I, along with other DEFRA Ministers, regularly meet our EU counterparts to discuss reform of the common agricultural policy. The Minister of State and I attended the Informal Agriculture Council, where CAP reform was discussed, and most recently I hosted the German Agriculture Minister to discuss a range of issues of common interest, including reform of the CAP.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the EU budget needs to reflect the straitened economic circumstances that all European member states are experiencing. Last weekend, the Prime Minister met the German Chancellor, Frau Merkel, and earlier this week he met President Sarkozy from France, to have important discussions about the realities of the size of the EU budget. Part of those considerations will be the allocation that goes to the common agricultural policy.
We all know that a successful outcome to the common agricultural policy negotiations is vital for Britain’s rural communities. In an interview on “Farming Today”, the right hon. Lady said that the Treasury had conducted a regional impact assessment of the CSR, and that her Department had considered its rural impact. I asked her Department for a copy of that rural impact assessment, and the reply from the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the hon. Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon), stated:
“DEFRA has not carried out a formal assessment of the impact of the spending review on rural matters.”—[Official Report, 1 November 2010; Vol. 517, c. 606W.]
Once and for all, can the Secretary of State tell the House whether the rural impact assessment exists?
As I am sure the hon. Lady will appreciate, it is not just the decisions made at DEFRA that have implications for rural communities. As the Government’s rural champion, DEFRA is therefore undertaking an assessment of the implications of other Departments’ elements of the spending review across rural areas. For example, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has made some positive decisions arising from the spending review, including the roll-out of superfast broadband in rural areas, that will have a positive effect on rural areas. The matter needs to be regarded in the round, and that work has been undertaken since the announcement of the decisions affecting all Departments was made on 20 October.