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Incorporation of EU legislation governing the CAP direct payment schemes

Part of Direct Payments to Farmers (Legislative Continuity) Bill – in the House of Commons at 1:15 pm on 28th January 2020.

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Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 1:15 pm, 28th January 2020

That is a matter for the Welsh Government. I know that the RPA has had its issues in the past. All paying agencies in all parts of the UK are dealing with an incredibly complex body of law with a complex audit structure around it. As I say, with that being removed, I anticipate that all parts of the UK will find it easier to get payments out in a timely fashion by the end of this year.

I want briefly to touch on some of the other types of rules that are covered by this body of regulation. It sets out all the eligibility criteria—for instance, for common land and how to apply for it. It sets out specific requirements for areas such as the New Forest, which has a separate type of approach. It also sets out all the rules on transferring entitlements. There is a feature of EU law that states that someone can only claim on an area of land on which they have also lodged a so-called entitlement attached to that land, and there is a market in the transferable entitlement. The body of regulation also sets out all the so-called greening rules that were added in the last CAP reform. That includes the crop diversification rules for arable land, which stipulate that such land must have at least three crops. It includes the environmental focus area, which is the calculation someone can apply for their hedges to count towards that area. It lists the types of crops that qualify as leguminous crops for the purpose of the EFA rules. It sets out all the rules on buffer strips, including how wide a buffer strip must be when it is alongside a watercourse, and whether someone is allowed to have arable land or pasture alongside and adjacent to that buffer strip. The list goes on. It lists the types of crops that can count towards the three crop rule. For instance, it stipulates that a cabbage can be deemed to be the same as a cauliflower for the purposes of the three crop rule because they come from the same family. In other cases, it stipulates that certain crops are to be treated as separate.

Hon. Members may well be asking why on earth we will be bringing across regulations of this clunky nature. The answer, as I said at the beginning, is to provide clarity and certainty to farmers for this year only. The common agricultural policy, as currently designed, is a bureaucratic quagmire and we have no intention of retaining it for the long term. However, we recognise that evolving from the system that we have to the one that we want will take some years, and in this particular year we are proposing no change at all.