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Eu Structural Funds And Cap: Reform

Volume 588: debated on Wednesday 1 April 1998

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What representation they are proposing to make concerning the European Union's proposals to change the basis of allocation of structural funds and common agricultural policy funds. [HL1132]

The Commission's proposals for the structural funds and for other cohesion policies for the years 2000–2006 and reform of the common agricultural policy were published on 18 March.The Government believe that the structural funds need to be fair, affordable, durable, simpler and more efficient. The overall budget should be well below the 0.46 per cent. of Community GNP proposed by the Commission, both before and after enlargement. The current member states, including the UK, should be prepared to see reductions in their receipts after 1999, but the burden should be distributed fairly. The Government will argue for flexibility for member states to target funds at areas of greatest need.Reform of the common agricultural policy is a major UK Government objective, and the Commission's proposals go very much in the direction the UK has advocated. The proposed cuts in support prices could save UK consumers over £1 billion per year, the environment would gain from reduced production incentives and the creation of an integrated rural development policy, while fanners would benefit from a move to a more sustainable and market-led policy. However, the proposals are not as radical as we wish. For example, they entail a significant increase in CAP spending. We shall be pressing to minimise the cost of compensation payments to be digressive and decoupled from production. EU-wide ceilings on direct aids to farmers above certain thresholds would also discriminate against the UK.Our overriding concern in the long negotiations ahead is to ensure that the outcome is fair and sustainable to the UK, other member states, and those states being considered as part of the enlargement process.