SUGAR SYMPOSIUM: REPLY TO MR. BREWSTER

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Now Mr. Chairman, I’m not going to follow Mr. Brewster. Obviously, I can’t be expected to reply at short notice to the mass of facts and figures that he hurled at us this evening. What I am going to do is to question on the basis of what he has written, what I have seen of his writings, whether he is a man to be believed when he hurls facts and figures at us; whether his facts are well founded; whether his premises are fabricated to suit his case. That’s what I intend to examine tonight Mr. Chairman. And later on, because I want to make clear to you Sir, we are only too happy to collaborate with the New World Group, all men of goodwill, goodwill towards Jamaica, in discussing our problems and putting the facts and figures on the table. Whether Mr. Brewster believes them or not, they are there-the facts and figures- we’ll produce for you and you have the Mordecai Report, then we will discuss all these things that Mr. Brewster has put such a fine edge on tonight.

But what I am going to do is just to discuss what Mr. Brewster has written and incidentally I may say here I hope that Mr. Brewster is not holding us responsible for the mal-distribution of income in Jamaica and various other things he was talking about this evening, because I assure you that he must refer himself to Government if he is going to talk about things like that. The sugar industry is not responsible for maldistribution of income.

Now this article that Mr. Brewster wrote and to which you referred initially, Mr. Chairman, The Sugar Industry, Our Life or Death-I gave Mr. Brewster’s article the serious attention which an article by a lecturer in economics deserves.

The first thing I discovered was that Mr. Brewster had not got some of his facts right and that he had slanted others particularly on the question of the earnings of foreign companies and so forth to suit his case. I don’t say he doesn’t have a loophole there but I may say in passing (and I’ll give him a copy of the figures that he can go into it himself) that the total dividends paid to overseas shareholders in the ten year period 1958-67 was £1,133,000 that’s an average dividend yearly of £113,000 on an average capital of just under £6,000,000; and the average dividend paid free of tax was only 1.0 per cent on the average capital. So that this gives a very different picture.

No one is entitled I suppose to put a fine edge on his particular views. But now, just to show how wrong Mr. Brewster can be about facts-and this is the question that we’ve got to pay attention to when we listen to him laying down the law as to what the sugar industry is or isn’t doing and so on – I’ll take the example of the well laid plot which Mr. Brewster presented as being concocted by Messrs. Tate and Lyle (whom he seems to be gunning for; I hold no particular brief for them but he is having a go at them) to pressure the Government of Jamaica into applying for AOT status in the EEC. Mr. Brewster states in his document, the one you quoted Mr. Chairman and I quote: “The policy of Messrs. Tate and Lyle in all this is to push the Jamaica Government into seeking association, that is association with the Common Market”. Mr. Brewster argues that there is a strategy you see, a plot behind this. And again I quote Mr. Brewster (he’s always looking for plots) “this strategy has been conceived primarily as a means of safeguarding the sugar industry, should Britain become a member of the EEC.” Now this is totally untrue, a figment of Mr. Brewster’s imagination. In fact sugar and AOT status have nothing to do with each other. Sugar is covered by the Common Market agricultural policy; articles 38 to 47 of the Treaty of Rome apply. It is our bananas and so on that stand to benefit from AOT status, articles 131 – 136 of the Treaty of Rome apply. Mr. Brewster’s sinister conspiracy turns out to be a mousenest.

And if I say so Sir, without offence, he appears to have fabricated his facts to suit his fancies. Now that is a thing Mr. Chairman that politicians do the whole time but Mr. Brewster is an economist and economics is supposed to be a more orthodox and respected profession; it is supposed to deal in facts and in figures. He is a lecturer, responsible for teaching children, presumably. It is therefore imperative that he should get his facts and figures right before he starts laying down the law to anyone. He was absolutely wrong about AOT status and he gave a slanted account about what foreigners got out of the industry in foreign exchange. He’s got a way round it but we’re watching. That was my first quarrel with Mr. Brewster’s article. It makes exciting reading, rather like a good detective story, but some of the clues have gone wrong.