HC Deb 24 April 1975 vol 890 cc1731-2
9. Mr. Freud

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what changes have occurred in the value of the "Representative Rate" since the United Kingdom's accession to the Treaty of Rome.

Mr. Peart

The United Kingdom representative rate, expressed in units of account per pound, was: 2.1644 from 1st February 1973 to 6th October 1974 and 2.0053 from 7th October 1974 to 2nd March 1975 and is now 1.96178.

Mr. Freud

Does the Minister feel that it is wholly undesirable that British farmers should have to contend with the vagaries of the international exchange rate as well as with the Government and the weather? Will he seek to pursue a policy which ensures that future changes in the exchange rate are reflected in the value of the green pound?

Mr. Peart

As the hon. Gentleman knows, when MCAs came into operation they were based on the fact that some currencies depreciated while others took another course of direction. We made two decisions. I am aware of the difficulties, but I believe that MCAs have brought considerable benefits to our consumers, and especially to livestock producers in respect of feed costs.

Mr. Powell

Is the Minister aware at the severe damage, including loss of employment, inflicted on the meat-processing industry in Ulster by the arbitrary difference between the representative rate for the Republic and that for sterling? Does he realise that the attempt to put the matter right will impose a further burden on the British taxpayer?

Mr. Peart

I accept that there was a problem in Northern Ireland following the decision by the Eire Government. I carried out consultations with the Minister representing Northern Ireland and I also met the farmers in Northern Ireland on this matter. As a result we have recently announced payments to bacon curers in Northern Ireland as a means of maintaining throughput and also employment in the bacon-curing industry. I think that that is the right action to take.