In a report published today, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee welcomes the findings of the independent Task Force on Farming Regulation and calls on Defra to implement its recommendations promptly.
In May 2011, the independent Farming Regulation Task Force completed a review of Defra's farming and food related regulations – the first of its kind across Whitehall.
In a report examining the outcome of that review (The outcome of the independent Farming Regulation Task Force [Tenth report of Session 2011-12, HC 1266],) MPs congratulate the Task Force for striking a successful balance between upholding standards and over-zealous regulation.
Launching the EFRA Committee report, chair Anne McIntosh MP said,
"The comprehensive and detailed review delivered by the Task Force clearly sets out the steps required to rationalise Defra’s culture of over regulation. Prompt implementation of these regulations offers a vital opportunity to transform Defra’s approach.
My Committee looks forward to hearing the Department’s initial response to the Task Force next month, and eagerly awaits a clear timetable of practical steps to cut back the overly burdensome regulations that threaten to stifle English farm businesses.
Defra estimates the direct cost of current regulation is upwards of £5bn each year. Yet over half of all Defra’s regulations come from EU requirements.
It is essential that Defra engages earlier and more proactively in Europe to reduce the cost burden imposed by EU regulations in future. It must also ensure that adequate staff resources are available to deliver this engagement."
The committee also calls for Defra to set out options for removing ‘gold-plating’ from existing EU-derived regulations and for MPs to be given greater powers to scrutinise legislation establishing new regulations.
Commenting further, McIntosh adds,
"Defra needs a cultural change in its approach to regulation and enforcement. It needs to develop a risk-based approach to inspection that will target those farms that demonstrate the greatest risk of non-compliance with farm regulation.
Linked to this we also support the principle of using 'earned recognition' - through farm membership of independent assurance schemes - to reduce the number of inspections and the costs they impose on farmers and Government.
The committee also calls on Defra to ensure that many more of the Department’s own employees have some hands-on experience of farming businesses.
Lastly, EFRA Committee will continue to scrutinise this agenda closely. To that end, it calls for the Department to report annually to Parliament on its progress in reducing regulatory burdens and delivering the Task Force's guidelines for better regulation."