HC Deb 12 March 1981 vol 1000 cc992-3
7. Mr. Dunlop

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when the undertakings of European Economic Community aid for Northern Ireland agriculture given in the House on 26 February will be implemented.

Mr. Adam Butler

As the Italian Minister has not yet signified his agreement to the complete package of measures, I regret that I cannot say when the regulations will be approved by the Council of Ministers.

Mr. Dunlop

Will the Minister impress on his noble Friend in charge of agriculture in the Province the dire needs of the producers of milk and beef and pigs and poultry for financial help at least to bring them up to the same level of payment received by their contemporaries on the mainland?

Mr. Butler

Generally speaking, the measures to which the question refers, I believe, are those which will not have an immediate impact on those particular sectors.

Mr. Fitt

Will the Minister agree that, almost daily in Northern Ireland, an announcement is made from some source, in the media, to the effect that further grants, further money and a further bonanza are to be given to Northern Ireland from EEC sources? In the atmosphere of poverty and deprivation that exists in the Six Counties, people's hopes are built only to be doused a few weeks later. Will the Minister try to take some steps to ensure that when announcements are made, there is some degree of truth in them?

Mr. Butler

The regulations to which I referred in my answer involve a considerable sum—about £38 million—of Community expenditure over the next 10 years. It is not the fault of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that the measures have not been approved. He will continue to press for general agreement so that they can proceed.

Mr. Pendry

Will the Minister ensure that the EEC funds are not blocked by delaying tactics by other member States? May we have a guarantee that, if and when the EEC grant is given, the reduced cost of grain handling will be passed on to the Northern Ireland fanners? What provision is there to ensure that fanners who cannot match the level of grant offered receive cheap loans?

Mr. Butler

I think that I am allowed to select only one of those three questions. Clearly, we cannot prevent an Agriculture Minister from another member State blocking the arrangements. However, we hope that he will withdraw his obstruction in the near future. One of the regulations applies directly to animal feed processing.