HC Deb 19 July 1973 vol 860 cc696-7
10. Mr. David Clark

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is his estimate of the cost to EEC funds arising from the smuggling of livestock between Northern Ireland and Eire.

Mr. van Straubenzee

It is not possible to provide an estimate since the amount of levy is based on the live weights of animals which, given the clandestine nature of the problem, cannot be determined.

Mr. Clark

Will the Minister confirm that the Northern Ireland Pig Marketing Board has been losing 12,000 pigs a week in recent months—one presumes across the border? Will he look into this? By my reckoning, it represents about £1 million lost annually in levies to the EEC farming community.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I can confirm that discussions are taking place at official level, but the hon. Gentleman will no doubt know that producer pig prices on both sides of the border are currently similar and, therefore, there is little or no incentive for smuggling at present.

Mr. John Wells

Is my hon. Friend aware that the control of this disgraceful trade would go a long way to stopping many of the complaints about cruelty through the export of animals?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I will take note of my hon. Friend's comments. He will, I hope, have noticed that discussions are taking place between officials of both sides in an endeavour to stamp out, or at least reduce, this practice.

Mr. Kilfedder

Will my hon. Friend take steps to notify the Common Market Commission of the misuse of EEC funds by the Republic of Eire, which appears to take no effective action against the smuggling of pigs into the Irish Republic? This smuggling increases the price of bacon and pork in Northern Ireland.

Mr. van Straubenzee

In so far as there is responsibility about smuggling, we must both take responsibility. My hon. Friend will know, however, that the border is such that I could smuggle him quite easily, let alone a pig.

Mr. Maginnis

May I ask my hon. Friend what steps his Department is taking to make the difference between pig prices in the North and South much less than at present, and in this way eliminate the smuggling altogether?

Mr. van Straubenzee

That is the serious point—that prices at present are in fact such that there is very little incentive to smuggle pigs.