Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


COMMON AGRICULTURE POLICY: SIMPLIFICATION ACTION PLAN (13494/05)

Letter from the Chairman to Lord Bach, Minister for Sustainable Farming and Food, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

  In November 2005, Sub Committee D (Environment and Agriculture) scrutinised the Commission's Communication on Simplification and Better Regulation from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) (doc 13494/05) and cleared the report from scrutiny. The Communication had recommended that a CAP simplification action plan should be drafted during 2006 and this was subsequently agreed to at the December Agriculture and Fisheries Council. The Committee agreed that it would wish to submit its views to the Government during the preparation of the Action Plan.

  The Committee welcomes the Commission's initiative to simplify the CAP. We consider that this would make a significant contribution to the wider Better Regulation agenda. During evidence to the Committee's inquiry into the future financing of the CAP (2nd report of Session 2005-06, HL Paper 7), Mr Mark Thomasin-Foster, President of the European Landowners' Organization, suggested that farmers faced an inordinate level of bureaucracy in order to claim their single farm payment (QQ 87-88). The Committee concluded that it would be extremely disappointing if the benefit to farmers of receiving a consolidated single farm payment was negated by the time and paperwork required in applying for it (paragraph 60).

  The Committee would therefore welcome concrete moves to cut the administrative burden for farmers. The Action Plan must be practical. It should set out tangible ways for Member States to measure "red tape" burden accompanied by reduction targets. It is important that the words "Better Regulation" should not be interpreted by the Commission to mean "More Regulation". It will also be important for the Action Plan to suggest a method to monitor and review the impact on farmers.

  We welcome the opportunity to submit views to the Action Plan preparation process and look forward to receiving the final Action Plan in due course.

2 February 2006

Letter from Lord Bach to the Chairman

  Thank you for your letter of 2 February following the consideration of the CAP Simplification dossier by Sub Committee D (Environment and Agriculture). I entirely agree with the Committee that this process must be practical, cut administrative burdens for farmers, and examine the options for measuring such burdens and setting targets for their reduction. It is essential that this process does not lead to "more regulation", and that it goes beyond a simple tidying up exercise.

  I am very pleased that under our Presidency we were able to adopt Conclusions at December Agriculture Council requesting the Commission to explore options for establishing measurable targets for the reduction of the administrative burden of EU regulation in the Agriculture Sector, and to produce a roadmap within its Action Plan.

  The measurement of administrative burdens is a key element of the Commission's Better Regulation agenda. But DG Agriculture now has the opportunity to be the first sector of the Commission to take this forward. For them to do so, it is essential that the Member States provide support by sharing information and analysis. My Department will play a leading role in this exercise, and we are in discussions with the Commission and Member States on how we would do this.

  The Council Conclusions also request the Commission to report annually to Council on progress. We understand that preparation of the Action Plan will entail: regular meetings of an "Expert Group" (Government representatives of the Member States), which began on 17 February; discussion of a draft Action Plan at an international conference of stakeholders in the Autumn: and final publication of the Action Plan by the end of the year.

  I would be happy to keep you informed of progress, and to come and talk to the Lords Committee, in order to hear your views, as work on the Action Plan develops.

27 February 2006



 
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