Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee - Report of the Independent Farming Regulation Task Force: Follow up - Minutes of EvidenceHC 308

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House of COMMONS

Oral EVIDENCE

TAKEN BEFORE the

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

The Report of the Farming Regulation Task force: Follow up

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Richard Macdonald

Evidence heard in Public Questions 1-58

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

on Wednesday 13 June 2012

Members present:

Miss Anne McIntosh (Chair)

Neil Parish

Ms Margaret Ritchie

________________

Examination of Witness

Witness: Richard Macdonald, Chair of the Independent Farming Regulation Task Force and Chair of the Implementation Group, gave evidence.

Q1 Chair: Welcome, good afternoon. For the record, Richard, would you like to give your name and title?

Richard Macdonald: Richard Macdonald. I am Chairman of the Defra food and farming better regulation implementation group-I think it is something like that.

Q2 Chair: Thank you very much indeed for being with us this afternoon to look at the follow up to the Farming Regulation Task Force report. The Government accepted 159 of the Task Force’s 220 recommendations. As a state of play, what would you say has currently been implemented of those recommendations?

Richard Macdonald: The short answer to that question, Chairman, is that there is a lot of work in progress. Viewing this as an independent and looking at it, as charged, from the outside, I have no doubt about the Minister’s commitment to making it happen. I think the Department absolutely understands that that is its brief and is committed to doing so. There are quite a significant number of areas where there is good progress, partly out of necessity, because it is a current issue, partly where people are driving change. But overall I would say that I and my Task Force set them a lot of work to do.

I have to rein in my own enthusiasm and wish to see things finished by yesterday with the reality that here is a Department in itself going through a period of very significant change. I think it has absolutely got the message and is trying to do it. Issue by issue, we have to ensure that everybody feeds the fire and that it is happening.

Q3 Chair: Do you think it would be better if there was a timetable that people could refer to as to what progress was going to be made in implementing the recommendations? Is that realistic?

Richard Macdonald: Yes and no. By that, I mean it is really important that there is a sense of momentum on this. We all know that reports or issues that are left to drift eventually go nowhere. It is hugely important that we have that sense of momentum. It is important that at all levels both inside and outside the Department-including your Committee, myself, and other stakeholders-we continue to press and ask what is happening.

I am not sure it is possible to put an overall timetable on it. We are trying to understand what the timetables are, and to press people on particular issues. A very easy example is that we know, in the context of nitrates, Ministers have undertaken a consultation; they are now considering what they say on that and we will see action, which will clearly need to be implemented this year. I am not entirely sure what month this year, but I imagine later this summer or early autumn.

Q4 Chair: Of the 19 recommendations directed at the Food Standards Agency, 18 were accepted. I know you have a close interest, and a couple of us have constituency interests, particularly in desinewed meat. If you take that as an example of how not to engage with Europe, do you think there are lessons that we can learn when we are trying to dismantle the level of regulation, and we have a unilateral own goal that bans meat by UK producers only?

Richard Macdonald: I should declare I am involved in a meat company as well, so I have a private interest as well as an overview. I think and hope I have been able to separate the two, and I have been very transparent about my interests as far as that is concerned. I was unsighted on this issue until the announcement. It was not part of my report, because it was not an issue. The first I heard about it was when I had a slightly panicky phone call from the company I am involved with about the potentially very severe implications for it. To be totally honest, it is quite difficult for me to make a judgment as to what the FSA engagement was or was not before, and whether there was enough done to prevent this.

Overall, in terms of the thrust of your question, I very, very strongly believe that if you want to get the most out of Europe-including out of Europe-you have to engage. The flip side of that is true. Whether that is so in this case, I would have to be honest and say I am not able to make a judgment. What I am pretty clear about in terms of the issue is that there is no food safety risk. I think it is draconian; it appears to be very one eyed in terms of its focus on Europe, and I have to express a concern about what will happen with regard to imports and the level playing field issue.

In terms of what has happened since, as you may know I am involved in a poultry business, and I think the remedy for poultry and pigs has been pretty good. A lot of people have thrown themselves into that particular issue to try to resolve that. I am sure I don’t need to go through it, but it is the issue about the wishbone, and bone off meat as opposed to meat off bone or whichever way round it is. I am also reasonably pleased that they appear to have agreed a light transition and there is room to go back on the issue.

For the red meat industry, in which I am not involved in any commercial sense, it looks to me that for some operators that could be pretty severe. It seems to me that there is, from a European point of view, no justification for doing so given the TSE controls. If I were looking at this again, if I was writing my report now, I would say this was complete draconian nonsense. The critical issue now is how we engage Ministers and the FSA to get us out of where we are now. What is the costing on it? It is difficult to say, because all businesses will try to mitigate their costs; I know that from the business I am involved in. So, it is not a good issue. I gather you have had some-

Q5 Chair: We are doing a separate inquiry, but I threw that in since I have the figures. In the seven months following the publication of your Task Force report, Defra revoked 39 statutory instruments, but introduced a further 41. With CAP reform likely to produce further regulation, do you think that reducing the regulatory burden on farmers is actually a battle that can and is being won?

Richard Macdonald: I cannot count the 41. What I and others are trying to ensure is that we have a really thorough process of examination of any new issue coming in. I am pleased to see the Department has introduced a process for every single new policy that is about to be introduced, which examines the regulatory impact, understands that, and there is close scrutiny of that. I would expect that outside interests, maybe including myself, but yourselves, would have the opportunity to scrutinise that when you want to do so. That seems to me to be entirely logical, and I hope and expect that that would also look at the landscape relating to that issue at the moment to say: can we get rid of one as we introduce one? Is it necessary? What is the impact of it in terms of straws on a camel’s back?

I am not involved in the CAP negotiations, I have to say with some relief, after having done all of them virtually since they existed. I think that is a major preoccupation for the Department and we should not expect otherwise. You know, Chairman, better than anyone else that it is a slightly uncontrollable beast once it gets going, including with the interests of the European Parliament now. I have said this on a fairly regular basis: it is hugely important that we look not only at the big policy principles, but at its impact on the ground. I do concern myself, I have done in the past, and I am concerned again that middle-of-the-night policy decisions will be made without fully understanding the impact on the ground. I fear that that may end up with more demands on and bureaucracy for farmers.

Q6 Chair: Your appointment is for a specific period. What happens after your appointment period expires, particularly if there was scope for you to do a review of how many additional burdens might have been imposed, for example, during the CAP negotiations?

Richard Macdonald: I do not think that is clear currently. What I agreed with the Minister, when he asked me to continue this slightly different role, was that I would do it for a finite period; we talked about 15 to 18 months. We did that for a variety of reasons, not least driven by me-partly a variety of other things I do as well. This is reasonably time consuming. I also believe that you must put time limits on these things and drive them. It has been quite deliberate on my behalf to try and ensure that we have speed and action on it.

I imagine there will be a discussion down the track with the Minister about whether I stay on for a bit more, or whether somebody else comes in, and what the scrutiny process is. If we have a lot of outstanding issues, and we do not feel that the Department’s culture and process are going automatically to deal with the regulatory issues, I imagine you and Ministers, and frankly I, would suggest that there is some continuing process to get us to that place.

Chair: That is excellent, thank you.

Q7 Ms Ritchie: How will the Implementation Group go about its work, and how does that relate to the Independent Regulatory Scrutiny Panel?

Richard Macdonald: I should explain. I am not sure whether it is in your briefs or not, but what I have done with the Minister is pull together a small group of people; it involves three completely independent farmers, all younger rather than older, with good diversity in terms of their businesses and their geography. I have said to them, "I want to know what the impact of this is going to be on your farms". I have also got somebody from the NFU, someone from the RSPB, somebody from LEAF, and Jeremy Moody, who you may know, from the Agricultural Valuers.

I think that is quite a good mix. We are meeting about every six weeks. At our first meeting, we prioritised what we should look at; I am quite happy to run you through what our priorities are. Were we to try and do everything in one go, we would end up doing nothing. So, we have set some work programmes as far as that is concerned. I have asked the various members of the group to do things that meet their skills. For example, the farmers concerned are in the middle of running some workshops where they invite neighbouring farmers to come in and say, on the question of inspections and paperwork, what is a pain, what would make a difference, and where can we change stuff on the ground. Likewise I have asked the NFU, working with the CLA, to put together some proposals on fly-tipping, given the constraints we have. Those are just two examples.

I think and hope that what we are doing in the Implementation Group is quite literally picking up the Task Force report and its recommendations-where Ministers, the FSA and others have approved those-and in groupings trying to drive those and make it happen. That is a mixture of helping, like the farmer workshops, and holding people to account on it and asking, "Why not?"

The Regulatory Scrutiny Panel, as I understand it-I am not a member of it-is very high level overview, very strategic, looking at issues way beyond food and farming, to a significant extent because we are doing food and farming. I know they were looking at habitats and some of the directives. We have agreed to report to them from time to time. One of their members, Christine Tacon, who some of you will know and I know reasonably well from my past, has said that she will hold the farming brief. I have agreed that I will have some continued liaison with her.

Effectively, where I sit is that I will flag up to them, just as I would to Ministers, where I think we are falling short. It is early days to do that. Am I seeing big things I don’t think are happening? No, not yet. Am I concerned about things? There are one or two that I might be in a few months’ time. I think in my role as an independent I should just tell it as I see it, both to that panel, which is independent, and to Ministers. I am not sure there is any other point in doing it. I hope that answers.

Q8 Ms Ritchie: Yes. How will your group report progress? You referred to every six weeks; is that the time scale, and what is the eventual time scale for reporting?

Richard Macdonald: We are meeting every six weeks. We concluded that together; that is just a mixture of practicalities of busy people. Also, if we met more often we would not have dealt with the last issue before asking for stuff on the next. It is the reality of trying to manage the workload. The one or two of you who know me a bit better realise that I am horrendously impatient, so anything less than every other minute is not very good, but I think it is a realistic programme.

In terms of going forward, as I mentioned, we have scoped up a programme of work; we had our first meeting in March where we dealt with inspections and earned recognition, asked for work on that, set a programme of things that we expect from that; we will bring that back on to our agenda in the early autumn. In the meantime I am personally monitoring that, because I am doing stuff in between the meetings. We deal with three or four issues a meeting. At our meeting in May we dealt with nitrates, because there was a consultation, and I wanted the Implementation Group to put its view into that-essentially not to be another consultee, but to say, in view of the Task Force recommendations, which the Minister has accepted, how should these be implemented? For example, I guess Mr Parish would be interested in the SSAFO regulations on slurry storage. How did that fit against the thrust of the Task Force? We gave views as far as that is concerned.

My view on how we do this is that we will continue to meet every six weeks. We will have a rolling programme of work. We are very happy to be transparent about what that is. I am very happy to let you see minutes of those meetings.

Q9 Chair: Will they be made public?

Richard Macdonald: I think so; I am looking to Defra officials.

Yes, we can do so. I want to be totally open and transparent about this, so that is absolutely fine. I guess the answer to your question is, come November/March/July, we need to continue to reappraise and say, "Are we going round in circles here? Are we really making progress?" I would hope we would metaphorically tick off issues to say, "I think we have dealt with that. The Department has really got it. We are motoring on it. We don’t need to have an intervention." I would hope that that would leave us with a diminishing list of issues where I think there needs to be continued oversight and push.

Q10 Ms Ritchie: Are you responsible for ensuring recommendations relating to bodies other than Defra are implemented?

Richard Macdonald: That is a very good question. My responsibility is to the Minister. He has commissioned me. I think that means I have that responsibility for the direct agencies to Defra: the Environment Agency, Natural England-there are not many recommendations to them-and the RPA. I treat them in the same way I treat Defra and our oversight of it. The Food Standards Agency are a slightly different beast, because they have a responsibility to another Minister.

Q11 Ms Ritchie: Surely there is an accountability issue there?

Neil Parish: Yes, which we’re finding.

Richard Macdonald: You had probably better answer, not me. I have had some brief recent engagement with them about the recommendations, and I take this personally, so I want to try and ensure that we are as helpful as possible with them as well.

Q12 Neil Parish: There is no doubt that the farming community is very keen on your report, and very impatient; I am glad to see that you are impatient also, because they want to see real action. You have said that you want to see this happen, so my question is quite a direct one: have you agreed a time scale for the implementation with the Government, with the Minister?

Richard Macdonald: No. If we were to do so, what we would do is have a huge spreadsheet with a whole load of different timetables, some of which you could probably put some time frames on; some are quite difficult; you could be aspirational on some of them. For me, culture change is the most important thing in my report, because if you get the culture change right, out of the bottom of the pipeline should come good process and good regulation. Things like that are slightly intangible beasts to put a timetable on.

On the whole, what I am anxious to do, and I am confident the Minister is anxious to do, is to be always faster rather than slower. Some of that also depends on the industry. It has been quite interesting going out to the industry. We run some of these workshops saying, "What are the things that you really want done?" You will know as well as I do that it is not unusual for farmers to say, "We want to have a bonfire of red tape", and then when you say, "What?" there is a deafening silence. It is about trying to ensure their engagement.

One of the things that I am pleased about is that on all of these issues the Department is putting farmer workshops together, getting farmers to help in writing some of the briefs and in terms of the guidance-by and large groups of people who are independent farmers. That is beginning to get embedded in the Department, and to be honest that did not really happen before. If we get good feedback from that, we should be able to accelerate quite a lot of things.

If I take an example like nitrates-I know you are interested in European Union engagement on the subject-there is a five/six year agenda as far as that is concerned to unravel what I think is a not-fit-for-purpose bit of legislation.

Q13 Neil Parish: Have you got in your mind some early hits, if there should be some early hits, and how are you getting on with those? Is Government cooperating, and is Defra cooperating sufficiently?

Richard Macdonald: Generally, yes. If the question is, "Throughout every pore of Defra, has everybody got this?" the answer is, "No, not yet." Is it embedded in every bit of the senior management of Defra? It is still an ongoing process. Part of that is because they themselves are going through a huge period of churn; there are a lot of people changing jobs at the moment. Do I think we are making progress? Yes; it gets better month by month.

Early hits: I am very hopeful we will get something out of nitrates, and see an improvement in nitrates. It is complex, with a lot of potential infraction issues and difficulties in Europe, so it has caveats against it. I am pleased about what we have seen in some of the earned recognition stuff. Some of that is already done; the early win we got with dairy hygiene I thought was great. We have got quite a good result in terms of animal health and welfare inspections under cross compliance for farm assured members; those people are not being inspected as part of the animal welfare cross compliance.

I am hopeful we are going to make some progress; there are early signs of that in terms of bringing earned recognition to cross compliance inspections. I am pleased to see we have joined up TB and cattle ID checks. You have been to constituency meetings, and I have been to farmer meetings, where we have been nagged to death about those detailed issues. There is a lot of process in all of this, there are a lot of Departments working on it, but they are the issues that matter to all of you, and me, in terms of when you go out on farmland someone saying, "I notice the difference."

Q14 Neil Parish: That leads me to the next question. If you feel that there is insufficient progress being made, what sort of teeth have you got and what can you do about it?

Richard Macdonald: I suppose the teeth is that I go to the Minister. I suppose the teeth is that I have put my name on this; I hope that does not sound too grand. I do not really like the idea of wimping off into the undergrowth without doing so. Ultimately, if I really, really felt it was not working, I would make a public stand on that. I am independent; I do not have an obligation to one party or another in terms of doing this. My interest is to try and make a better situation. I can only really say that my head and my heart will tell me when I think you need to shout about it. I will be candid; there is a difficult balance between encouraging people, giving people time, helping people-all of those things that I and other members of the Implementation Group think we need to do-and on the other hand identifying those people you need to give a bit of a poke to.

Q15 Neil Parish: Thank you for that answer. When it comes to farmers belonging to assurance schemes, that is great, and you have talked about the need for those assurance schemes to act instead of some Defra inspection. But how can you be sure that the assurance schemes’ systems are sufficiently robust in inspection?

Richard Macdonald: On each of these we have to put some checks and balances in it. The check and balance in the issue that you raise is that the competent authority-the Environment Agency, Defra, RPA, whoever-has got to be satisfied that that is robust: that is, both in the module and in the inspection process, that it is third party, independent, and so on. When I came before the Committee previously, I said that we would lose a lot of this if we drop our standards. In the context of dairy hygiene regulations, the IPPC, pig and poultry where the farm assurance has come in-I am pleased about that, and delighted we have been able to give that a nudge and make that happen-the FSA and the Environment Agency respectively have had to be satisfied, and are satisfied, that there is a-

Q16 Neil Parish: Sorry to interrupt you, but what about where you have inspections that are carried out by the assurance scheme, but they do not cover everything that the state inspections are doing? Aren’t you still, if you are not careful, going to see duplication?

Richard Macdonald: There are judgments on all those matters. What you are rightly illustrating is that you have to fine tune these, and there are some judgements to make. If we are going to add a burden on to the farming community by putting in additional modules on farm assurance, and adding a complexity that is worse than the state inspection process, there is no point in doing it. Nobody more than me wants there to be a silver bullet on this, believe me, but one of the reasons that this is not a magic silver bullet is that you have to work through those issues bit by bit. There are two sides of the coin. One is that we avoid doing what you said; we do not over duplicate and we do not drop standards. And then, from the point of view of farmers, it is that we do not introduce an additional burden that appears, at face value, to be better, but just adds another level of bureaucracy.

We are working our way through that. One of the things where we have had some wins-and I am really pleased about it-is ensuring there is one agency taking responsibilities for these things. I was quite surprised, even with my reasonable knowledge of what is happening in farming, how many times there was more than one agency doing the same job. For example, we have already got to a position, which I am delighted to say happened very quickly, where the Rural Payments Agency and Animal Health are the only two agencies now doing compliance inspections. We do not have local authorities, we do not have the Environment Agency, we do not have Natural England. It was helped and driven by austerity, which is a creator of new invention as far as this is concerned, but that is a good move nonetheless.

Q17 Neil Parish: If there is a breach of compliance within the assurance schemes that is a regulatory matter, who is going to inform the regulator? Are you confident that those doing the inspection by the assurance scheme would do so?

Richard Macdonald: That is, again, part of the deal on the issue. If you take IPPC, which I know a bit about-I helped broker all that and make it happen-there is a fairly prescriptive agreement that if it is a minor breach, the private sector inspector will point it out and tell the farmer he has got to remedy it, come back, double check it has been remedied. Nobody else knows; we move on. I think that is good regulation.

I would have to get the bit of paper out to give you the precise details on this, but if it is a major breach, that immediately goes to the Environment Agency, and in that case that person loses the right to be accredited by third party; it goes back to the twice a year Environment Agency inspection. There is a real financial penalty to that, and I think that is absolutely the right way to do it. Light touch stuff, remedy; heavy wrongs, nail people.

Q18 Neil Parish: Generally if you look at a farm business profile, is ensuring that there is a link between compliance in one area and compliance in another crucial to using earned recognition to create a reliable risk profile-a bit like risk based inspection in a slaughterhouse? Surely, if you have a business that is regulating itself through assurance schemes, that should be a lower risk when it comes to general inspection. Have you looked at that, or what?

Richard Macdonald: You are absolutely right to say there are two levels of this. The individual level is on a specific issue, as we have discussed, and that is relatively straightforward to say you build a procedure and make a judgment as to whether this is more beneficial to the farming community and the agency or not, as we have just discussed. I would imagine you would be in the same position as me: intuitively, given somebody who has repeatedly farm assurance passed, is LEAF, is selling to the one of the big retailers-whatever it might be-and has got a whole load of outside checks and balances, you would say that is a pretty good farm.

Is the work going on? Yes; but how you measure that is quite challenging. I was talking a few days ago to the person involved in doing that, and I know it is quite challenging, and I will try and help on that. That is to try and say: what are the measures that add up, and how do you view that to say, "This is a lower risk farm?" One of the ways that we recommended in our Task Force recommendations, which was some work being done with another group of farmers, is to create a proactive opportunity for farmers to do that; to create a farmer web page, where Neil Parish, farmer, can say, "I want to put on there all of my accreditations and all the things I do."

You could take this into professional development, training, and a variety of things that paint a picture of Neil Parish Inc, which agencies could intervene in, look at, and say, "We do not need to go near this place." I would love to get to that stage, where we have an overview of it, and where that overview is based on trust, from farmers wanting to do that, because they can see the benefit of doing so. I think there is commercial benefit out of that; processors and retailers might view farmers and say, "That helps me in terms of my understanding". If we can do that, it is a real win-win. It is not going to happen overnight.

Q19 Ms Ritchie: I suppose, Mr Macdonald, there is another angle to assurance schemes. In promoting membership of farm assurance schemes as an alternative to Government inspection, won’t farmers simply be swapping one set of paperwork for another? That can always be an area of concern.

Richard Macdonald: Yes, I think there is that risk. There is a real duty, as we said in our report, and we will try to keep an eye on it, that farm assurance schemes do not become an industry in themselves-you might argue that that has happened already-and we substitute one for the other. Currently, we have the worst of both worlds in that we have got both. By and large, farm assurance schemes exist, because there is a commercial need to do so. If I take the two business sectors I am involved in privately-the dairy industry and the poultry industry-you simply cannot sell into any retailer or any processor without being farm assured.

The imperative there is to ensure that every retailer does not have a farm assurance scheme and we keep that as simple as possible. The premise that I worked on in terms of the report and what I hope will happen is, where it exists already, because it has to exist commercially, we should not have the state intervening as well. It is not about trying to create a private sector substitute for the public one with no other benefit.

Q20 Ms Ritchie: As a follow on to that, knowing what farmers and those involved in the farming industry are like-they like to keep things simple-what response have you had from the assurance schemes to your appeal for them to keep it simple?

Richard Macdonald: Only a headline one that they don’t disagree.

Q21 Neil Parish: That’s not the same thing.

Richard Macdonald: I have the scars on my back from assurance schemes over many years of trying to persuade farmers that there was a commercial reality about it. By and large the farming community are involved in all the assurance schemes; they are stakeholders. If I take my former employers, the NFU are represented on all the different assurance schemes. I think there is a really important challenge for them-because by and large assurance schemes are an industry consortium-to continue to drive in a qualitative sense precisely the point you are making: that we do not add burden to that.

Q22 Ms Ritchie: As a follow on to that, how can Defra ensure that small businesses who cannot afford to join assurance schemes will not end up being disproportionately targeted for inspection?

Richard Macdonald: Ultimately, whether big or small, these are choices for farmers to make as to where they want to be. If we got down to a situation within a sector, for example, where 90% of farmers were farm assured, would that mean the other 10% would have treble the number of inspections? What I would hope we would see, and what I would certainly try to drive myself, is that we are able to cut the number of inspections by 90%. It reduces the burden on the state, which is a not unimportant thing in today’s world, so that proportionately those smaller farmers do not get any more inspections than now, but they are continuing to be inspected by the state because there is no alternative way of doing so.

That is a terribly general comment. When you get down to the individual, what this is about is risk assessment. You have to make judgements on all those things: how severe and big is the risk? How risky is that particular population? Is this a relatively minor issue, even if it went wrong, or does a whole country crumble if it does? I do not fear that there is going to be some disproportionate focus on the un-farm assured, not least because I do not think there is the money out there. Many of the things I have proposed are a very welcome thing to agencies and local authorities, because they do not have the money for the inspectorates.

Q23 Chair: What you said about there being only two bodies doing the inspections is very welcome indeed. I have noticed that the complaints from local farmers seem to have tailed off, which is always a very good sign. There is a situation where you have possibly only partially third party assurance audits; I am thinking of something like-it is very technical-SMR12 on TSEs, where it is only partially covered by the Red Tractor assurance scheme. Who do you think should fill the gap? If it was to be the regulator, then we are no further forward, are we?

Richard Macdonald: You've got me on what SMR12 is, I’m afraid.

Chair: It’s just an example. It is not completely covered by the Red Tractor scheme.

Richard Macdonald: In all these issues, what I and the Task Force have tried to do is say there is a principle here that, where there is an accredited third party inspection process, it could reduce the burden from the state because you are already being inspected. That then leaves you with choices: do you want to take that up, or do you want to keep up with both a private and a public sector one? Do to want to add to the farm assurance scheme, to add modules on to it? It happened with IPPC on pollution controls in the pig and poultry industry, so that you fill that gap. If you fill that gap there is no need for a public one. Or do you want to leave it that you have two inspections, because it is convenient?

What I think and hope this has done is leave choices for the industry, the NFU and others, and for Defra and the agencies, to decide: is it beneficial for us to fill that gap? Would we reduce the burden by having one inspectorate, which might mean adding a bit to the farm assurance module, or is that going to add to the burden and is it better to have two inspectorates? In a way, the SMR12 point is relevant, and you would have to look at that instance. I guess, if we sat down and looked at it, you could quite quickly work that out, and you would talk to a couple of farmers or food businesses and they would work that out.

Regarding the earned recognition, the ability for us to transfer or use what is already happening in the private sector in order to risk assess and reduce the burden both for the public sector and of it, to take apart the overall risk assessment, you have to work through, bit by bit. In the context of the FSA, my question to them is: there is an opportunity for you to do this under an earned recognition, and we will see whether they grab that or not, but there is a significant opportunity there.

Q24 Neil Parish: That has led quite nicely into my question, because we have talked quite a lot about a risk based system. Can you update us on what progress Defra have made in developing an IT solution to risk, so that we can register where there is good practice and where possibly there is not?

Richard Macdonald: There are several bits of IT development, as I understand it. The one that you are probably referring to is the development of this farmer page on their website. I understand that the whole Government is going through a change in its process, and outward facing IT, so it will have to sit on that. It is very early days as far as that is concerned, so the straight answer to your question is, in infancy or maybe even a bit before that. Do I want to see it happening? Absolutely. We will continue to monitor that. There are other big bits of IT development, like the CPID database, which are separate areas and a story in themselves.

Q25 Neil Parish: Without being too unkind to Defra and the RPA, various IT solutions over the years have not really covered themselves in glory. Are you confident that the solutions coming forward will be right, technologically?

Richard Macdonald: With many of the individual ones-for example, the dairy hygiene type things-I am reasonably sure from what I have been told that the current IT has the capacity to be able to take those in. When you are doing a one dimensional risk assessment, I have not seen, and nobody has pointed out to me, any evidence of an IT problem as far as they are concerned. However, I am not saying it does not exist, because I do not know everything that is going on; far from it.

When it comes to your overall picture that you were describing earlier of a risk assessment, it is pretty early days. That is more complex, because you have to have something that is multidimensional in terms of its interrogation. I would need to come back to you, to be honest, and tell you what the programme is. I do not know the answer to that.

Q26 Neil Parish: We would be quite interested if you could do that.

Richard Macdonald: We can happily keep you briefed on that. There are some other quite big, significant IT challenges, notwithstanding RPA ones, the biggest of which that I am aware of is how we develop a CPID database.

Q27 Neil Parish: Even on TB and the so-called Sam computer and all these things, they are not good.

Richard Macdonald: I think you and I have had many of the same experiences in terms of expectations being fulfilled or not. I’d probably better stop there.

Q28 Chair: Could we move on to EU compliance? In our evidence session your colleague, Richard Percy, mentioned the perverse thing that if the EU inspection regime found more non-compliance they would want to inspect more. The Government in its response said that they would press to have increased use of risk targeted inspections. Where are we in terms of Defra negotiations with the Commission to review its use of breach rates in calculating the size of samples for inspection regimes?

Richard Macdonald: As I understand it, this is very much part of the CAP discussion, because most of those issues, if not all, are part of cross-compliance. I am informed that the RPA are using earned recognition in the selection process for cross-compliance; there is a considerable amount of work on that, and they are hopeful that they would be able to introduce that next year. That is the time frame that I am working to. That would be a pretty big step forward if they could do that.

Q29 Chair: Can I interject? If the UK fails to make progress, would you still expect Defra to move to a risk based model, even if it resulted in an increased number of inspections demanded by the EU? How are we then reducing administration and burdens, if we go down that path?

Richard Macdonald: That very issue that Richard Percy raised is not one that is going to be separated out from the CAP negotiations, because it was a premise of the current CAP that the more failings you get, the more inspections you have. Therefore, if we move the regime into focusing on bad boys as opposed to good guys, by definition you have more failings, therefore you get more inspections. It is perverse, if my memory is right, as Richard was saying.

I do not know how that outcome will be. I am scratching my memory a bit, but I am sure Defra absolutely understand that and get that as a point to negotiate. It is a very good question; if you did not do that, we would end up with a perverse situation, and, frankly, we would have to rethink how we did the module. It would be very unsatisfactory if that happened.

Chair: That is helpful, thank you.

Q30 Ms Ritchie: To move to changing the culture from bureaucracy to responsibility and partnership, I suppose a key message in your report is that there needs to be a change of culture in Defra. Who is responsible for championing this change? Representing a constituency in one of the devolved regions, Northern Ireland, I would ask for your opinion of the culture in the devolved regions. Do you think there needs to be a change of culture there? At the end of the day, it is all governed by EU regulations.

Richard Macdonald: Let me deal with the Defra bit first, and then I will try to say something about Northern Ireland. I enjoy coming over to see you every three or four weeks and have really got to enjoy seeing farming over there. Ultimately culture, change in the Department has to be driven by Ministers and the Permanent Secretary, and it has to be owned from that down. From my own personal experience of having being in charge of an organisation, it does not happen overnight; you have to put stakes in the ground to make it happen, and it has to happen from the top.

What I see as my task, in my Task Force terms, is effectively to continue to monitor how they are doing it against Chapter 2, because Chapter 2 was all my culture change stuff and I put a whole load of things in there that I thought they should do. I have half mentioned it beforehand, but there is a real sense of engaging and involving farmers in Defra now, which I do not think there was beforehand. I have seen that in workshops; I have helped in the design of things; I have seen it in guidance notes. In terms of individual issues, I am really pleased about that. We have to turn that into outcomes, but that is great.

In terms of the Implementation Group, one of the things we have just done is to begin to start to ask Defra directors to come to the Implementation Group, so we are not just dealing with people who are dealing with the detail of the proposals. I am pleased, as I mentioned earlier, to see that every policy proposal coming through is going through the better regulation sieve. That is a good bit of culture change. The National Audit Office are undertaking a piece of work looking at value for money on farm inspections; that will be interesting to see and will focus people’s minds.

Overall, I would say Defra has an ambitious change programme, but it has probably got some way to go. From my point, what I will try to do is a mixture of help and push. If there is one thing I would like to disappear into the sunset on on this, it is to say that the place really feels different in terms of how it deals with this and that the culture change recommendations are embedded. Culture change is a bit like trying to hold down jellies; it is a difficult thing, and less tangible. Do I feel it is better? Yes. Do I feel it has a long way to go? Yes. Do I think everybody owns it? Probably not yet. I think we have to try and get it so it is second nature.

In terms of Northern Ireland, I do not speak with a huge amount of experience just from dipping in and out, so this is a bit of a snapshot. For Northern Ireland, the food and farming industry is a much bigger part of the economy than it is for England. You will know that they have recently set up a task force, chaired by one of my Moy Park director colleagues. Because it is such a big part of the economy, it matters so much more, and so probably the resource allocation in Northern Ireland could well be the same as Scotland and Wales, and is likely to be more.

We should not hide from this: when I go over and see Moy Park-forgive me for putting my private sector involvement in there-they tell me the same regulatory things; I go out on the farms, and they tell me exactly the same things as farmers do here. A lot of that is EU based. A lot of that is because we have the fear of infraction, we have FVO visits and all of those things.

Chair: We are coming on to that.

Q31 Ms Ritchie: Could you provide us with any examples where the partnership between Defra and the farming and food processing industries has been, or has not been, strengthened?

Richard Macdonald: I did not make very many recommendations on food processing, and the main one was on meat hygiene. I have made one or two others, and there has been some action on some small bits. Frankly, the big issue is to try and get the meat hygiene, the TSE and issues around that, and there is an awful lot of work to do on that.

Q32 Chair: One area where there has not been a cultural change is Defra’s engagement with the European Union. We had some very powerful evidence from your colleague Richard Percy in our oral session saying that one of the things he would like to see is a change in the attitude that if it has come from Europe, it is immovable; it is a good rule to hide behind. Have you seen any evidence of a cultural change in engaging with Europe, particularly engaging with Europe at the earliest possible stage?

Richard Macdonald: What I am told is that there is intent in the Department to have better engagement with Europe. Ministers are clear about that and also want to try to set longer-term agendas.

Q33 Chair: If you just refer to recent experience, it is not borne out.

Richard Macdonald: Let me come on to it. I know that they have set up a new EU Strategy and Professionalism team. Candidly, do I know whether that has made a difference? I have to say no, I do not. In interventions that other people have told me about, I know that they are currently talking to stakeholders about how they deal better with EU issues. My read would be that Ministers and senior civil servants have an intention to do that. We all know that the EU is a difficult monster to deal with, and it is a long-term game. The CAP is rather fuzzing everything else by being such a big priority.

My vision on this is that there is a joint industry strategy as far as Europe is concerned; there is a joint plan; there is a joint setting of priorities; there is a joint thought on where to go. Do I think they are there yet? No.

Q34 Chair: You say you have been told, but have you seen with your own eyes any specific changes?

Richard Macdonald: No. I would hasten to say that I am not involved in the detailed thing. The no is, I have not seen; it is not, I know it is not happening.

Q35 Chair: Not just at Ministerial level but at official level, do you think Defra are good at making friends and allies at the earliest possible stage?

Richard Macdonald: In Europe?

Chair: With European partners, because we are in Europe.

Richard Macdonald: Sorry, I thought you meant stakeholders here in this country.

Q36 Chair: Well, a lot of it is done, I imagine, by comitology, so it is official level that is extremely important. The Ministers can obviously speak for themselves, but, as we see, a lot of these decisions are made in committees.

Richard Macdonald: Yes. Sorry, I was just trying to understand the context. I would have to go back into my past as opposed to my present, because I honestly cannot tell you either way, because I do not have the experience or insight into what is happening issue by issue. I am not involved in the CAP negotiations, so there will be others who will probably be able to give you better feedback than I. That is not ducking it; that is just being candid. Going back in the past, there are some who are really good at it, and some who are frankly pretty hopeless at it.

You know from having been on the receiving end of me that you have got to get engaged, you have got to talk to everybody, you have got to set the agenda, you have got to be more informed than anybody else, you have got to have more friends than anybody else, and so on. There are probably some officials who are very good at that, and some for whom it is probably some way off.

Q37 Chair: You mentioned something earlier about meat hygiene, and if you link that through to food safety, are you comfortable with a Food Standards Agency that is so far removed it does not seem to have any ministerial responsibility when these decision are taken?

Richard Macdonald: Again, candidly, I do not know the detail of how their Chairman and others relate to Health Ministers and Agriculture Ministers, or their Parliamentary accountability. When I was preparing my report on the meat hygiene work, they were very accessible in terms of discussions with them about it. After it came in, there is a general perception around the industry that they were fairly stand-offish about getting engaged on that. From a personal point of view, I have had no personal difficulties of access to them or talking to them about them. I think if you had a row of people here, even if you were able to select the most responsible ones-if that is the right way of doing it-or whoever they are, there would be some perception that they are not as easy to access or as engaged.

Quite what that perception is based on, it is difficult for me to say. I think it will be a really interesting test in the context of meat hygiene, where they not only run the policy but manage a significant part of the inspectorate, as to whether or not they change their game on that, or what the engagement with the industry is. The flip side of it is, the industry itself has to be responsible. Again, being candid, there are some really good bits of the meat industry; there are some bits that are not so good. What we cannot compromise is food safety. Quite apart from the health issues, there is a huge amount of reputational issue on it as well. That is not totally straightforward.

Q38 Neil Parish: Carrying on with the questions about culture and the culture towards Europe, do you think we actually get rolled over? There is a perception that we get rolled over too easily by European regulation. But also, do you accept that there is some European regulation that it would not be possible to amend?

Richard Macdonald: You will know better than me, but there is an awful lot of smoke and hearsay about Europe, some of which is true, and some of which goes back to folklore and was probably created in a bar. We should not underestimate that undoing a lot of EU regulation is extremely difficult. I think we should not underestimate that some of it will be pretty well impossible to undo. The trick on this is about prioritising.

The huge issue for us is to be able to demonstrate to Europe and our partners that we have a better way of doing things, and a way that is not going to compromise food safety, health and safety, our environment, whatever it might be. It has never been an issue about simply going in and negotiating, "I do not like this" or "I do like this". It is, "There is a better way of doing it". That is being really well engaged.

Again going back in my past, have I sensed that sometimes we are a bit distanced from it? Yes, I have. Some of that is a general perception about the UK; some of it relates to the in and out of the euro; you both know as well as I do that some of it is a general perception: "Are you in this game or not?" That does feed into minutiae issues. I have certainly had that said to me on issues that have no bearing whatsoever on whether Britain plays cricket or not, or whether it is in the euro or not. It is a perception.

Q39 Neil Parish: Can I take you on to something I have had quite a bit to do with over the years, and that is the EU animal byproduct regulation? Part of your recommendations is about negotiating change. One of the things I would like to have seen is sealed lime pits, in which you could put livestock up to a certain size instead of having to collect it all, reducing the chances of spreading disease at the same time. There are lots of practical solutions we could get, but the EU has been pretty intransigent on it. How do we get out there and say, "We have got some practical ideas about how to change this"?

Richard Macdonald: I am not particularly well sighted on what has happened over the last two or three months. Forgive me on that. I will happily look into that. As a general principle, if I was left to negotiate this, I would not go in there and say, "We want to get rid of all of this; we want to bury everything in sight again; we want to dump it." That would just be running into a brick wall. The issue is about trying to do realistic things around the fringes of it, hence my recommendation. That seems to me to be about how you use digestion; it seems to me that in today’s world, where we are recycling, where we are trying to be smart about how we do things, that should be a clever way forward.

The other is where you have relatively small volumes of small animals. There are some enforcement issues around this, but I personally do not see any difficulty in certain zones or parts of the country with burying the odd sheep. I can understand why people are a bit more reluctant to bury cattle.

Q40 Neil Parish: That is precisely the point that we never really got the EU to accept. Technically speaking, you should not be burying lambs, should you? When you are lambing you are going to get, whether you like it or not, a number of dead lambs. That is where burying in sealed pits, could be done quite successfully, with digestion. We are looking to you to push this one. It would be, for practical parts of the farming industry, especially in the more remote areas, very useful.

Richard Macdonald: You know from my report that I agree with that. I will certainly chase that up to find out where we are on it and do what I can.

Q41 Ms Ritchie: Defra does not consider it possible to increase specialist resources for EU engagement. Have you seen any examples of insufficient resources hampering Defra’s ability to engage successfully with the EU? After all, farming, agriculture, fisheries are very much governed by the EU, so therefore there needs to be the resource dedicated for that purpose.

Richard Macdonald: The straight answer is that I have not. I suppose the subsidiary answer to that is I am not engaged enough in it, down to the nth detail, to know that. I would imagine, because of the intricacies and demands of the CAP negotiations, that that means some prioritising, and that will be very demanding. If your question is whether that could be used as an excuse, then I do not have any evidence of that, and I do not think it should be. Frankly, I think almost whatever else you do, you should resource that bit.

Q42 Chair: When you gave evidence to us earlier in the evidence session, we discussed gold plating, as I like to call it. You gave us a couple of examples. One from the distant past, when I was an MEP, was the Abattoir Directive, which was a fairly innocuous framework directive, which we amended out of all recognition here. Are there any recent examples you have seen of gold plating still continuing that would alarm you?

Richard Macdonald: I have not. That is not to say that they might not be happening. One of our tasks is to be open to people coming to us where they see there are new regulatory issues in the pipeline or having happened. I am trying to scratch my memory. I would argue that what we discussed earlier on the desinewing of meat is one.

Chair: Yes, I would agree.

Richard Macdonald: That apart, I have not seen anything else. You do remind me that we should probably flag up to the world that we are still open for business in terms of hearing about that. In terms of gold plated issues, what we are trying to do is systematically go through that report, prioritise and ensure that we take on issues as they come. I mentioned the nitrates one earlier; some of our record keeping and our requirements on that are over the top. We made some recommendations to reduce that.

Q43 Chair: That is helpful. There is one I heard about; again, it relates to the current CAP negotiations. We are already modulating to a higher percentage, which I don’t think other member states, other farmers and other countries realise.

Richard Macdonald: That is correct.

Q44 Chair: As we have raised in the context of our report, where farmers are in existing environmental schemes and they are worried about the impact, the Danes are coming up with a certification scheme. The Commissioner is apparently minded to approve it. The problem with that is that it is another piece of paper. I do not know to what extent you will be involved in the nitty gritty. Your involvement is to reduce regulations historically, but would it not be regrettable if the CAP round added more?

Richard Macdonald: Hugely so. I have had representations informally from the industry to express their concern that the biggest issue in terms of regulatory burden coming at them is potentially the next round of CAP. Without repeating the issues you have raised, I totally concur. There is huge potential here, not only in the issues but how they are enforced, what papers you have to fill in, who inspects and the rest of it, to make this worse, not better, in terms of what is happening.

In terms of my own involvement, I have got a broad oversight about any additional regulatory burden, and we will be having discussions in the implementation group with the CAP team to see what is happening on that. If I am candid, Ministers and others are very well sighted about this, and where I have to focus is where I can add value to it; where I think other people are not seeing it. I may not have all the facts, but it seems to me the issue here is not that the Ministers do not see it; it is not that the NFU does not see it. It is about how we can persuade Europe, in that great melee of activity that happens around a CAP policy conclusion, so that we get a good outcome.

Q45 Chair: Could I turn to the six day standstill for livestock? I have two auction marts in my own area. I understand one works as a red mart and the other works as a green mart. It seems very complicated, and there is concern that in the relaxation of the six day standstill rule auction marts will not be covered. Is there any update you could give us?

Richard Macdonald: As I said when I came before you first time, I do not believe that we should get rid of the six day standstill movement full stop; we must have movement controls. I do so, hopefully, as a better regulator and somebody who wants to reduce the bureaucracy, but also as somebody who was very involved in 2001 and 2007, as I have said to you before. I would not want, under any circumstances, us to go there again. Therefore, you do have to have some control mechanisms around particular points where there is multiple distribution of animals, where you have a potential for starburst in terms of disease. I have to say, I am not going to be the champion of somebody who gets rid of the six day standstill; to the contrary, I would stand against that.

Q46 Chair: Can I just put one thing to you?

Richard Macdonald : Yes, please.

Chair: There are enormous economic consequences-

Richard Macdonald: I understand that.

Chair: -of having to send the beast to kill, as opposed to send it to stall for the intermediate period. Is there not a compromise that could be reached by which it could be lifted but kept under review, such that if there was ever a whiff of any health outbreak it could be reimposed? That would go down a bomb in the rural community.

Richard Macdonald: It would go down a bomb with a lot of people I know, too. I absolutely understand the sentiment that is coming to you, and I do understand the economic consequences. I, of all people, understand that. But if I go back to 2001, we had no whiff of this until suddenly it was all over the country. The system then was fatally flawed, because we did not have standstills. The minute we know about it, you stop the whole country moving; that is lesson one out of this, and it is the immediate thing that happens. But it is the fact of what movements have taken place before that, in the week or two when the disease is in the country, but it is unsighted. You need firebreaks.

There are a lot of other things I do not know much about, but I know quite a bit about this. I would honestly counsel anybody not to go there again. Having said that, I have made a number of recommendations in my report, and there are ways of significantly improving the economic position for people who are moving animals. The recommendation that has come out of it is to be able to create separation units. I am generally happy with the Government’s response; it is slightly different from my report, but it is a variation on a theme.

If you create separation units so that farmers can move animals into one bit of land, and the next day move them off to an adjoining bit of land or a separate bit of land, you immediately dramatically improve the position in terms of the limitations that many of your people will have experienced.

Q47 Chair: It will not apply at auction marts, because they have not got the land mass available, and that is where it is causing the most economic difficulty.

Richard Macdonald: It would apply to auction marts in terms of the animals going out of it and into it. You are absolutely right; it does not remedy everything. With the greatest respect to auction marts, it is not a fault of theirs, it is a fact that animals come in and go out. That is what happened in foot-and-mouth; a small number came into a market. A disease like foot and mouth is incredibly contagious. One farm came in, 200 went out, and it starbursted.

If they had gone to those 200 and were all stopped in those 200 for six days, I very strongly believe that we would not have had a significant amount of the damage that we had. What happened is they went out to 200 farms, there were no standstills; they went on to another 200, with all the multiplier effects of that.

Q48 Chair: I will keep making the point.

Richard Macdonald: Keep having a go at me. However persuasive you are, which I am sure you are, I am unlikely to be moved on this, I am afraid.

Chair: All right. Well, I have made the point.

Richard Macdonald: I will do all I can to ensure that we have reasonable ability to move animals around a process that enables us to separate and isolate, and also to move those animals, which are individual movements where there is not the risk of starburst. A secondary key part of that is having the database so we know where the animals are. A risk now is that we do not know where all the animals are.

Q49 Chair: Is there is any truth in the claim that the relaxation of the standstill rule may be delayed until a central electronic sheep database is up and running?

Richard Macdonald: It is an issue that I have got very high up on my radar. There is a thought that this needs to be sequenced, and I understand that thought: you need to have resolved a separation unit; you need to have all the pieces in place before you do any part of it; and a key part of that is to have an electronic database. I understand that sequencing. I am also concerned that this may well lead to considerable delay. I have been cross-questioning the Department on this as recently as yesterday, and I will continue to do so, in a way that I think helps them, rather than trying to trip people up.

Q50 Neil Parish: Is this batch movement or individual movement? This is the issue with sheep. You need to know where the numbers of sheep have gone and moved to, but you do not need to know the individual number.

Richard Macdonald: I agree with that, and in my report-

Q51 Neil Parish: But you need to stress that, because I fear that is where it is going.

Richard Macdonald: I am happy to continue to stress that, and you will know from my report that I believe that it is batch or flock movement, not individual movement. That will make a big difference. As I understand it, there have been some improvements in that in terms of what the Commission are allowing, but we have still some way to go.

Q52 Ms Ritchie: We know polytunnels can be quite controversial, but they also can bring benefit in areas where we want to sustain food production. I understand the Government asked your group to take forward work on polytunnels. What progress has been made on that?

Richard Macdonald: I have asked two members of the Implementation Group, Andrew Clark from the NFU and Jeremy Moody from the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers, if they would convene meetings of growers to try and understand and bring together a policy about how we go forward. They are in the process of doing that now, and I have not heard back from them. We need to know what the future demands are going to be, where the blockages are, what actual growers think are reasonable moves forward. What I hope we can do is try and identify what the issue is, and put together some guidance for the Government as far as that is concerned. That is work in progress, and I would hope we would be able to have something by September or around then.

Q53 Neil Parish: The Government has not been very sympathetic so far to the fact that farmers may well have to tip fly-tipping waste; if it goes on their land, they have got to pay for it to be tipped and taken away. Is this fair when, in essence, they did not put it there in the first place? Also, the Government is supposed to be setting up a conference to deal with fly-tipping this year; have you seen any sign of it yet?

Richard Macdonald: You will understand that I made a recommendation, which you would have been sympathetic to, which was rejected, so I don’t agree with the Government on that. However, their position is their position. I see the Implementation Group’s task now as trying to chivvy and cajole in order to have as many positive ingredients that will help farmers in their fly-tipping as possible. That means trying to motivate local authorities, trying to put forward best practice models, and so on.

The answer to your question is that I believe a fly-tipping meeting or summit-I do not know how grandly we should build this-is going to take place at the end of July. We will input into that, and I have asked the NFU and the CLA to put ideas together, so we will try to ensure that that has got as good an agenda as possible, and as good a chance of succeeding.

Q54 Neil Parish: Do you feel that some Government Departments almost feel that the farmers are encouraging this fly-tipping? What has happened on my farm is people come and dump rubbish, because they do not want to go to the tip with it and pay the charge. Why should I, or other farmers, then have to turn around and pay for it to be disposed?

Richard Macdonald: We all not only share that experience, but share that view, speaking personally. I absolutely agree with you. Do I feel that there is anywhere in Government where people think, "So what, that is your problem?" I have not found that. I think the issue is one that no doubt is experienced in lots of other places, about the interrelationship between Government and local authorities, and how much Government thinks it can tell local authorities what to do.

Q55 Chair: We are expecting a vote; we hope to finish before it, so we don’t have to ask you to come back. Anaerobic digestion is something that the Government positively encourages. It has rolled out a facilitating programme. There are other opportunities of energy from waste. Do you believe that, whichever Government it is, that they should go out and make the case?

Richard Macdonald: Yes. I very strongly believe this should happen. I think that there has been, over two Governments, a lack of consistency and clarity, and enough clear drive and wish for it to happen. If you get that, from a private sector point of view-I can say this, having looked at investment-you need planning permission to be able to get over the NIMBY bit, and you need consistency of policy: however good the policy is, just have the same one.

Neil Parish: And transfer subsidy from wind to anaerobic digestion.

Q56 Chair: I refer you back to what you said about the partnership approach with the farming industry, and involving the farming industry. How do you intend, through your work in implementing the Task Force Recommendations, to communicate with industry and let it know what proposals for dismantling regulations are coming forward?

Richard Macdonald: This is a really good question about how you communicate with individual farmers, who are not always the easiest people to get to. We will proactively brief the farming press from time to time, so that we let them know what is happening. We are encouraging Defra to do so every time they have an achievement or do things. We have had some recent discussions about how we might communicate with individual farmers, so that people see a difference and understand what is going on; in today’s world there must be opportunities to do that. I hope and expect that NFUs, CLAs and others will do that as well. Part of what we have to do is not only hold the Department to account and do the things we have been talking about; part of the holding to account is ensuring people understand what is happening.

Q57 Chair: In terms of new regulations, do you think that Defra see farmers and landowners as good guys and consult them enough and sufficiently in advance, particularly when it comes to EU Directives and how they are being implemented-the Water Framework Directive and others-that they have got a positive role to play?

Richard Macdonald: Yes. I don’t detect any recalcitrance in Defra or its agencies to consult or to involve. Generally they recognise that the vast majority of farmers are responsible citizens. One of the great challenges we have in all of this is the 5%. By and large, most regulations are created by the 5%, the bad apples, the people who do not comply. That is a particular problem in a big population of small businesses that are very disjointed. That is a challenge, I know from my past with the NFU, as to how you speak in one voice, about one issue, for an inhomogeneous community.

Q58 Chair: You have been very generous with your time, and we have covered a whole raft and range of issues, so thank you.

Richard Macdonald: It is a great pleasure. I am very happy to come whenever you want me to.

Chair: We would very much like to invite you back at a future date, if we may, but thank you very much indeed.

Prepared 6th July 2012