) if S. and W. Berisford will be required to undertake that there will be no loss in the information currently available from the British Sugar Corporation to Parliament about the operation of its beet sugar monopoly;
(6) if he will ensure that the undertakings being sought from S. and W. Berisford will be sufficiently detailed, both as to restrictions on changes in activities and as to obligations to disclose full information on the operation of the beet monopoly, as to permit adequate monitoring by the Director General of Fair Trading in the future.
§ Mrs. Sally Oppenheim
The undertakings which my right hon. Friend has requested the Director General to seek from S and W Berisford Ltd. include provisions aimed, as the Monopolies and Mergers Commission has recommended, at ensuring that the British Sugar Group would be maintained as a separate group of companies without major changes in its activities and purposes, and that there would be published annually reports and accounts with supplementary material such as to give information comparable with that given in the Directors' report and accounts, chairman's statement and chief executive's review published for British Sugar for 387W 1979–80; together with a provision that the director General should be supplied at any time with such information as he might require to monitor the undertakings.
My right hon. Friend's powers in relation to undertakings under section 88 of the Fair Trading Act 1973 are limited to the obtaining of undertakings that action will be taken requisite, in his opinion, for the purpose of remedying or preventing the adverse effects of the proposed merger specified in the commission's report. The report did not contain specific findings relating to the Government shareholding in British Sugar, the provisions of the European Communities Act 1972 in relation to the negotiation of the annual beet contract, or the future availability in its entirety of all the information about the operation of the corporation's sugar beet monopoly which the corporation may at present provide, whether to 388W Parliament or otherwise. My right hon. Friend does not therefore have the powers under the Fair Trading Act to seek specific undertakings on each of these matters.
It is my intention to make a statement to the House—pursuant to my statement of 25 March in answer to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne)—setting out the terms of the undertakings if they have been given to my right hon. Friend and accepted by him.