SENIOR GOVERNMENT ministers have launched a series of attacks on the common agricultural policy, calling for the controversial policy to be scrapped.
Answering questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday, (June 29), Prime Minister Tony Blair said that, as long as the CAP existed, then the UK would hang on to its annual budget rebate.
“Of course, if we get rid of the common agricultural policy, then the case for the rebate changes,” he is reported as saying by The Times.
The paper goes on to quote an official spokesman who said the CAP no longer met the needs of the rural community.
Mr Blair’s attack was reinforced by Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown in a speech to Unicef, the UN’s children’s agency.
He attacked the “hypocrisy” of western countries in paying aid to poor countries, while denying them access to their markets.
Mr Brown called for a date by which EU export subsidies would be eliminated.
The Times also reports on a speech by international development secretary Hilary Benn who called for the abolition of the CAP.
He pointed to the “successes” of New Zealand which abandoned subsidies many years ago.
The CAP debate makes the lead page of The Independent which reveals the amount of farm subsidies going to five of the country’s richest landowners, including the Duke of Westminster and Prince Charles.
It claims that the government is preparing to offer its EU partners a direct trade-off between annual reductions in the annual rebate for specific cuts in farm spending.
But it also puts up some defence for the CAP, pointing out that introducing a free market system, as applies in New Zealand, would lead to massive rural depopulation.
Its leader article calls for reform of the CAP, with more money going to rural development.
“But the government needs to show a better understanding of the complexity of concerns surrounding agriculture.
“For all its deep-rooted flaws, the CAP is not the same as the policy that generated milk lakes and butter and beef mountains in the 1980s.”