We are in close and continuing touch with the National Farmers Union and the National Pig Breeders Association about the problems in the pig sector. The action which has been taken to strengthen the market seems to be having some effect as market prices have risen a little from the low point they were reaching at the beginning of February. Cereal prices are now showing a distinct downward trend. We shall be pressing hard in Brussels to secure the best possible improvement in pigmeat MCAs.
We are always looking at that matter. The balance between state aids to the farming industry is difficult to strike. Our farming industry receives the equivalent of over £400 million a year because it does not pay rates. I am sure that some continentals would complain about that. Such state aids have been notified to the Commission, which is considering their legality. We are always prepared to refer any evidence of illegal state aids in other member states, and we are determined that United Kingdom producers will not suffer from them.
First, I apologise to my hon. Friend for not informing him quickly enough about the linking of his question. I can assure him that we were only trying to help and we intend to do better in future.
The answer to his question is no, I do not think so.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the letters MCA stand not for "Ministers' criticism of archbishops" but for "monetary compensatory amounts"? Is he further aware that the Archbishop of Canterbury for one, among many other pig producers and pig owners, is a great deal more interested in the pigmeat connotation of MCAs? Will my hon. Friend, in the interests of agricultural, ministerial and ecclesiastical harmony, do everything that he can to reduce the MCAs for pigmeat?
If my right hon. Friend were to set that to music it would be chanted in every church in the country next week.
I have had long discussions with my right hon. Friend on this subject. He and I know the value of MCAs—monetary compensatory amounts — far more than others. We are doing what we can to limit them as soon as possible.