§ 7. Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth)
What discussion he has had recently with representatives of the pig industry about pig farming; and if he will make a statement. 
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Elliot Morley)
On 30 March, my right hon. Friend the Minister attended the Prime Minister's meeting with leaders of the agriculture and food industries. As part of the action plan that came out of that meeting, the Government are offering pig producers £26 million this year to help them restructure their industry and restore long-term viability. We are working to provide further funding in future years. Our plans have been notified to the EU Commission to meet state aid rules.
We have also deferred implementation of integrated pollution prevention and control until 2007 for pig and poultry installations, and the pig industry has also benefited substantially from marketing grants under the agriculture developments scheme 1999.
§ Mr. Tredinnick
Is the Minister aware that the chairman of the National Pig Association has written to me saying that the money falls far short of the twin objectives of reducing the impact of the BSE tax and returning the industry to profitability? Given what is going on at Stoke Golding in my constituency, where the Goslings have a very big farm of 40 sows which live in straw conditions that meet very high standards, does he understand that it is uncompetitiveness, caused by the higher standards in this country, that is causing so much difficulty? Will he stop illegal imports of products that do not meet the very high standards that we require?
§ Mr. Morley
My right hon. Friend the Minister has already outlined some of the action taken in relation to the pig industry. On labelling, the verification officer appointed by the Ministry has assisted in getting three retail chains to change their labelling to reflect more accurately the country of origin of meat.
494 I meet the chairman of the National Pig Association regularly. Although the association naturally wants us to go further on certain matters, I have seen correspondence in which it was very supportive and thanked the Government for introducing measures to help the industry.
§ Mr. Phil Hope (Corby)
Farmers in my constituency very much welcome the additional money recently announced for the pig industry. Bernard Howard is a local pig farmer, and for the first time he has given us a pat on the back—in my constituency, that is a miracle. However, the BSE-related costs to the pig industry are a worry. Will my hon. Friend confirm that help with those costs would be illegal under European Commission rules, and that that is why the Government cannot help the pig industry in that way?
If I invited my right hon. Friend the Minister to my constituency, would he be prepared to meet farmers in Corby and east Northamptonshire, and in Kettering and Wellingborough too, who have severe problems? They would really welcome the opportunity to meet my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Morley
As my right hon. Friend has made clear, the previous Administration provided no assistance when BSE-related costs were introduced in 1996. Moreover, the present Opposition have made it clear that they want that support for economic reasons, even though providing it would be impossible as it would amount to illegal state aid. The pig industry is well aware of how difficult it has been to put together an assistance package while meeting the state aid rules. We have managed to put such a package together, and we have helped industry in a number of ways. My hon. Friend is right to say that most people in the pig industry recognise that the Government have done a great deal to assist them with their present problems.
§ Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire)
The £26 million package for the pig industry is derisory, although it is not nearly as bad as the one tenth of a penny per litre on offer to the milk industry. The Minister has said that the money is to be used for restructuring the pig industry. Will he explain what that means?
§ Mr. Morley
It is interesting that although Conservative Members are keen to call figures derisory, no money was forthcoming from the Conservative Government when there were similar problems in 1996. We have put forward a range of measures to help the pig industry in a number of ways. Restructuring is only part of the package, which includes assistance to help those who want to stay in the industry, so that they can become competitive and meet the demands made on them.
§ Mr. Tim Yeo (South Suffolk)
Ministers have so far failed to answer any of the questions that I tabled 10 days ago about the details of the action plan announced a fortnight ago. The Minister keeps boasting about the £26 million, but is not it the case that that money can be spent only on getting pig farmers out of business and on ensuring that the land that they use is not used for pig farming? Does the Minister understand that the pig industry needed measures to help to keep farmers in business while the price recovered? Will not the direct 495 consequence of what the Ministry has done be that more of the pigmeat consumed in this country comes from imports, much of which will be produced by farmers who fail to meet the standards required by law in Britain?
§ Mr. Morley
The hon. Gentleman is simply wrong. The package has three elements. They have been published, and I understand, too, that the hon. Gentleman's written questions have been answered. One of the elements of the package will assist people staying in the industry in a number of ways. For example, pig farmers have benefited substantially from the agricultural development grants. We are helping the people who want to leave the industry, but we are also helping those who want to stay in, so that they can improve their businesses and make them successful.