HC Deb 25 November 1999 vol 339 c748
11. Mr. David Borrow (South Ribble)

What assessment he has made of the annual cost of the common agricultural policy to (a) consumers and (b) taxpayers in the UK. [98847]

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Elliot Morley)

The cost of the CAP in 1998 was £6.7 billion to consumers and £3.4 billion to taxpayers, equivalent in total to around £3.30 per person per week.

Mr. Borrow

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. Does he agree that the existing production-based support system under the CAP is bad for consumers because it means that we pay excessive prices? Is it not also bad for the taxpayer, who is paying those sums for the CAP? Does my hon. Friend agree that it fails to meet the Government's policy objectives because it does not support the farmers in most need of support, especially those in upland and other marginal land? Is there not a growing consensus in favour of a reform of the CAP that would move it away from production-based subsidies towards a system that met social objectives?

Mr. Morley

I strongly agree. We have made some progress with Agenda 2000, which has reduced costs to consumers by about £1 billion. Clearly, however, there is much more to be done. We believe that we must move away from production-based support—which increases costs to consumers, distorts markets to the disadvantage of farmers and does not always help those in most need—to more broadly based support that would assist agri-environmental programmes. We think that a broader, rurally based policy would be more beneficial for the rural economy—and, in the longer term, for farmers.