asked the Minister for Agriculture what steps the Government intend to take to arrest the serious decline in the sheep industry.
asked the Minister for Agriculture if he will make a statement on the present position in relation to the achievement of a common European Community policy for sheep.
Mr. E. Collins:
asked the Minister for Agriculture the sheep population as at the June census in 1970, 1972, 1974, 1976 and 1977; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I propose taking Questions Nos. 8 to 10, inclusive, together.
The sheep population as recorded in the June census of 1970, 1972 and 1974 was 4.08 million, 4.26 million and 4.06 million, respectively. The provisional figure for June, 1976, is 3.54 million. The result of the June, 1977, census is not yet available.
I have taken an initial step to assist the sheep industry by reintroducing the Mountain Lamb Extension Scheme as from 12th October.
As regards the longer term, the freeing of intra-Community trade in sheep and sheepmeat as from the end of the transitional period should significantly improve the situation. Also new proposals for a common policy for sheepmeat are expected to be put forward by the Commission within the next month.
Is there any truth in the suggestion that the Minister is delaying the Irish court case against the French in relation to the exportation of Irish lamb to France?
There is absolutely no truth in that.
Can the Parliamentary Secretary say when this court case will be dealt with?
I am afraid I cannot give the Deputy the answer to that because there is nothing in the question related to the court case.
Is it the intention to introduce a floor price for sheep here as a unilateral measure in view of the fact that the number of lambs and ewes being slaughtered in Irish factories has fallen so catastrophically that factories may pull out of this line of production altogether and sheep producers may be left with no outlet if no action is taken?
That matter is constantly under consideration in the Department and I am sure if it is found necessary to adopt that course a decision will be taken at that time.
In relation to the proposed common agricultural policy for sheep will the Parliamentary Secretary ensure that the policy produced by the EEC contains specific guarantees in relation to quantitative restrictions on imports of New Zealand lamb to the European Community?
That is one of the things that will be considered. It is a very hot topic with the Commission at the present time.
Has the Minister made representations in the matter?
Is it a fact the Minister has restarted bilateral negotiations with the French in the hope and expectation of getting their agreement to some sort of arrangement designed to get Irish lamb into France?
As I said, this matter is under continuous consideration and I am not now in a position to give the answer.
I do not accept that as a reply. That is an evasive answer to a straight question. This tactic failed over a period of three years and it will fail again. The Minister should have enough sense to know that.
An Ceann Comhairle:
The Deputy will agree he is now asking a question that has no relation to any of the three questions on the Order Paper.
Oh yes, it has.
An Ceann Comhairle:
It is a separate question and should be pursued as such.