Examination of Witnesses (Questions 660
WEDNESDAY 6 MARCH 2002
660. At 20 per cent?
(Mr Hutcheon) At 20 per cent that should be, again,
coupled with further CAP reform.
661. On a flat rate system?
(Mr Hutcheon) No, I think what we need to do is better
understand what the differential impacts will be. In moving from
ten per cent to 20 per cent we would hope that research could
be done to identify what the impacts might be, we could test what
the impact of the additional support mechanisms has been and then
we can look again. We are not wedded to a particular approach
at this stage although we would support the objective of modulating
further as Curry has outlined.
662. You do not have a further system other
than flat rate at this time?
(Mr Hutcheon) At this time, yes.
663. Can I turn to the Friends of the Earth
evidence in terms of your view on that. What sort of criteria
do you think we should use in terms of trying to identify what
is a small and medium sized producer? Is it the size of the acreage,
the output, the income of the farmer? What are the criteria that
you would use to differentiate between small and medium sized
(Ms Diamand) We have done a small amount of work on
that. There are different measures. There is the land, the number
of people who work on the farm. I think we have not taken it much
further than that.
(Ms Stupples) One thing I would say, which is probably
where we do have some common ground with CPRE, is I have tried
very hard to get anybody in the DTI, DEFRA, whatever, to tell
me the Government assessment or Government modelling of what would
happen to the rural economy under various scenarios. It is very
difficult to be able to piece together a picture of what the impact
of any one of these policies could be. We know already that MAFF
has said there is going to be a restructuring and we are going
to have larger farms, less farms, and less people working in agriculture,
but I have not seen any numbers on this. The nearest estimate
I can give is about 40,000 farmers were due to leave agriculture
and that was before foot and mouth, we do not have any definite
estimates after. If we go down full liberalisation there may be
as many as 50 per cent of farmers who will go out of business
and leave the land. We also know that another MAFF study said
that probably the only sectors in which British agriculture will
be internationally competitive will be arable and dairy. You can
see that paints quite a different picture. We may be able to make
those arable farms and dairy farms slightly green around the edge
by compensating them for the money that they spent on green schemes
but I do not know what that means in terms of diversity of the
crops and the mixture of farming and all that kind of thing.
664. At 20 per cent modulation do you have a
preferred system, flat rate or aggressive or banded?
(Ms Stupples) Banded or maybe even tapered is another
piece of jargon that is going around.
665. You do not favour a flat rate?
(Ms Stupples) No, we are not in favour of the flat
rate because we think that would unnecessarily further disadvantage
the small and medium sized farmers.
666. Can I just ask you both this. To the average
taxpayer in this country who probably does not live in the countryside,
what would you say would be the justification to put more taxpayers'
money into agriculture at this time?
(Mr Hutcheon) I think foot and mouth has clearly demonstrated
justification for that and the value that the British public place
on the countryside. There is all sorts of evidence which shows
that. I think the range of public goods that it delivers justifies
it. I think what took us all by surprise was the impact that foot
and mouth and the controls used to curb the spread of the disease
had on the wider economy too. I remember doing an interview early
one morning, I was going in a taxi and the taxi driver in London
said that their business was suffering considerably because of
foot and mouth. That was not just because of the decline in tourists,
it was because of the fact that some of their cars were stored
on a farm in rural Hertfordshire.
667. Regretfully, of course, the British public
often has a very short memory and their ability perhaps to remember
foot and mouth towards the end of this year
(Ms Stupples) I would accept all those arguments about
wildlife but I would add the quality of food and being able to
have food that you can trust because I think that is definitely
something that the British consumer is increasingly concerned
about. I think they do wonder "why have we got this Kenyan
mange-tout in our supermarket or apples from New Zealand",
if I can say that coming from New Zealand, "when in fact
we may be able to produce those apples here?"
668. Are you not worried with your concerns
for the small farmer that modulation might do precisely the opposite
of what you want and actually damage the small farmer more than
anybody else? Let us make a proposition. The proposition is that
by and large the larger the farmer, the more likely you are going
to be able to buy into environmental schemes because you have
got more land you can dispose of, so you have a wider choice of
schemes. If you then levy modulation and you have a small farmer
whose net farm income is, let us say, £3,000 and he is going
to lose a percentage of that because modulation is a tax on that
income, his ability to buy into or subscribe to environmental
schemes might be quite limited by the nature of his farm. Is modulation
not a redistribution away from the small farm to the larger farm?
(Mr Hutcheon) If you see it only in terms of the broad
and shallow scheme as being the only support that is going to
be available. What you heard earlier from the RSPB was that what
the Wildlife and Countryside Link group of organisations is arguing
for is a pyramid approach where you actually have higher tiers
of greater support and greater resources for farms that are delivering
a broader range or a better quality of environmental outputs and
public goods. In many cases the small farms, the small farmers
in Devon, are very often in higher quality landscape and they
will have the features that will be rewarded by that tiered approach
which means they will get disproportionately more perhaps than
the prairie farmers in East Anglia.
669. Can I just ask you finally a slightly mischievous
question. Had you existed in 1760 do you think that your members
would have rigorously opposed the enclosure movement which has
produced the landscape that your members are so passionately devoted
(Mr Hutcheon) That is a very good question. How on
earth do I answer that? CPRE is not necessarily wedded to a particular
type of landscape. We do advocate lots of change, we do support
lots of planning applications, for example, we are not just about
pickling the countryside in aspic. There are certain qualities,
the tranquillity or the response that you get from people's perceptions
of landscape, that our volunteers and members of our organisations
do respond to and those are the things that we would like to try
and retain, full stop.
Chairman: Thank you very much all of you for
coming, it has been very helpful. If there is anything you wish
to add to what you have said, do not hesitate to let us have it,
or any further details or clarification then we are always willing
to receive that. Thank you very much indeed for coming to see