I propose to take Questions Nos. 31, 78 and 230 together.
The provision of assistance to the food processing sector, to counteract the effects of the depreciation of sterling against the Irish pound, would, without approval at EU level, be contrary to EU law. It is clear that in present circumstances such approval would not be forthcoming.
The appropriate response to the currency situation is that firms should improve their competitiveness and intensify and geographically diversify their marketing efforts. Towards this end considerable financial assistance is provided for the food industry, under the Structural Funds sub-programme for the industry. This assistance, from EU and national sources, amounts to £283 million and is available for investment in plant and equipment, research and development, marketing and promotion and training. Because of the need for a special effort in marketing and promotion, I recently announced the transfer of £7.5 million within the sub-programme towards marketing and promotion, subject to the procedures relating to such transfers being complied with. The competitive position of the food industry will also be improved by the changes in the PRSI system announced in last week's budget and the Government's overall approach to improving the competitiveness of the economy, including the various measures being financed by the Structural Funds under the National Development Plan.
There is a range of State schemes, under the Structural Funds Programme for the Food Industry, upon which they may draw for these purposes.