Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Session 2006-07

23 May 2007


23 May 2007

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee calls for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to be scrapped

The Common Agricultural Policy should be scrapped and replaced with a new rural policy for the European Union.

This is the conclusion of a report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee which looked at the Government's "Vision for the Common Agricultural Policy", published in December 2005.

The Committee criticises the Government's document as a disappointing lost opportunity and nothing more than an evolution of existing policy that does not represent a "truly revolutionary vision".

MPs want to see a new redrafted "vision" document from the Government which takes into account its increased emphasis on addressing environmental protection, climate change and wider rural issues.

They say the only long-term justification for future expenditure of taxpayers' money in the agricultural sector is the provision of environmental and social benefits for the public.

The Committee also concludes that a more sophisticated approach is needed if the UK is to persuade the rest of the EU that its reform document should be the catalyst for change. The Government's initial "Vision" document was launched without prior warning and without a programme to gain support from other EU farm ministers, an approach which was counterproductive and caused a negative reaction.

The Committee's report comes after a lengthy inquiry in which it took evidence from a number of witnesses including Defra Secretary of State, David Miliband, the European Agriculture Commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel, and individual farmers at a special evidence session held at the Royal Agricultural Show in Stoneleigh in 2006.

Chairman of the Committee, the Rt Hon Michael Jack MP, said:

"The objectives of the Common Agricultural Policy have remained unchanged for the last 50 years and are now an anachronism. For all its revolutionary rhetoric, the UK Government's "Vision for the Common Agricultural Policy" was ultimately a disappointing lost opportunity as it merely described an evolution of the existing policy, primarily motivated by budget savings, rather than presenting a truly revolutionary vision.

"The Government showed a naivety in believing that its Vision document could be its catalyst to a reform agenda when it was introduced so near to the end of its Presidency and without any programme in place to gain support for the British position. For British ideas to succeed, it is important that the UK adopts a more sophisticated approach to its agenda than when it launched its Vision document on an unsuspecting audience and without prior effort to prepare other farm ministers for its arrival.

"The only long-term justification for future expenditure of taxpayers' money in the agricultural sector is the provision of public benefits. Payments should represent the most efficient means by which society can purchase the public 'goods'€”environmental, rural, social€”it wishes to enjoy. For these payments to remain publicly acceptable, it is essential that they relate directly to the public goods provided and that, in turn, these public goods are measurable and capable of evaluation."

NOTES FOR EDITORS

1. For media inquiries, or to arrange bids for interviews with the Chairman, Rt Hon Michael Jack MP, and other Members of the EFRA Committee, please call Laura Kibby on 07917 488 557.

2. For information about the Committee's inquiry, please call Jonathan Little on 020 7219 3279. The full report will be available on the Committee's website soon after 00.01 am on 23 May 2007. The written and oral evidence taken in the inquiry will be available soon after 11.00 am on 24 May 2007. Website: www.parliament.uk/efracom

3. To view the uncorrected transcripts of evidence taken in this inquiry please see the Committee's 'UK Government's "Vision for the CAP"' inquiry page at:
www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/environment__food_and_rural_affairs/efra_uk_government_s_vision_of_cap.cfm

4. HM Treasury and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) published the UK Government's "Vision for the Common Agricultural Policy" on 2 December 2005. The report is available at: www.defra.gov.uk/farm/capreform/pdf/vision-for-cap.pdf