3 August 2001

Red tape hitting UK trade, says Tory spokesman

ABSURD environmental and animal welfare legislation is blunting the competitiveness of UK farmers in world markets, a Conservative farm spokesman told the CLA Game Fair.

"How producers can comply with sometimes absurd legislation while competing on world markets is a fundamental question which no one seems willing to recognise or able to answer," said James Paice, MP for Cambridge south east.

"Imposing restrictions on production, in the form of pesticides, fertilisers and antibiotics puts UK producers at a severe cost disadvantage with other farmers," he told a seminar at the Country Land and Business Association Game Fair, at Shuttleworth, Old Warden Park, Beds.

The only way to ensure fair competition was either to restrict imports or to compensate producers for lost income, said Mr Paice. "Farmers should be set free to run their businesses unrestricted by government controls and red tape."

A plea for less government red tape also came from Notts farmer Mark Spencer. "Young farmers and new entrants need more flexible planning laws and far less red tape to help them take full advantage of new business opportunities," said Mr Spencer, former chairman of the National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs.

It will become increasingly important to look for non-farming sources of income, he said. "New entrants should regard themselves as countryside business people, not simply growers of wheat and barley. There is no long-term financially secure future for new entrants solely in cereal production."

Government help was needed to encourage more countryside entrepreneurs and farmers should consider adapting their premises for light industrial use.

Encouraging new entrants depended on more than just employment opportunities. Providing houses that young people could afford, a transport network and the opportunities for social life were all key issues for rural development.