CAP overhaul gains support, says Spelman

The global financial crisis means reform of the Common Agricultural Policy will gain more support across Europe, newly-appointed DEFRA minister Caroline Spelman has said.

Speaking after her first meeting of EU agricultural ministers in Brussels on Monday (17 May), Mrs Spelman said the recession had reaffirmed the UK’s desire to see comprehensive reform of the CAP.

And the need to tighten government budgets across Europe was a “reality check” that would increase support amongst other EU countries to reform the policy.

Arguing for an urgent refocusing of the CAP, Mrs Spelman said taxpayers were entitled to receive “value for their money”.

“The hard times financially will focus all member states’ minds on how we are going to focus these resources,” she added.

Mrs Spelman said previous reforms of the CAP had not been helpful to British interests, but that the current difficult financial services would “bring allies to our side”.

She said she had already held positive talks with Germany and that the country’s farm minister, Ilse Aigner, was primarily concerned with the recession and its pressure on government resources.

She added that there were no contentious areas in environment and agricultural policy between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats and she was positive about the coalition.

In addition to Mrs Spelman, the DEFRA team is being headed up by junior ministers Jim Paice, Richard Benyon and Oliver Henley – all of whom are Conservatives.

She said the department would continue to focus on the environment and green issue and would increase its efforts on reducing farming’s carbon footprint.

Earlier in the day Mrs Spelman met European farm commissioner Dacian Ciolos, who is carrying out a consultation on major CAP reform ahead of a policy paper being published later in the year.