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Lord Whitty: My Lords, the right reverend Prelate offers another dimension to the need to generalise and promote awareness of best practice and make it more available both to local and planning authorities and to private developers in those areas. An effort is being made by all departments involved to ensure that that should now happen.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, have the Government considered a system of awarding commendations for excellence in protecting the environment on the lines of the awards for export achievements which have existed for many years?
Lord Hunt of Chesterton: My Lords, will the Government ensure that brownfield developments, where they are planned in large urban areas, will include a substantial proportion of green space? Does the Minister recognise that that will moderate the harshest effects of global warming on the health of people in urban areas, which are especially severe in heatwaves and episodes of high pollution? I declare an interest as vice-president of the National Society of Clean Air.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I declare an interest as the patron of the Somerset Trust for Sustainable Development. The adequate recognition of best environmental practice, particularly in the housing field, is very important. Without it, the extra costs that those houses often incur will put developers off building them. Should not such recognition be seen as one of the tools in their armoury for justifying why they are developing best environmental practice?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, encouragement is certainly given in planning guidance and in the discussions between planning authorities and developers to make more use of sustainable building techniques and to use resources more sustainably in all such developments. The most obvious example is in the Millennium Village. In considering major developments such as the Thames Gateway, and so on, the Government will also bring to bear the need to ensure that the building is carried out to best sustainable and environmental standards.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, how are the Government getting on with the total amount of brownfield sites that are still underdeveloped? I am thinking of the original Question of the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath. In Leicester, we have seen a lot of development, particularly around canal areas. That has brought benefits, not only to the inhabitants, but also to the canal and its wildlife. Do the Government receive updates on what progress is being made in developing brownfield sites?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am familiar with the development to which the noble Baroness refers. The waterways are now being used as a catalyst for development, whereas 20 years ago towns and cities turned their backs on the waterways. British Waterways and the Environment Agency have played a major role in partnership with private enterprise to turn some of those apparently brownfield sites into some of the more desirable areas of the city. That is a good example of how everybody is acting together to develop those areas.
We have a general monitoring process for the overall development of brownfield sites, as do the planning authorities. It is true that we have hit the target of having 60 per cent of housing development on brownfield sites.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, economic analysis of the common agricultural policy proposals shows that full decoupling would give farmers in the UK the opportunity to cut costs and increase their incomes. The benefit to farmers in other countries will, of course, depend on the extent to which they decouple, but it is unlikely that if they adopt a partially coupled approach they would have any competitive advantage.
The CAP package includes several options. Farmers can retain 25 per cent in arable or 50 per cent in sheep, and there is a variety of recoupling percentages for beef. It is difficult to work out the total effect, but our contention is that full decoupling, which we intend to pursue in the UK, will give our farmers greater clarity and greater ability to produce for the market, rather than for the subsidy.
Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, but I wish that a fully independent and objective analysis could be made of the comparisons that need to be made. Will the Minister and his right honourable friend commission an independent report by one of the university agricultural economics departments, so that an evaluation can be made of the impact on the profitability of different UK farming systems of last week's agreement on CAP reform? That could then be fed into the public domain and used for policy initiatives to the benefit of UK agriculture.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, it is not clear what kind of study the noble Lord wishes. It will be a dynamic situation in the various farming sectors in the UK and in the other member states. The outcome will be affected not only by the changed CAP system but by the outcome of the WTO talks later this year.
The Government will, of course, take the best economic adviceas, no doubt, will the industryon how things will work out in practice. Our assessment, based on the economic advice that we have, is that UK farmers will benefit, provided that they meet the opportunities with which the change provides them.
Lord Brittan of Spennithorne: My Lords, does the Minister agree that by far the best outcome would be for countries such as France, which have extracted the ability not to engage in full decoupling, to be persuaded that exercising that discretion would not be in their interest, as it would be administratively complex, expensive and, ultimately, not to the benefit of their farmers? Will he do everything possible to
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I thoroughly agree with the noble Lord. As he will know from his long experience, persuading the French of what is logically and clearly the case is not always the easiest task. I suspect that, in a few years, the sou will have dropped, both with French farmers and with the French Government.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, my noble friend is right. British farmers, if they take the opportunities provided by the package, should be ahead of the game in meeting the markets nationally and internationally. It is not up to Her Majesty's Government to support the French Government in continuing to hobble their own farmers. In this country, we like to see fair competition, so I would not go along entirely with my noble friend's anti-French remarks.
Earl Peel: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House whether the new entitlements that will be paid to farmers under the CAP reforms will be attached to the land or to the farmer? If the entitlements are attached to the farmer, there is a real possibility, because of the environmental cross-compliance conditions that go with the entitlement, that the farmer could walk away from the land, taking with him the responsibility for environmental management that will have been built up on the back of taxpayer's money. The taxpayer will have a bad deal, unless the entitlement is firmly attached to the land and not to the farmer.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, as the noble Earl knows, there are arguments both ways. The system agreed in Luxembourg will mean that the entitlementthe single-farm paymentwould go to the producer on the land as of 31st May this year. The amount would depend on an earlier reference period. It would be transferable, but only if the land to which the then producer was attached were replaced by an equivalent amount of land elsewhere. The aggregate amount of land to which the cross-compliance arrangements applied would continue to be constant for the same amount of subsidy.
I agree that there are downsides to that, but there are also upsides. Eventually, the whole country will, at some time, be covered by the cross-compliance arrangements.
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