MARCH 12, 2008: The Conservatives have pledged to make it easier to farm if they are elected after the true cost of Defra red tape was exposed.

Defra have implemented more than 1,000 new regulations since the year 2000 with an administrative cost of over £500 million, according to government figures.The Conservative Party argue that the total cost burden rises to more than £1 billion when policy expenditure, such as capital investment to comply with new NVZ rules, are taken into account.Peter Ainsworth, Shadow Secretary of State for Defra, this week announced Conservative plans to fundamentally reform agricultural regulation and inspection to make it easier for farmers to farm.“There is a clear and present need to reduce the regulatory burden on farmers and create a more simplified inspection regime,” said Mr Ainsworth.“Over the last five years the number of regulations has increased in net terms by more than 20 per cent annually – a trend that is incompatible with our desire for a competitive and profitable farming industry,” he added.In a pointed attack on ten years of Labour agriculture policy, the Conservatives said that British business was groaning under the weight of an excessive state whose first instinct was to reach for the rulebook and regulate.“The Conservatives will introduce a whole new approach to regulation which focuses on outcomes rather than process and make unnecessary form-filling and multiple inspections a thing of the past,” said Shadow Agriculture Minister, James Paice.He added that the Conservatives would review all existing legislation with a view to simplification, remove gold-plating of EU red tape, reduce duplicated inspections and rely more on farm assurance schemes.

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