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The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett): Enlargement to a European Union of 25 is forecast by the Commission to cost Euro6.3 billion in common agricultural policy direct payments and market support in 2013. This is consistent with the ceilings on agricultural expenditure agreed at the European Council in October 2002.
Sir Teddy Taylor: The common agricultural policy has cost European central funds more than £100,000 million over the past five years, apart from the massive sums spent by member states and the extra costs borne by the consumer. Does not the Secretary of State accept that we will face a nightmare of spending with the extension of the CAP, bearing in mind the enormous potential for extension in countries such as Poland and Romania? Will she say whether there is any real
Margaret Beckett: The hon. Gentleman will know that a huge amount of discussion is now under way about reform of the CAP. I accept two of the points that he has made: first, it has long been a very expensive policy for taxpayers and consumers; secondly, it is important that we make sure that we can curtail that expenditure, not least because of enlargement. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government continue to work with all the vigour at our command to ensure as much reform as we can conceivably achieve.
Lawrie Quinn (Scarborough and Whitby): Has my right hon. Friend had an opportunity to make an assessment of the impact of these changes on upland areas such as the North York moors and on less favoured areas where producers are struggling quite a lot now, where the impact could be even worse in terms of a sustainable agricultural system?
Margaret Beckett: I entirely accept my hon. Friend's concern and I know that he speaks for his constituents in such areas in expressing that anxiety. I assure him that a great deal of work is going on all the time to assess the shifting proposals that are being made, as they are developed and expanded, to assess their impact on all areas. In general terms, we believe that the proposals would be beneficial to the farming community, including less favoured areas, as a result of the combined impact of the different measures. I assure my hon. Friend that we keep that under close review.
Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold): The Secretary of State will be aware that the structure of British farming is that we have larger farms than those on the continent. We therefore stand to lose most from a reform of the CAP. Does she agree that it would be intolerable for British farmers to lose out but for the British taxpayer to continue to pay into the CAP only to subsidise continental farmers who would compete with British farmers in the single market?
Margaret Beckett: First, I entirely accept that the impact of CAP reform, as with the impact of the existing CAP, is different in different member states. The hon. Gentleman is entirely right that we have many larger farms. He will have noticed that, already, the Commission's initial suggestion of a ceiling on payments is no longer in the proposals. I assure him that it is no part of this Government's negotiating objectives to see British farmers suffer at the expense of others.
Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire): The expression "no part of this Government's objectives" will be taken as a slightly disappointing reaction by the National Farmers Union and farmers. Does the Secretary of State not accept that 75 per cent. of continental farms receive
Margaret Beckett: Mindful of your injunction to give short answers, Mr. Speaker, I answered the point raised by the hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown), which was about the larger farms. I entirely accept the point that the present structure of the proposals, with a franchise that excludes smaller farms, has a differential impact in different member states. We shall continue to fight for a scheme that is fair, both to British farmers and to others, not least because we are the only member state with real experience of a scheme of modulation, and it is only because it is seen to be fair to all that it is accepted at all.
10. Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West): What assessment she has made of the impact that the proposed reforms to the common agricultural policy will have upon farmers in the United Kingdom. 
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett): We have undertaken various economic and impact assessments of the Commission's reform proposals. They conclude that, overall, the reforms would have a positive effect on farmers and on farm incomes in the UK.
Mr. Swayne : I find that hard to believe. The July 2002 proposalsthe Government's regulatory impact assessmentdid not deal with the sheep, beef and pig sectors. Will the report that is now due, consequent on the consultation period that has just ended, put that right?
Margaret Beckett: First, I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman finds the assessments hard to believe, but I assure him that they are available on the Department's website, a great many assessments are being undertaken, and it is not only the Government who believe that such a package of reform could be beneficial to UK farmers. With regard to issues of regulation, we continue to keep under review all of the regulatory approach that we adopt, in an effort, for example, through a whole-farm approach, to reduce and to simplify the regulations that farming faces.
Margaret Beckett: Well, there will be a varying impact. We do not expect a particularly dramatic impact in the short term, but I assure my hon. Friend that the impact on consumers, taxpayers and farmers is very much part of the assessment that we are making.
Wednesday 12 MarchProceedings on the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill, followed by debate on Welsh Affairs on a motion for the Adjournment of the House. [Interruption.] I am glad that the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Wiggin) finds satisfaction with the business.
Thursday 13 MarchMotion to approve a money resolution on the Fireworks Bill, followed by motions to approve money and ways and means resolutions on the Marine Safety Bill, followed by debate on flood and coastal defence policy on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.
The House may wish to be reminded that the Budget statement will be made on Wednesday 9 April. The House will now sit on Friday 11 April and will, subject to the progress of business, rise for the Easter recess on Monday 14 April and return on Monday 28 April.
Mr. Forth: I am grateful to the Leader for that information. Will he now do us the courtesy of telling us just why the Budget date has been so delayed? Why was the Budget date announced so late, and why was it sneaked out rather surreptitiously yesterday in a written ministerial statement? What is going wrong? Is the
I should like to return to the dodgy dossier. I think that we need either a statement or a debate on its status and its provenance. I say that because on 10 February the Prime Minister, no less, said in a written answer: