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Volume 406: debated on Tuesday 10 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the impact of the Commission's proposals for the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy on farms which entered into agri-environmental schemes before or during the reference period. [114092]

Under the Commission's proposals, entitlements to the new single payment scheme would be based on claims for CAP direct payments during a reference period running from 2000 to 2002. Farmers who reduced their direct payment claims during that period as a consequence of participation in an agri-environment scheme would, therefore, see that reduction fed through to their single payment entitlement. We have made clear to the Commission and Greek Presidency that the final agreement should include provisions to ensure that agri-environment participants are not disadvantaged. The Commission has now suggested that this could be achieved by allowing the choice of a historical reference period for the single payment scheme which predates an individual's agri-environment agreement(s).

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether it is the Government's policy during negotiations on the reform of the Common Agricultural policy to seek to secure a national reserve amounting to more than 1 per cent. of the reference amount. [114093]

The Government believe that it is important to address the inequities in the initial allocation of single payment entitlements that would be created by the European Commission's proposals. The Commission has recently suggested that those inequities could be addressed through an increase in the range of farmers who would access the national reserve. The size of the reserve would then be increased by reducing reference amounts by up to a maximum of 3 per cent. and drawing in the entitlements of farmers who sold land after the start of the reference period.