What recent discussions she has had with the farming industry and other interested parties on reform of the common agricultural policy.
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I have attended the Agriculture Council twice and have discussed the CAP with Agriculture Ministers from other member states. Last night, I hosted a dinner attended by the Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Commissioner Ciolos, my colleagues here and from the devolved Administrations, the Secretary of State for Scotland and other key UK stakeholders. We discussed a number of issues, including CAP reform, and I have more European visits planned in the coming months.
I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. She will be well aware of the problems caused by the Rural Payments Agency's remapping exercise, particularly in non-flat areas such as Staffordshire Moorlands. Can she reassure farmers who are still waiting to agree their revised maps that the single farm payment will not be delayed and that they will not suffer undue hardship?
I am sure that my hon. Friend's farmer constituents will be very grateful to her for bringing up this issue. If she gives us the details of any significant problems with the mapping in her area-I understand that they might relate to the slopes and gradients of the land-I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will look into it closely, as he has offered to chair the board of the RPA.
May I also welcome the right hon. Lady and her team to their posts? I believe that her talks yesterday with the Scottish Government's Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment were very constructive, but will she clarify for the benefit of the House how she intends to work with the devolved Administrations? In particular, how does she see the future of pillar one support in the common agricultural policy reform process?
I thank the hon. Lady for that question, and I can tell her that discussions with her honourable colleague from Scotland were indeed very constructive. I made it clear to him that I would always consult before taking a position ahead of any Council meeting. I added that we will have very close and good contact with all the devolved Administrations, and I said specifically that I am confident that pillar one and direct payments will continue.
May I, on behalf of the people of Mid Norfolk, send a warm welcome to the members of the Government Front Bench? It is nice to see a DEFRA team with such a rich experience of the countryside, after 13 years of feeling rather neglected.
On CAP reform, will my right hon. Friend reassure the House and the people of Mid Norfolk that, as far as possible, we will seek a revised structure that rewards our farmers for growing food competitively? Such a structure should reward them for what they do in the countryside, for which they get no support at the moment.
I thank my hon. Friend for those warm words. In fact, I should like to take this opportunity to say to all Government Members that the Front Bench is grateful for their admirable level of support. I can assure my hon. Friend that in the CAP reform negotiations, we will be seeking the best deal for farmers, consumers, taxpayers and the environment. There is no doubt that sustainable food production is a public good, and there is broad support across European countries for recognising the contribution that farmers make.
May I add my welcome to the Secretary of State and her ministerial team, and congratulate them on their new positions? Indeed, I extend that welcome to all new Back Benchers on both sides of the House.
A few moments ago, the Secretary of State mentioned her discussions with other interested parties, but do they include the Treasury? Reductions in the overall CAP budget might be attractive to the Treasury, but does she agree that that would be to the detriment of British agriculture? Will she assure the House that she will defend the interests of British agriculture, in both Brussels and Downing street?
Of course I can give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. I just said that I was seeking to get a better deal for farmers, consumers, taxpayers and the environment, and he can be assured of that. DEFRA is an economic Department with a very clear role in the economic recovery that this country needs. It is absolutely at one with the objectives set out by the Treasury in that regard.