§ The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman)
On 4 December my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food announced that the Outgoers element of the Pig Industry Restructuring Scheme was open for applications. This announcement delivers a further component of the Government's agricultural strategy. The scheme will make a significant amount of money available to the2WA UK pig industry, a sector that has suffered terribly over the past two years. While market conditions have improved recently, the scale of the debt incurred over those difficult times continues to be a major restraint on the industry's ability to prepare itself for the future. The Government's restructuring scheme will go some way towards remedying that situation.
The European Commission has confirmed that it is content with the Outgoers part of the restructuring scheme. As promised by my right honourable friend, this first phase was opened as soon as possible after receiving that confirmation. The Government are confident that formal clearance from the Corn mission for both phases of the Pig Industry Restructuring Scheme will be obtained later this month.
The aim of Outgoers is to reduce pig breeding capacity in the UK by 16 per cent compared to what was available in June 1998 in order to allow the British pig industry to begin its necessary restructuring. Discussions with the pig industry are continuing on Ongoers and the intention is to open this second phase of the restructuring scheme early in the new year.