[Mr Mike Weir in the Chair] — Common Agricultural Policy

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 8th March 2012.

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Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee 2:30 pm, 8th March 2012

That is an excellent intervention. If the hon. Gentleman bears with me, I shall come on to those very concerns.

Under successive Governments, UK farmers have been expected to meet higher standards on animal welfare than farmers elsewhere. We have unilaterally applied the sow stalls and tether ban, which only comes into play in 2013 across the rest of the European Union. Those standards impose extra costs on our producers and make them less competitive globally. Direct payments provide a means to pay for those higher standards. Without them, society—the community—runs the risk of EU farmers going out of business while exporting the social and environmental impacts elsewhere. In the longer term, the European Union must argue more strongly for a recognition of production standards in trade agreements. We conclude that DEFRA must set out more clearly how it will reduce reliance on direct payments, including the policy tools needed.