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Farm Administration

Volume 536: debated on Thursday 24 November 2011

My hon. Friend and the House will know that the Government attach huge importance to the need to lift the burden of regulation while maintaining standards. On 3 November I announced the publication of the interim response to the independent farm regulation taskforce. We will publish a final response early next year.

Does the Minister agree that this is all about trust and that, where possible, we should trust our farmers to self-regulate and impose statutory regulations only where absolutely necessary?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I am afraid that there appears to have been a view over the years that every farmer was a potential criminal, and farmers felt very disillusioned about that. We believe that the vast majority want to comply with regulations and can be trusted to do so, which is why we are looking at earned recognition so that we can concentrate our resources on the small minority who might not comply.

The Minister will be aware of some initial concerns about additional administrative costs for the farming community following the introduction of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, which has proved to be really effective and has been welcomed by farmers. Will he assure the House that there are no plans to change how the agency operates or how it is funded?

The hon. Gentleman is entirely right. The GLA was set up after the tragic events at Morecambe bay and, to the best of my recollection, was supported by all parties in the House. That work is still extremely important. Discussions are taking place within Government on whether DEFRA is the right place for the GLA, so I cannot give the undertakings he is perhaps demanding, but the existence and purpose of the GLA is absolutely right and will be maintained.

Suffolk farmers expect this Government to reduce red tape. On the May report of the regulation taskforce, will the Minister tell us what the compliance cost saving will be if his Department delivers all 200 cuts in bureaucratic processes?

I am afraid I cannot give my hon. Friend a figure at this stage because we are still developing our final response. We are going through all 214 recommendations and are determined to be bold and ambitious, as we were urged to be by Richard Mcdonald. Much of the cost to farmers is the result not of complying with regulations, but of the bureaucratic burden of the process of complying, and that is what we are trying to address.