Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Session 2006-07

2 July 2007




Debate to be held in the House of Commons

The Rural Payments Agency and the implementation of the Single Payment Scheme & The UK Government's "Vision for the Common Agricultural Policy"

The House of Commons will debate two recent reports on agriculture matters by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee in a single debate on the evening of Monday 9 July.

The report on the RPA analyzed the failures of the new system for making payments to farmers; the other was a critique of the Government's approach to CAP reform.

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

"The Government pays out more than £2 billion per year in European subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy. It is vital that the Government pays this money promptly and accurately, but when it implemented the Single Payment Scheme there were failures and delays which caused distress and expense to farmers, added to pressures on Defra's budget, and may lead to substantial fines from Brussels. As well as analyzing what went wrong, our report was also very critical of the way that the Secretary of State and senior Defra officials with responsibility for those failures either moved on to other jobs unscathed or remained in post. We said that there had been a failure of accountability.

"It is also important that the Common Agricultural Policy meets the requirements of the present day and can be justified to the taxpayers who finance it. We concluded that the CAP as it stands is an anachronism, and that it should be scrapped and replaced by a 'Rural Policy for the EU'. The Government's 'Vision' document was a disappointing lost opportunity. It was undermined by its timing€”just before the climax of the EU budget negotiations in 2005€”and the perception among other Member States that it was concerned mainly with budgetary savings. We recommended that the Government prepare a fresh Vision 'mark 2', setting out what a rural policy for the EU should look like.

"It is many years since the House had a debate on agriculture matters. These reports provide such an opportunity. I look forward to hearing the response of Defra to our work."

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NOTES FOR EDITORS

The debate in the House arises on an 'Estimates day'. There are three of these every year, when reports by select committees are debated on the days that the House decides on the Government's Estimates of public expenditure that it has presented to the House. The selection of the particular reports to be debated is made by the Liaison Committee which comprises all select committee chairmen.

The debate is likely to begin about 7.00 pm and will finish at 10.00 pm. The Chairman of the Committee, Rt Hon Michael Jack MP, is expected to open the debate. A Defra Minister will reply to the debate on behalf of the Government.

The Third Report of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Session 2006-07, HC 107, on the Rural Payments Agency and the implementation of the Single Payment Scheme was published on 29 March 2007: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmenvfru/107/107i.pdf

The Fourth Report of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Session 2006-07, HC 546, on the UK Government's "Vision for the Common Agricultural Policy" was published on 23 May 2007: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmenvfru/546/546i.pdf