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House of Commons Hansard
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12 June 2014
Volume 582
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7. What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the allocation of direct payments through pillar 1 of the CAP on common land. [904174]

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We published our assessment of the financial impact of changes to pillar 1 in chapter 7 of our response to the CAP reform consultation. We have held discussions with stakeholders about the future allocation of direct payments in respect of common land. The approach for the new CAP schemes, which begin in 2015, will take account of fairness, the need to minimise administrative burdens and the need to comply with the relevant European legislation.

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I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. He will have gazed out on many occasions towards Cleeve common in my constituency. People are concerned that if there is a future prevention of claims for dual use, the funding will not be available to manage the common for purposes of wildlife conservation and indeed businesses. Will my right hon. Friend bear that in mind when he comes to take decisions on these matters?

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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. We are aware of the problem of dual use, but it is absolutely our intention that those who have common land should be eligible for new environmental land management schemes, which we shall publish shortly.

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Many are concerned at the Government’s stance in the CAP negotiations—opposition to proposals to cap the amount a single farmer can receive in subsidies, for example. In the interests of transparency, does the Secretary of State agree that it is time for all Members to register any CAP-related payments they receive on the Register of Members’ Financial Interests?

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I think that that question is one for the House authorities—perhaps the Leader of the House can deal with it later at business questions. I am not frightened of large businesses producing food efficiently. I refer back to what my hon. Friend the Member for York Outer (Julian Sturdy) said. We should wake up to the fact that there is not unlimited safe food beyond these shores. There is a huge increase in world demand for food, and we should concentrate on having good, efficient farming that produces food for our population and enhances the environment.

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Nevertheless, the Government have established the principle in the benefits system of placing what I think is a reasonable cap on taxpayer-funded handouts. Does the Secretary of State agree that if that principle is okay for welfare recipients, it is also right to place a reasonable cap on taxpayer-funded handouts to people who do not actually need them?

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I am grateful to my hon. Friend. First, it should be put on the record that we agreed to a degressivity of 5% of £150,000, so there is a reduction, but I do not think we should be frightened of having large, successful farming businesses in order to feed this country.

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The Secretary of State will be aware of the dispute in Northern Ireland over the allocation of the moneys resulting from the CAP reform. Will he do all that he can to ensure that there will be no party-political or partisan allocations of those moneys, and will he conduct an assessment to encourage the Department to allocate them fairly?

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One of the major changes in this round, which we did negotiate, was absolute freedom for the four constituent parts of the United Kingdom to reach their own arrangements in regard to CAP reform and the way in which it is implemented. All four regulations are a matter for local politicians in Northern Ireland to resolve.