HC Deb 14 June 1979 vol 968 cc601-2
6. Mr. Peter Mills

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he will take to assist the pig industry and allow it fair competition in the EEC.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

We recognise the difficulties of pig producers and processors. My right hon. Friend will be seeking reductions in the MCAs.

Mr. Mills

I thank the Minister for that reply. Will he bear in mind that the previous Administration failed completely to deal with this serious problem? Will he also accept that the position is very serious and has almost reached the point of no return? Will he therefore take action immediately because, otherwise, the pig industry will collapse?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I agree with what my hon. Friend has said. The events of recent weeks have proved that not only the producing side, but the processing side, is suffering. As a result of previous policies, jobs are being lost and the problems are serious across the whole industry. We intend to deal with the matter urgently.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it is not just the pig producers but the pig processors who are suffering? Hundreds of jobs throughout the country, not least in my constituency, are being affected, and it is not good enough for the Minister to say that he is urgently considering the matter. What is he going to do about it?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

It might have been more interesting if the hon. Gentleman had addressed those remarks to his own Government a few weeks ago. It is apparent that the last Government held down support price levels in the United Kingdom in what events have proved to be the completely false belief that such action would produce short-term benefits. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's constituents who have lost, or are threatened with losing, their jobs will agree with what he has said.

Mr. W. Benyon

May I emphasise to my hon. Friend the urgency of the matter? Can he give us any idea when action will be taken?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

My hon. Friend knows that there is a Council of Ministers meeting next week, and I assure him that this is one matter which we shall have very much in the forefront of our discussions.

Mr. Newens

Does the Minister recognise that devaluation of the green pound and the measures that he has mentioned are not sufficient to assist the pig industry and that the current system is totally wrong? Is he aware that my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) earned considerable support from pig farmers for his efforts to change the system? Will the Minister try to do something along those lines?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The hon. Gentleman is entitled to his view, but I suggest that he should talk to those in the producing and processing sectors of the industry. It is clear from discussions that I have had with both sides of the industry that they believe that fairer competition and a devaluation of the green pound are the best, quickest and most effective ways in which they can be helped.

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