David Lidington: Another CAP stitch-up for U.K.

European proposals for major changes to the system of farming subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy were published today. David Lidington MP, Shadow Secretary of State for DEFRA commented:

"The CAP needs reform. It is right to move to a world where farmers are free to respond to the demands of their customers rather than of governments.

"But the detail of Commissioner Fischler's package includes measures that discriminate unfairly against this country. It looks as if the Prime Minister was indeed stitched-up by President Chirac and Chancellor Schroder. Margaret Beckett will have her work cut out to get a fair deal from Britain's farmers. Indeed, some of the Commission's initiatives are completely contrary to the Government's own strategy for agriculture.

"Issues that cause me concern include the decision to impose the biggest cuts in direct payments on larger farms. This looks likely to mean that British farmers bearing a disproportionately large share of the costs of reform. Plus, is it really plausible to use modulation both to finance environmental schemes and to compensate farmers who stand to lose out from changes to dairying and sugar beet? Do the figures add up? The reference period for the Single Farm Payment will be 2000-2002. Will the Commission's calculations take account of the devastating impact on business of Foot and Mouth Disease during that time?

"Margaret Beckett must negotiate hard for British farmers during this crucial period for British agriculture."

ENDS
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