§ 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.