The United Kingdom accession and monetary compensatory amounts payable on bacon imports are currently, together, equivalent to £228·18 per tonne. Pig producers have enjoyed a substained period of firm prices and the national herd is expanding, but I recognise that the curing and processing industry is particularly concerned about the effects of these compensating payments. My right hon. Friend will be meeting representatives of the industry shortly to discuss the situation.
As I said in reply to an earlier question, the decision to change the value of the green pound is a delicate one. One has to take into account the interests of consumers, producers and processors. It is a matter that the Government keep constantly under review. In view of the importance of curbing inflation and the level of agricultural support that my right hon. Friend announced on 8th March, I do not believe that a change at this time is justified.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that devaluation of the green pound for the pig sector would give relief? Is he aware that my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) and Mr. Lardinois have both asked for devaluation? Why does the hon. Gentleman insist on disadvantaging the home producing sector?
I am sure that Mr. Lardinois and the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) are equally sensitive to the need for this country to deal with inflation. There is no alternative to the present policy of the Government, whereby we have to restrain prices as well as wages and incomes. I believe that my right hon. Friend has done a good job in keeping a balance between the interests of all those concerned.
That is a matter we shall bear in mind, but in the circumstances, that would be extreme action to take. The Community has shown a great degree of sensitivity to the problems, and we are not anxious to make too many changes. We have, indeed, made four changes in the last two years.
Does the Minister accept that, contrary to earlier assertions, there is no confidence in the pig industry at present because, apart from its difficulties over imported products, it is frustrated by having to pay a levy on imported proteins, while it can find no use for skimmed milk powder? What does he intend to do about the situation?
I challenge the hon. Gentleman's assertion that there is no confidence in the pig industry. He may be aware of the warning given by the NFU a month or so ago to the effect that overproduction could be bad for all the interests concerned. One has to model supply in relation to demand and in terms of prices obtainable in the market.
Is the Minister aware that we are shocked at his complacency? Does he realise that at this moment the bacon industry is losing an enormous amount of money? Will he look again at the possibility of having a special devaluation of the green pound in the pig sector—otherwise, before long he will not have a bacon industry at all?
In regard to the bacon industry, I have yet to hear rasher statements than those made by the hon. Gentleman. According to the census taken in April last, there was an increase in the United Kingdom pig breeding herd of 4 per cent. compared with April a year earlier. The hon. Gentleman will also be aware of the change in average prices. The warning of the NFU should be heeded. The hon. Gentleman will also be aware that it is not possible for a change in the green pound to be selective.