Bishop of St Albans asks about Agriculture Transition Plan
On 8th December the Bishop of St Albans responded to a Government statement on its Agriculture Transition Plan:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]: My Lords, I declare my interest as president of the Rural Coalition and pay tribute to the Minister, who has worked so hard on getting this through.
In the ELMS policy discussion document, Her Majesty’s Government recognised the bureaucratic burden that the CAP had placed on farmers and administrators. We were optimistic that the rollout of rural broadband would help a great deal, although the comprehensive spending review seems to have drawn back, and many people in rural areas are deeply concerned about how these new processes will be worked through.
Can the Minister outline the plans for the ELMS application process and how it is intended to reduce bureaucratic constraints? Can he assure the agricultural community that there will be adequate helplines staffed by those who have been fully trained in these new processes?
Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con): My Lords, broadband and mobile connectivity in the countryside is clearly very important, which is why the Chancellor announced the first £1.2 billion, as I recall, of the £5 billion scheme that we wish to roll out. Clearly, this is a project of huge importance in rural areas. As the Minister for Rural Affairs, I can assure the right reverend Prelate that I am constantly in communication with DCMS about this.
The right reverend Prelate is right in using word “bureaucracy”. That is why we have wanted to simplify the BPS and, as we move forward, remove some of its most complex aspects by removing greening rules and improving arrangements for cross-border farmers, and removing the complicated rule that required farmers to claim payments on their entitlements every two years.
I understand the frustration about whether there should have been more detail but, in our quest for a less bureaucratic ELMS—a less bureaucratic arrangement —I emphasise that we must co-design these schemes with farmers so that the farmer sees it is as their scheme, not the state scheme. We want to make sure that it is not bureaucratic. The advice, support and guidance that will be available to farmers will ensure that, while there will undoubtedly always be worry, they get a helping hand rather than a heavy hand, so that they understand what schemes are available and, I hope, will apply for them and be successful.