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Agriculture: Costs and Regulation

Volume 687: debated on Monday 11 December 2006

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ current strategy to achieve its targets of reducing farming costs by 25 per cent by 2010; and [HL482]

Whether as part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ simplification plan to reduce its administration costs an assessment will be made of whether United Kingdom farmers have been disadvantaged by over-implementation of regulations compared with other European Union member states.[HL483]

Defra does not have a target to reduce total costs to farmers by 25 per cent. However, we do have a commitment to reduce administrative burdens by 25 per cent by 2010.

Lord Davidson's review on the implementation of EU legislation, published on 28 November 2006, found that the unnecessary over-implementation of EU legislation may not be as widespread in the UK as is sometimes claimed. It is sometimes beneficial for the UK economy to set or maintain regulatory standards that exceed the minimum requirements of European legislation.

However, the review did conclude that there were areas in the stock of legislation where regulatory burdens can be removed. The review included three Defra case studies: on waste legislation, on fisheries legislation and on the herd register for bovine animals. It makes specific recommendations for Defra in these areas. The report also includes wider recommendations to encourage the spread of best practice across departments in the implementation of EU legislation. Some of these build on Defra's existing best practice work.

Defra’s 2006 simplification plan, Maximising Outcomes, Minimising Burdens, will be published on 11 December and will be available on the Defra website at Copies of the plan will also be placed in the House Library. The Defra simplification plan will take forward the specific simplification proposals from Lord Davidson's review. In addition, the more generic recommendations which aim to further strengthen the implementation of EU legislation in the future will, if they are not already, be incorporated into our programme of better regulation culture change.

The plan reports on the key findings from the cross-Whitehall exercise to measure the administrative burdens imposed by regulations, and how these burdens fall on different stakeholders. It also details simplification projects, many of which are already under way, which will ensure that Defra meets its commitment to reduce administrative burdens by 25 per cent by 2010. Reducing these burdens is just one aspect of better regulation and the plan details initiatives that will improve the way in which Defra and its delivery bodies interact with business. We are working with business stakeholders, including the National Farmers' Union, to develop these initiatives and to help to monitor our delivery of the plan as a whole.

Defra's farm regulation and charging strategy, Partners for Success, was launched on 28 November 2005. The strategy commits the Government to improving the way in which we regulate (and enforce regulation) and to reducing bureaucracy. This will improve farmers’ capacity to help to protect the environment, animal health and welfare, food safety and worker safety. It is available on the Defra website at