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Country News - 2005

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Landowners attack CAP reform confusion

Tuesday 06 December 2005

BRITAIN'S attempts to reform the notorious EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), already under attack from France and new East European members, have received another icy blast - from Northern landowners.

The reform was supposed to be the key policy of Britain's presidency of the EU but with only three weeks to go before it expires, France is still blocking progress - despite the fact that Prime Minister Tony Blair has agreed to pay more into EU funds.

He has been accused of ruining important alliances with newly admitted, former Iron Curtain countries - and now there comes a bitter condemnation from the northern branch of the Country Land and Business Association.

"This is no way to run the rural economy," said Douglas Chalmers, director of CLA North, in a scathing attack on the entire Government but with particular emphasis on the roles of Chancellor Gordon Brown and Defra Secretary Margaret Beckett.

Although ministers have repeatedly come up with pleas for CAP reform, nobody has worked out what those reforms should be, says Mr Chalmers. Mrs Beckett is running an "incredibly complex" subsidy regime and has "forgotten" her earlier promises.

The end result is that English farmers - unlike their colleagues in Scotland and Wales, which have benefited from much simpler schemes - will now face a bleak Christmas because their first support payments will not arrive until next spring at the earliest.


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