HL Deb 25 June 2002 vol 636 cc132-4WA
Baroness Byford

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proof they have that their efforts to reduce the burden of regulation, as identified in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' departmental report 2002, are successful. [HL4808]

Lord Whitty

The departmental report identified the mechanisms by which we try to minimise the burden of regulation. These include the necessary checks and balances required under the regulatory impact system to ensure that regulation is necessary and proportionate and the risks, options, benefits and costs are fully explored. Such procedures are subject to review and refinement to ensure that all relevant issues are considered.

Implementation of the majority of the Red Tape Review recommendations, and those in the Better Regulation Task Force report on environmental regulations and farmers can be regarded as a success since they addressed issues identified by industry. Money has been saved in direct costs to industry as well as time saved in paperwork; for example, by implementing a simplified procedure for granting "own use" approvals for imports of pesticides with a reduced fee, by streamlining intervention procedures, by better co-ordinated cattle inspections and the introduction of electronic IACS forms. The abolition of glucosinate testing of oilseed rape will save industry £1 million. From questionnaires completed by farmers participating in the 2002 slaughter premium scheme, 47 per cent of those returning the questionnaires found the form better than the previous year, whilst only 2 per cent found it worse. Better forms play an important role in reducing the administrative burden on farmers.

More recently the department contributed 59 proposals for regulatory reform in the Government's regulatory reform action plan published in February 2002, covering all aspects of DEFRA's responsibility. Many of these will be implemented in the next two years; others will be in the longer term. They involve changes to EC legislation, reform of some domestic legislation, major reviews of whole areas of enforcement, inspection and information handling to ease the burden of compliance.

While some regulation is necessary, we have a long-term strategy (2007) to introduce risk-based environment regulation across all sectors including agriculture. New risk-assessments, standardised permits, better reporting arrangements will keep charges down and reduce the bureaucracy of regulation. We are working towards an integrated solution to the problems of regulation and agriculture by developing a whole farm approach. This is a long-term strategy that will be developed in close consultation with industry and other stakeholders.