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Farmers (Regulatory Burden)

Volume 554: debated on Thursday 6 December 2012

7. What assessment he has made of steps taken by his Department to reduce the burden of regulation on farmers. (131732)

Good progress is being made to reduce regulatory burdens on farmers through our response to the farming regulation task force, through which, among other initiatives, we are working to reduce the burden of on-farm inspections and paperwork. Costs to farmers of complying with regulations are falling. Since 2011, for every £1 of new compliance costs, we are removing over £13 of inefficient compliance costs.

Farmers in Fylde are constantly raising with me the amount of paperwork they face and the regulatory burdens that causes. Will the Minister update the House on the recommendations he is making that will allow farmers to get on with farming and ease the burden?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. It would detain the House for quite a long time if I went through all 137 commitments we have made on introducing deregulatory measures, but let me give one recent example of how we are working to reduce the burden of paperwork on farmers. We now provide for some record-keeping exemptions for low-intensity farms, as a result of the Government’s recent nitrates consultation. I hope that indicates the tenor of what we are trying to achieve in the Department.

Does the Minister accept that the Government’s ill-conceived plan to regulate for a minimum alcohol price will have a devastating effect on west country cider farmers?

The right hon. Gentleman is very well aware that, because of my constituency interests, I cannot answer that question in a ministerial capacity, but I can say—

The right hon. Gentleman appears not to know the procedure of the House. He is asking a supplementary question. I cannot sit down and ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State to stand up in my place—[Interruption.] Mr Speaker, I am sure that you will be able to advise the right hon. Gentleman on the procedures of the House at some time. I can say to him that we take the matter seriously, and I am sure that the Under-Secretary of State is taking the appropriate measures—[Interruption.]

Order. For the avoidance of doubt, although I am not privy to the details of the exchange, it is absolutely correct to say that only one Minister can answer the question. Whether or not people like the answer is another matter.

I note the point about responsibility. There are quite a lot of hand gestures going on, but we must now—[Interruption.] Order. The Minister of State must calm himself. We must move on.