HC Deb 16 February 1978 vol 944 cc654-6
17. Mr. Banks

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the current state of negotiations in the Council of Ministers with regard to the recalculation of the basis of pigmeat monetary compensation amounts.

Mr. Bishop

My right hon. Friend has taken every opportunity to press in the Council for a change in the calculation and has been encouraged by the support of the French and Italian Ministers. But the opposition remains. The Commission's report on its study of the distorting effects of the system of monetary compensatory amounts was submitted to the Council this week and provides a further opportunity to press our case. The issue is likely to be one that will be considered in the CAP price-fixing negotiations.

Mr. Banks

Has the right hon. Gentleman emphasised that the Danish and Dutch share of our market in tinned ham has reached an unacceptable level? Is he fully aware of the severe difficulties of the pigmeat processing industry? Is it not the case that his Government's attitude towards the EEC has severely hampered the chances of altering the calculation for MCAs to make it similar to that of the poultrymeat and egg industries?

Mr. Bishop

I should have thought that my right hon. Friend's attitude to the Community would be welcomed by all who care about our own industry. It is true that the pig industry in particular has been subject to these problems, but the hon. Gentleman will be aware that the recent 5 per cent. devaluation of the green pound has cut MCAs on Danish bacon imports by £44 a tonne, or 18 per cent. The other 2½ per cent. that will follow will mean altogether a rise of £66 a tonne, or a 28 per cent. variation. However, my right hon. Friend is still pressing for a recalculation of the MCAs.

Mr. Jopling

Whilst I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that calculation of the pigmeat MCAs is extremely unfair, may I ask whether he read the report in the Financial Times this morning that the Commission's study of the chaos in the British pigmeat industry lays the blame almost entirely on this Government's refusal to devalue the green pound and their total incompetence in controlling inflation in this country?

Mr. Bishop

Those two statements are politically unrealistic. My right hon. Friend has pressed consistently since October 1976, with the 8 per cent. change, the revaluation of the green pound last year and the £17 million subsidy to the industry, which had to be stopped when the Community intervened. He has been pressing since. The hon. Gentleman will realise that farming has made its contribution to combating inflation, but the industry benefits from the fact that inflation has come down from the 30 per cent. of a few years ago to near-single figures today.

Mr. Watt

Rather than continue fiddling with MCAs and the green pound, would not the Minister do better to read today's Press reports that the Dutch Labour Party is reconsidering its faith in the Common Market? In view of the permanent damage done to our pigmeat industry, the permanent damage done by the common fisheries policy to British fishing interests, and the regulations coming out of Brussels which are damaging our livestock hauliers' livelihood, will the right hon. Gentleman now persuade his own party to reconsider its faith in the Common Market and come out of the whole blooming jing-a-ring?

Mr. Bishop

I think that the hon. Gentleman will recognise that some of the propositions that he has just put may be longer-term ones. United Kingdom agriculture cannot wait for longer-term proposals. My right hon. Friend is pressing very hard to ensure urgent aid for the industries and the aspects of agriculture that are in dire need of help at present, especially the pig industry.