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Pigs (Price Calculation)

Volume 932: debated on Thursday 19 May 1977

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received from the Confederation des Organisations Professionels Agricoles requesting a recalculation of the monetary compensatory amounts in respect of pigs.

The praesidium of the confederation has made no representations to the Council during the period of the United Kingdom Presidency requesting such a recalculation. In its reactions to the Commission's proposals on the fixing of prices for certain agricultural products for the marketing year 1977–78, however, COPA notes that the United Kingdom delegation had indicated that it could not accept any increase in the basic price for pigmeat in the absence of a satisfactory solution on the method of calculation of the monetary compensatory amounts for pigmeat.

Is it not depressing that COPA, notwithstanding that until quite recently it had the distinction of having Sir Henry Plumb as its chairman, has not shown itself to be more alert to the problems of the British pig farmer? Does not the situation highlight the fact that where we have national difficulties they should be susceptible to national solutions?

I find myself in a great measure of agreement on this point, particularly in the pigmeat sector and also in the dairy sector.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that when Commissioner Gundelach came to Cirencester recently he gave little encouragement to Gloucestershire farmers that the Commission was prepared to act on the difficulties experienced by pig farmers in this country? Is he aware that hon. Members on this side of the House who are conversant with the problems of farmers would give him all the support he needed to take further unilateral action if the negotiations, which are still six weeks away, were not successful in helping the pig industry?

I am grateful for the support I have received for the measures necessary to help our own pig producers. The recalculation of the pigmeat mcas will come up as a proposal and will be on the agenda at the meeting on 20th and 21st June.

The fact that the Commission is making a proposal at last is welcome, but will the Minister explain, since he agrees with my hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen), what he intends to do about it?

As the right hon. Member must be aware, I have introduced unilateral aid for pig producers which is being challenged in the courts. An interim injunction is due to be heard either tomorrow or in the next few days. Clearly, in the first place we must await the result of the court hearing. Secondly, the Government have given some consideration to what might happen in any event.

The whole House accepts that the Minister and his colleagues have worked very hard for the pig producers. Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree, however, that unless there is a chance of the unilateral action being accepted this would be a good and sensible time for him to make an honest and apposite statement and to level with the pig farmers, who are desperately worried about their financial future?

I am aware of what the hon. Member has said. When there is something absolutely definite to say, I shall make as clear a statement as I can in the House to help pig farmers to plan their future.

Will my right hon. Friend resist the move coming from the Commission automatically to readjust mcas irrespective of the subject being discussed? Does he not agree that if mcas can be triggered off by figures that bear no relation to the individual product we shall be in very great trouble?

The proposals to which my hon. Friend refers are not those which will come before the Council in June. It is expected that they will come up sometime in October. One of the interesting features about the proposals for the meeting on 20th and 21st June is that they suggest a different method of calculating green currencies based on all the currencies of the Nine. That is something which my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Gould) has advocated on more than one occasion. It will be interesting to see what view the Council takes on that.