The motion was originally in the name of my deputy, Mr Robinson. As there are few farmers in East Belfast, I am taking it over for the farmers of North Antrim and elsewhere. I became uneasy when my colleague, Mr Sammy Wilson, also from East Belfast, spoke about guinea pigs. There are no guineas in the pig industry. It is in serious crisis, and it is right that public representatives should have this opportunity to express their views on the serious situation in farming.
The industry is important. It employs about 4,000 people, has 1,800 producers and 2,200 processors and is worth approximately £200 million to the Northern Ireland economy. Those who know the pig industry knows that its fortunes rise and fall, but this could be its final fall, and Northern Ireland could be left with no viable pig industry. When some Members of the Assembly met the Minister, Lord Dubs, they put just one question to him. They asked, "Do you want a viable pig industry in Northern Ireland or are you prepared to preside over its demise?" The pig industry is not on the road to recovery. We face its demise, and we had better wake up to that hard, terrifying fact.
The pig industry had the fire at the factory in Ballymoney, and that was a terrible blow. Forty per cent of the killing and curing power was taken out of the industry. Such a blow in any industry would have been seen as an emergency in any other part, not only of the United Kingdom but of the whole of Europe. Yet our Government, and those who sit farther down the road from us in this very estate, did not think it was an emergency. They did not go immediately to Europe and say that 40% of our industry had been destroyed. We expect them to do for us what has been done in Germany, in France, in Spain and in Italy in such situations. The Government have never acknowledged this to be an emergency situation. In fact, wearing the hat of a Member of the European Parliament, I approached the Government and asked what approaches they were making to Europe. They replied that they were making no approaches to Europe because there is no money in Europe for this.
I then went to Europe. I talked to Mr Fischler, the Commissioner, and he said that there is money in Europe. This is an emergency, but the United Kingdom Government have made no application for help. So I went back and they said they would consider the matter. After considering the matter they decided that they were not going to make an application. However, there will be a debate in the European Parliament this week on the pig industry and its tragedies, and I welcome that.
The United Kingdom Government, the Secretary of State and our Ministers should have been on the ball to get from Europe not charity but something that we have paid for. Northern Ireland, according to the Exchequer at Westminster, has never got out of Europe what we have paid in per head of our population while the United Kingdom has been a member. It is all right for the Irish Republic to get £6 million a day, but we have never got out what we have paid in. The Government have not been faithful stewards of the pig industry, and for that I castigate them.