Select Committee on Agriculture Minutes of Evidence



MEMORANDUM SUBMITTED BY MR DON CURRY, CHAIRMAN OF THE IACS AND INSPECTIONS WORKING GROUP (H 20)

REVIEW OF REGULATORY BURDENS COMMENTS ON PROGRESS BY THE IACS AND INSPECTIONS WORKING GROUP

  Thank you for the invitation to submit additional evidence in advance of my attendance at your Committee next week.

  I convened a meeting of the IACS Working Group on the 19 December to review progress made against recommendations contained in the report which was submitted to the Minister in December 1999.

  The Group is very pleased overall with the commitment shown and the progress being made in the implementation of almost all of the recommendations. In particular, the Group commends the Department for its achievements in respect of the simplification of EU Regulations and the commitment obtained on field margins.

  Although there has been some delay compared with our recommended time-scale, the Group welcomes the issue of a consultation paper on an IACS Appeals Mechanism, supports the conclusions it draws and recommends that industry encourage the adoption of the solution proposed. The proposals for a new CAP Paying Agency are also very welcome. The Group considers that this initiative will provide significant advantages to both the industry and the Department as a result both of greater integration and co-ordination of databases and of the use of e-business. The Group is reassured that the plans demonstrate a very positive approach by MAFF to a delivery of a major improvement in the administration of CAP Schemes and associated payments.

  We are very pleased with the work that has been done on e-forms, which have been well received throughout industry.

  The Group is pleased that so much progress has been made in updating the Cattle Tracing System through the Cattle Herd Registration exercise. We feel that industry must now be urged to play its part in keeping records both accurate and up to date. We hope that it will ultimately be possible to reduce the regulatory burden significantly by completely removing the need to fill in claim forms for the cattle schemes.

  We welcome the progress made towards securing the necessary changes to the EU Regulations to ensure that business-based cattle inspections can be adopted.

  The Group is disappointed that further progress has not been made in achieving a change to the EU legislation to remove the concept of "producer groups" in relation to the Sheep Annual Premium Scheme and to align the definition of producer with that contained in the Suckler Cow Premium Scheme. We believe this must continue to be pursued and be included in the review of the sheepmeat regime currently underway.

  I enclose a table which contains a summary of progress made against each individual recommendation, which I hope you will find helpful.

11 January 2001



IACS AND INSPECTIONS—RED TAPE WORKING GROUP RESPONSE TO PROGRESS ON RECOMMENDATIONS

Recommendation ProgressGroup's response to progress
1.  The Group concluded that Agriculture Departments could continue to improve the readability and appearance of the documents produced. To this end, the group recommends that industry continues to be adequately consulted on draft forms. Progress being made.
Developing proposal to consult industry on 2001 scheme literature.
Will be taken forward as part of the plans for the new CAP Paying Agency.
Satisfied with the progress being made. Encouraged by the positive developments in new literature and the plans for further industry consultation in future.
2.  The Group recommends that guidance notes for different schemes better reflect those areas of commonality that exist between schemes and should be designed with greater use of a common and familiar format between schemes. Progress being made.
Literature being reviewed with a view to Consulting industry.
Will be taken forward as part of the plans for the new CAP Paying Agency.
Satisfied with the progress being made.
3.  As regards the update of IACS scheme information, and the best way of ensuring that farmers are certain they have the most up to date information, the Group recommends a two year cycle for the production of scheme literature, ie a complete text in year one followed by a shorter booklet listing changes in year two (although it recognises that this cyclical pattern might need to be broken, when, as in 2000, major changes to schemes require a substantially new text). Recommendation completed.
Full IACS booklet being produced for 2001.
Changes only in 2002.
Satisfied with the progress being made. The Group supports the issue of a full booklet for 2001.
4.  The Group recommends that Agriculture Departments explore with industry the possibility of adopting greatly simplified scheme literature supported by a more accessible advice service for farmers. Progress being made.
Will consider in the context of changes being considered as part of the plans for the new CAP Paying Agency.
Satisfied with progress being made. The Group sees that creation of a new CAP Paying agency as a good opportunity to make progress on the continued simplification of scheme literature and forms. The new arrangements must allow the industry to keep in close touch with administrators. The Group suggests that thought should be given to running "road-shows" and "workshops" to assist industry in their understanding new technology and the completion of forms. Government must not lose sight of the needs of those businesses that are not able to fully embrace "e-business".
5.  The Group recommends that the necessary resources are made available to ensure that the trial of the electronic completion and submission of IACS forms in the Anglia Region is implemented on a nation-wide basis in the 2001 Scheme year. Progress being made—part completed.
Pilot project in Anglia Region completed successfully.
Results are being analysed—positive early feedback. Report available shortly. Form being demonstrated at a number of county shows during the summer.
Project with the aim to make
e-forms for IACS/AAPS available to all by 2001 now well underway.
Further demonstrations planned.
Very pleased with the progress being made against deadlines and the commitment being shown to this project. The workshops and documentation produced in support of this programme of work have been well produced and well received throughout the industry. The trials have been a great success and the Group looks forward to seeing a full roll-out of the system soon.
6.  The Group recommends that the requests for census information should be reduced significantly and be confined to information which is not already contained in existing databases. Progress being made (with £100,000 reduction in compliance costs estimated for 2001).
(a)  increased sampling will be introduced in the June 2001 census.
(b)  Access to the CTS information has been obtained and processing systems are being developed. Differences between census and CTS data being analysed.
(c)  IACS 2000 data will be compared against the June 2000 census results. A strategy will be developed by the end of 2000 with a view to making more use of the IACS data from June 2001.
(a)  Satisfied with the progress.
(b)  Satisfied with the progress. The Group looks forward to the pilot use of CTS data in June 2001.
(c)  Satisfied with the progress being made so far. The Group looks forward to the outcome of further work on the potenial for replacing census data with IACS data, which will hopefully lead to further reductions in sampling.
7.  The Group further recommends that there should be discussion with the Commission (Eurostat) on the use of statistical sampling techniques and the flexibility to carry out a full census less frequently. Progress being made.
New National Satistics review processes are largely in place.
Advice already given to EUROSTAT on conducting an independent review which will be backed up in writing.
Satisfied with progress being made. The Group is pleased to note that the independent review is going ahead in 2001 and understands that the review's implications will be evaluated in 2002.
8.  The Group strongly recommends that resources are devoted to exploring the possibility of sharing claim data which is already submitted as part of other schemes. More work should be done quickly on the possibilities of data-warehousing and sharing of information between different systems. Under active consideration.
Will be considered in the context of the plans for a new CAP Paying Agency.
Satisfied with the progress being made. The Group is content that the Department is moving in the right direction. Keen that industry appreciates the important role it plays in ensuring that database information such as the Cattle Herd Register is as accurate and up to date as possible. This is a key responsibility for "industry".
9.  The Group recommends that Government targets farmers with appropriately designed IT training and business management packages, and ensures that the resources are made available. Progress being made.
Will be considered in the context of the plans for a new CAP paying Agency.
Training scheme included in the England Rural Development Programme launched on 3 October.
Satisfied with the progress being made (see Recommendation 4).
10.  The Group also recommends that Government and industry should also support the use of agents and third parties to assist in the electronic transfer of information and claims. Progress being made.
A pilot project (the CLICK project) is being run at Kington, Herefordshire to link around 100 farmers and their families to existing IT facilities.
Lessons learned from this project will be fed into the plans for a new CAP Paying Agency and will inform possible schemes in other parts of the country in the future.
Satisfied with the progress being made. The Group is encouraged that full consideration is being given to this important issue.
11.  The Group recommends that work on a Geographic Information System (GIS) is carried forward urgently and in full consultation with the industry to determine the best way of securing a baseline of digitised maps. Progress being made.
GIS being taken forward as part of the planning of the new CAP Paying Agency.
Farmers will be fully consulted.
Satisfied with the progress being made. The Group accepts the long-term nature of the implemention of this proposal given the mammoth task of digitising 1.7m parcels of land.
12.  The Group recommends that Government allays farmers' concerns that they could be penalised for discrepancies in recorded areas arising from a move to GIS, where the farmer can show that his determination of the area was accurately based on information recognised by the competent authority. Progress being made.
Have discussed bilaterally with the Commission.
Meeting held with farmers' unions to report the outcome of this discussion.
Satisfied that some progress is being made and encouraged by the Department's efforts to secure the Commission's agreement to a pragmatic approach to this issue. Farmers will need to be reassured before GIS is introduced.
13.  The Group recommends that every effort is made to urgently resolve any outstanding queries about the eligibility of land between 1986 and 1991. Recommendation largely completed.
Review of the use of remote sensing to check land eligibility is now completed.
Remote sensing will no longer be used in a routine way to check historic eligibility, although action will continue to be taken when it becomes evident that arable payments are being claimed on ineligible land.
The Group is very pleased with the progress being made on this issue and the decision not to use remote sensing in a routine way to check historic eligibility. The Group accepts that remote sensing should continue to be used for other checks.
14.  The Group recommends that all farmers use the new standard herd and flock registers that are being produced. Progress made—part completed.
Part of ongoing publicity.
Use of new registers being monitored.
The Group is concerned that some discrepancies may exist in the use of herd/flock registers issued by Local Authorities. The Group is however pleased that efforts are being made by MAFF and Local Authorities to ensure that recommended standard records are consistent with those issued by MAFF.
15.  The Group recommends that Local Authorities must be encouraged to accept these standard registers as a satisfactory record of movements for their inspection requirements and that these should replace existing movement books. Progress made—part completed.
Ongoing discussion with Local Authorities in context of the Inspection and Enforcement Working Group.
As above.
16.  The Group recommends that as a matter of urgency, Government resources must be made available to ensure that the programme of accelerated herd coverage of the CTS is achieved by the end of 2000. Recommendation largely completed.
Good progress towards full herd coverage on database. Cattle Herd Registration exercise almost complete and attracted a good response from industry. Legislation making it an offence not to register older cattle and report their movements due to come into force on 1 December. Full herd coverage by the end of this year.
The Group is very pleased that this has been progressed so well. It acknowledges the efforts made by the Department and urges industry to play its part in keeping records accurate and up to date.
17.  The Group recommends that all on-farm Inspections are carried out by a single inspection force and that Local Authority inspectors should retain the responsibility for other areas. Progress being made.
Ongoing discussions on streamlining inspections are being held with representatives of the Local Authorities Co-ordinating body on Trading Standards (LACOTS).
The Group is pleased that significant progress has been made in co-ordinating farm inspections of bovines that are carried out by MAFF and Local Authorities. It feels that the measures being introduced will reduce as much as possible the incidences of unnecessary repeat inspections without weakening the necessary controls that inspection by both MAFF and Local Authorities provide.
18.  The Group recommends that the Government approaches the Commission urgently with a view to ensuring that the EU legislation is changed in order to ensure that business-based inspections can be adopted as soon as possible. Progress being made.
Will be taken forward as one of the issues in the CAP simplification initiative agreed at the October Agriculture Council.
The Group is very happy with the progress being made. The Department has grasped this issue and is making good progress in securing the necessary changes to the EU Regulations. The Group would urge that the lessons learned should be rolled out to other inspection regimes at an appropriate time.
19.  The Group recommends that greater resources are devoted to ensuring that work in the "best practice" seminars carried out by the National Scheme Management Centres (NSMCs) underpinned by the EFQM Excellence Model is carried forward in order to ensure consistency of application of the CAP schemes across MAFF's Regional Organisation. Progress being made.
A programme of training RSC staff in the use of Best Practice and the Excellence Model is underway. The programme includes self assessment workshops and process mapping.
This is a key element in providing business continuity during the transition to the new CAP Paying Agency.
Satisfied with the progress being made. The Group would like to stress the importance of ensuring that during the transition to a new CAP Paying Agency, nothing is done to endanger business continuity.
20.  The Group recommends that the Minister presses the Commission to increase the threshold for penalties on area aid discrepancies to 5 per cent, in line with those for livestock schemes. Furthermore, the Commission should be urged to find ways of revising penalty rules which avoid the problem of retrospective application. Progress being made.
The issue of penalties imposed for innocent errors will be examined in the context of the CAP simplification exercise launched at the October 2000 Agriculture Council. Government will seek to ensure that the issue of a 5 per cent overdeclaration threshold for areas is covered in this initiative.
The Group accepts that this is not an easy initiative, but is satisfied with the good progress being made.
21.  The Group recommends that an independent appeals mechanism is set up within 12 months and that Government comes forward with detailed proposals on which industry is consulted. Progress being made.
Consultation paper being prepared.
Although there has been some delay compared with our recommended time-scale, the Group is very pleased to see that the consultation document has now issued. The Group supports the arguments it puts forward and urges industry to press for the adoption of the proposed course of action, particularly in the context of the creation of a new CAP Paying Agency.
22.  The Group recommends that every effort is made to ensure that systems are in place to make payments as soon as possible within the "payment window". Progress being made.
Performances will be kept under review.
New IT systems (and electronic forms) planned as part of the plans for a new CAP Paying Agency should ensure that as many claims as possible are validated in time to allow payment as soon as the payment window opens.
The Group notes the Department's commitment to keep performance under review, particularly in the context of the development of a new CAP Paying Agency.
23.  The Group recommends that resources must be made available now to develop the CTS to enable simplification of claims and the administration of beef schemes within the next two years. Progress being made.
Work is being taken forward to link the extended CTS database more closely to the administration of the bovine subsidy schemes. This work will be greatly assisted once full herd coverage is achieved (Rec 16).
The Group is pleased that the necessary resources have been made available. We hope that ultimately it will be possible to reduce the regulatory burden significantly by completely removing the need to fill in claim forms for the cattle schemes.
24.  The Group recommends that the Government takes the steps necessary for the CTS database to be recognised as fully operational and removes the requirement for cattle passports within the next two years. Progress made—part completed.
Further developments dependent on progress on Recommendation 23 above.
Satisfied that good progress is being made. The Group hopes that the eventual full operation of the Cattle Tracing System and its approval by the Commission will permit this recommendation to be fulfilled.
25.  The Group recommends that all producers now adopt the standard flock record format and that Local Authorities should be encouraged to accept the standard flock registers as a replacement for their existing movement record books. Progress made—part completed.
All beef and sheep producers sent and recommended to use standard record.
Currently monitoring use of standard record.
See recommendation 14.
26.  The Group recommends that the Minister seeks a change to the EU legislation to remove the concept of "producer groups" in relation to the Sheep Annual Premium Scheme and aligns the definition of producer with that contained in the Suckler Cow Premium Scheme. Progress being made.
Have pressed Commission on this issue.
However, this change requires Council agreement and progress is therefore unlikely until any future review of the sheep regime.
The Group is disappointed that more progress has not been made on this issue. This continues to be an irritating bureaucratic hurdle that should be removed. The Group believes that greater efforts should be made to achieve the desired outcome.
27.  The Group recommends that the Commission is pressed to allow business based inspections as soon as possible. Progress being made.
October 2000 Agriculture Council agreed to CAP simplification exercise which involves looking at changing IACS rules to allow holdings-based inspections for cattle schemes.
Very pleased with the progress being made.
28.  The Group recommends that the design of the SAPS and SCPS claim forms takes account of the requirements of the census by requesting additional information. Review completed.
Careful consideration with the industry has indicated that it is not practical or sensible to proceed with this recommendation.
Pleased that this issue has been given full thought and we accept the industry position on this.
29.  The Group recommends that Government seeks in consultation with the industry to align livestock scheme applications and retention periods more closely. Under active consideration.
Will keep this option under review in the light of other developments which will lead to reductions in the inspection burden on industry. Eg business-based inspections (R27) and reduction in the livestock scheme inspection rate from 10 per cent to 5 per cent once the CTS is accepted as fully operational.
Satisfied with the progress made. The Group accepts that this recommendation is likely to be of value in the longer term as a number of the elements of scheme management are aligned, perhaps in the context of the creation of a new CAP Paying Agency.



 
previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 20 February 2001